Dawe: How the rich get louder and we get silenced


Koch Industries [Fair use]

Koch Industries, owned by Charles Koch, generates annual sales of $119 billion and is the second-largest privately owned company in the U.S.

Fiona Dawe, Staff Writer

Whether they are actively running, donating or using their money in other, more nefarious ways, there is no denying that billionaires are entrenched into American politics. 

In 2018, 25 billionaires donated $573,892,284 to American politics. While this can be good, most billionaires donate to causes which favor them, not ones that favor the average American. These billionaires, like the Koch brothers, who have amassed a large political powerhouse through donations, shockingly, do not donate to causes that are supported by most people.

They instead, for the most part, support cutting taxes, especially estate taxes. Most of the billionaires’ political views are very under the table. They don’t post about them on social media, even though they have plenty of media access. This is a strategy known as “stealth politics,” and it allows the wealthy to support campaigns and ideals that they don’t want the public to know about. Stealth politics allows the rich to influence the lives of everyone else, without us really knowing what they are doing. 

The Koch brothers are the leaders in this area. In Arizona, the Koch brothers, along with Betsy DeVos, helped the progress of a bill that would allow parents to choose whether they can spend their money on private or religious schools, draining money from the already underfunded Arizona public school system. A group of six women gathered enough signatures to block the bill from passing, but the Koch brothers used their political organization, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and sued to prevent the referendum from succeeding.

This was an obvious example of how billionaires use their money to sway politics to their favor while disregarding what most people believe. In Wisconsin, AFP convinced then-newly elected governor, Scott Walker, to slash the rights of unions for most of the workers, a view that he hardly mentioned during his campaign and is only supported by 40 percent of the U.S. Scott was elected by the people to represent the people, yet he allowed money to sway his views and support something that most of the people that he is supposed to represent don’t support. 

The increase of billionaires in politics is more apparent as the 2020 election rapidly approaches.  So far, four billionaires have shown interest in or have started to run for president. Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, started to enter the presidential race, a week after another presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, announced her plan to expand the wealth tax on America’s richest residents. Warren, along with Senator Bernie Sanders, is running on a platform that tries to address the rising levels of income disparity, which, according to a new study, are reaching levels that haven’t been seen since the Roaring 20s. Now, the richest 400 Americans own more than the poorest 150 million, which is triple the share of the nation’s wealth since the early 1980s.

Personally, I think that billionaires should not even exist. A billion dollars is a crazy amount of money and no one needs that much. In words of Forrest Gump, “Now, Mama said there’s only so much fortune a man really needs… and the rest is just for showing off.”  The top percent of the top percent control so much money, and I don’t trust them to know what is in my best interests since they have so much money for no reason. 

Since the announcement of the proposed wealth tax, billionaires have been in an uproar. Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, who suspended his presidential bid in September, called the idea of a wealth tax ridiculous. Bloomberg stated the tax was “probably unconstitutional” and implied that a wealth tax would turn the U.S. into Venezuela. Bill Gates suggested the plan would stifle business innovation by damaging the appeal of being a billionaire. The tax is a great idea since these people don’t need that much money. Oh no, they won’t be able to afford a second gold toilet while people are starving and in need of life-saving medication. 

Shockingly, people will still want to be a billionaire, even after a 6 percent tax. Billionaires are not at a high risk of going bankrupt anytime soon and 6 percent of their wealth is not a lot. For a person who is worth 1 billion dollars, 6 percent is 6 million. That leaves 994 million more dollars for someone to live off of, and that is not a bad living. In 2018, for the first time in history, U.S. billionaires paid 1.2 percent less in taxes than the bottom half of Americans, which is completely ridiculous. Those who have billions of dollars should have a higher tax rate, or at the very least equal, to those who are living paycheck to paycheck. 

Billionaires, in general as well as in politics, are not going to support legislation that helps out the average person, whether on purpose or by accident. In order for the American people to have a government that truly represents them, they should vote for people who have similar lives to them and earn a similar amount of money.