Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Memo to billionaires: Don't lecture us on living with less

A young multimillionaire preaches living with less in a New York Times op-ed. An old billionaire scolds government for spending on Social Security and Medicare through an astroturf supergroup called Fix The Debt.

Please, make them stop.

If we had to choose between noxious plutocrats, though, we'd choose the young multimillionaire, Graham Hill. He's just writing nonsense in a newspaper. The old one, Pete Peterson, is spending a fortune to consign Americans to poverty and early death.

But the online publication Gawker took such entertaining offense at the young multimillionaire's presumption, we thought we'd share it.

Gawker writes in "It Would Be Great if Millionaires Would Not Lecture Us on Living with Less":
Meet Graham Hill. Graham Hill became a multimillionaire at a very young age when he sold his internet company in 1998. Good for him. We would not be telling you about Graham Hill at all, except for the fact that he wrote a remarkable op-ed in the New York Times Sunday Review yesterday in which he instructs you, the common man, on the virtues of "Living With Less." He bases this prescription on the wisdom he has learned on his own personal journey, from millionaire with a big house and many material possessions to millionaire with a smaller house and fewer material possessions, but just as many liquid assets. And what did it take for this millionaire to learn that his 3,600-square-foot Seattle home, personal shopper, and cars and furniture and other expensive baubles just weren't worth it?
For me, it took 15 years, a great love and a lot of travel to get rid of all the inessential things I had collected and live a bigger, better, richer life with less.
Aha! All it takes is a leisurely decade or so of world travel with "Olga, an Andorran beauty" to come to the conclusion that less is more. Make a note, average Americans.
If it weren't for his relentless attacks on Social Security and Medicare, we would not be telling you about Pete Peterson. He made his billion dollars on Wall Street after walking through that revolving door in Washington. Somehow he thinks that entitles him to lecture us on why we need to be poor.

The Center for Media and Democracy exposes the fraudulence and hypocrisy behind Peterson's crusade to wipe out the middle class:
Peter G. Peterson has long used his wealth to underwrite numerous organizations and PR campaigns to generate public support for slashing Social Security and Medicare, citing concerns over "unsustainable" federal budget deficits. Full of apocalyptic warnings, Peterson failed to warn of the $8 trillion housing bubble, but conveniently sold his private equity firm Blackstone Group on the eve of the financial crisis. He later pledged to spend $1 billion of the money from the sale to "fix America's key fiscal-sustainability problems," launching the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in 2008. As of 2011, the Huffington Post reported that Peterson had personally given $458 million to the Foundation. 
Peterson told the Washington Post that he gave Fix the Debt $5 million in funding.
Fix the Debt is comprised of CEOs, many of whom underfund their companies' pensions. Many have ties to firms that lobby for tax breaks like the carried interest tax loophole that made Peterson rich. Many are defense contractors who have no interest in fixing any debt. CMD exposes the whole scam here.

But maybe there is someone worse than Grahm Hill or even Pete Peterson: Roger Williams, a Congressman with massive debt who bloviates about the need to balance the budget. ThinkProgress reports:
A Republican Congressman on the House Budget Committee whose car dealership has at least $2.5 million in debts insisted on Wednesday that companies and individuals must balance their budgets “every single day.” The comments came during a day-long hearing about Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) spending plan, which achieves balance within 10 years. 
“I’m a small business owner,” Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX), began. “I have owned and operated my business for over 41 years and I still operate it,” he said, before linking the government’s budget to the financial well-being of families and businesses and suggesting that the federal books should resemble the practices of every day Americans.
Oh, please.