Monthly Archives: April 2010

giving it all away

Comedian Steven Wright once mused, “You never know what you have until its gone. I wanted to know what I had, so I got rid of everything.”

It is not known whether or not Wright has begun a career moonlighting as a financial advisor. What is apparent, however, is that one of the world’s richest men (it’s still men who are the richest) has given away his fortune to charity.

Yu Pengnian, the Chinese real-estate tycoon, has transferred his entire $1.2 billion estate to his Yu Pengnian Foundation, which he started in 2003 to provide support for the poorest regions in his country, in particular to pay for cataract surgeries, which the billionaire suffered from before accumulating his fortune.

As a result of benefacting his own foundation, his children will forgo their inheritance. (A mutual decision they have been included in.)

And while it is unlikely that Yu Pengnian was inspired by Wright’s deadpan comic observation, his actions do seem reminiscent of Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine’s radical financial offering Die BrokeContinue reading

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Filed under Philanthropy, Social Change

who wants to be an annoyingly elitist elite?

Ah, the Elites. To be one of the most learned, connected, socially upward, high-flying, doted-upon, passionately appreciated members of society.

Well, maybe not so appreciated anymore.

A 2008 Gallup poll revealed public trust to be at an all-time (35 years of polling) low for newspapers, banks, and especially government. Which is not surprising given the recent litany of mistrust that has dominated the conversations emanating around our front pages, airwaves, water coolers, bar stools and convenience store check out counters.

“In the past decade, nearly every pillar institution in American society – whether its General Motors, Congress, Wall Street, Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church or the mainstream media – has revealed itself to be corrupt, incompetent, or both,” wrote Christopher Hayes in last month’s Time piece, “The Twilight of the Elites.” And not surprisingly, it’s all the Elites’ fault. “At the root of these failures are the people who run these institutions, the bright and industrious minds who occupy the commanding heights of our meritocratic order.”

Now, the notion of our society as a meritocracy can be debated. While few individuals reach the upper echelons of society without hard work, many do so with the added help of an array of various societal advantages. But what seems of little debate is the broad-based harm that Elites can inflict on the general populace when they abuse their power.  Continue reading

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, American Dream, Economic Opportunity

stop thief! tax cuts for wealthy?

Happy Tax Day!

Here’s my op-ed that ran in today’s The Recorder, out in Greenfield, Massachusetts …


Have you seen this latest headline? $700 billion stolen from the U.S.A.! America facing imminent bankruptcy! Forced to close interstate highways, police departments and libraries across the country! Thieves described as the wealthiest 2.5% of Americans!

Well, just because we haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Under the Bush-era tax cuts, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth, away from the majority of hard-working Americans, to the richest among us. And they have escalated a trend that has been hurting us for decades now.

Since 1960, the “effective” tax rate of middle-income Americans has risen slightly, while the rate paid by our richest 0.1% has actually been cut in half. Moreover, the top 400 income earners have seen their tax rate drop during this same period by two-thirds, according to a new report, Shifting Responsibility: How 50 Years of Tax Cuts Benefited the Wealthiest Americans, by Wealth for the Common Good.  Continue reading

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Filed under Economic Justice, Fair Taxation

enervation vs. activism

I have a new favorite word. It’s “enervation.”

I came across this ineffably (my old favorite word) exciting term while flipping through a book on the founder of Outward Bound, called Kurt Hahn’s Schools and Legacy, which is written by Martin Flavin. On the very first page of the book, even before the Table of Contents, Title Page, publication information and so on, Flavin highlights “The Seven Laws of Salem,” which served as educational mantras for Hahn’s first (boarding) school, and went on to influence the rest of his many educational endeavors.

Rule #7 (saving the best for last) reads: “Free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from the enervating sense of privilege.”

Which brings up the immediate question: what is this thing, this sense, from which powerful wealthy kids need saving from? What is enervating?  Continue reading


Filed under Activism, Social Change

quote of the intermittent time period

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”

– Edward Abbey

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Filed under Activism, Social Change