After billionaire Robert F. Smith made a splash recently by paying off the debt of the Morehouse College 2019 class, I go a lot of pushback from the article I wrote titled "I’ll be the pooper. Billionaires paying for or paying off college debt don’t impress me nor should it, you." that I must stand by firmly for several reasons. I wrote the following.
So why am I not impressed? First, let me be clear. These are two great businessmen who followed our economic rules to get extremely wealthy. That said, these guys did not develop their wealth from creating any products or services, but they used the financial game to capitalize on the work and worth of others by manipulating financial instruments (e.g., Smith was an engineer who does own patents, but his wealth does not seem to be related to any of them.)
It is a nice gesture, however painless but with huge positive notoriety that accompanies these gifts. They gave a group of students a running start ahead of the millions who no one afforded them that opportunity. Those kids became the chosen few.
While I am happy for those chosen students, I feel for those who worked very hard, some who will likely fail in life because no one afforded them the opportunity.
I decided to cover the subject in my Tuesday Politics Done Right show on Pacifica Network's KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston.
We can't leave it up to the wealthy or billionaire
Relieving, a tiny subset of students who attend specific schools which in the scope of all students in college relative to billionaire wealth is a pittance, but the PR is priceless. But after the tax break and new market business, the billionaire will make that back. Want to impress the world. Create a billion dollar fund to provide education ad infinitum. After all, Billionaires' money is the labor and pricing not afforded their subjects -- employees and others. Remember, neither their intellect nor service is the genesis of their wealth but legal, financial instrument manipulation.
My primary contention is I DO NOT WANT TO LEAVE IT TO THE WEALTHY to be generous for the wealth they were able to amass in whatever manner. I want policies that give us all equal access to success. Slavery has robbed an entire race of future growth. Now capitalism, in a perfectly disguised form, is doing the same to a much larger group. Hate and dysfunction is the distraction that is giving it a longer life than it would otherwise be capable of surviving. I wish I were more eloquent in my ability to illustrate the hoodwink of our economic system.
I found my Facebook thread quite enlightening. Most importantly it gave me the opportunity to address some of the issues I was sure would come up. Here is a sample.
H.O.: Egberto Willies, contrary to much of what you say, this was a somewhat disappointing commentary. It seems that, for some, nothing is ever good enough. The glass is always half empty. You point to the randomness of luck. Life is full of random occurrences that are usually not fair. Are floods, tornadoes or earthquakes fair? Are car accidents fair? Are birth defects or illness fair? Those are things we have no control over. Individual acts of human kindness and empathy should never be seen as a glass half empty.
Egberto Willies: I am very happy for your comment because it allows for the bigger point I am trying to make with my activism. Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, birth defects, accidents, are fairly random within the context of our current knowledge. Economic policy isn't.
My point is that The New York University Students, Morehouse 2019 class, and others who get a helping hand, though great for the lucky chosen is good on the micro level, it provides an unfair advantage for future success that could be mitigated with policy. Your reaction is likely the reaction of most. And it is that reaction that most hurt us and thus attenuate the impetus for creating an economic system that is truly egalitarian and meritorious. I preface the title with the "pooper" moniker for that reason.
H.O.: I am utterly shocked by your sentiments Egberto Willies. I support the left agenda but I'm frankly getting weary of all the whining coming from what I'm going to call the Alt-Left. Nothing is ever good enough, the glass is always half empty, etc. I despise people who acquire their wealth in illegal or immoral ways but you hate wealthy for the sake of wealth. Is Michael Jordan deserving of your condemnation? Based on your earlier comments about the benefit for merit not, chance. Would you support Bernie Sanders' proposal for free college for all but changing it to only apply to the top 25% for merit. His current proposal should offend you because a 100% chance is still a chance. I think you're losing some rational people on the left either because of your extreme views or the way you're expressing them.
Egberto Willies: With all due respect. There is absolutely nothing extreme in my thinking. My contention is that you are wedded to a system and as such you are filtering my statements through that lens. Is it extreme to state that a person who got wealthy from leveraging the stock of a company to extract capital which ultimately forced a company to freeze the pay of employees or worse, is getting rich on the backs of those sacrificed? It is 100% legal. In our system, we look at that person as smart by being able to manipulate to get wealthy from minimal work. That is only one example. I could name dozens. We have been indoctrinated into ignoring that or just seeing it as an economic system that is divine. No!! It was designed to favor a few and the chosen. And the results are the bifurcated wealth gap. And that gap is not based on one's worth to our productive society but on what one can figure out. I condemn the system, not Michael Jordan or Bill Gates. The system is provably extractive and results are there for all to see. BTW, Smith's customers make on average a 22% return. The economy grows at 2%. That is not sustainable and over time that's proven. I mean our system allows a small group to extract a bigger portion of the pie at the expense of the masses and that is exactly what the charts say. You should visit my interview with economist Richard Wolff. Let me be clear. Personally, I had two paths to choose from as a business owner who had several software products on the market, capitalize or to be altruistic and attempt to expose the system few see because of how and what we are taught. I chose the latter. It is not profitable but it sure feels good doing the right thing. It was my choice. PS: And it is not about losing rational people but people who were not presented the full picture devoid of a facade. PS 2: Listen to this objectively http://bit.ly/2VV6C8L.
Tell me what you think.