Ryan Avent’s self-styled populist post takes to task a rich man’s tax-conscious balance sheet dance:
As far as I can tell, this is entirely within the law. But I don’t think it’s improper to declare it obscene. Shameful, even. With a fortune of that size, additional wealth is about little more than score-keeping.
Everyone has this natural response to a rich person desiring to avoid taxes. We all think like Ryan does:
But let’s be honest for a moment. According to this Bloomberg story, Mr Lampert is worth $3 billion. If he earns just 1% per year on that fortune—and he certainly earns much more—then he takes home $30 million in income. Per year. That’s 600 times the median household income in America. It’s more money than a person can reasonably spend. With that much money you can binge every day, and yet the money will just keep accumulating.
But you don’t have to think much longer than that to see a different side of things. Since Mr. Rich is beyond the binge-every-day constraint, there are lots of other things he can do with his money besides bingeing. For example, if you were Mr. Rich you could probably think of a lot of loved ones you would like to make happy by sharing your wealth with them. Or perhaps you understand that money is what determines what gets done in the world and maybe you have very strong feelings about what should get done.
Like maybe you want to be able to donate to artists or schools or libraries. Maybe you want to help prevent HIV infection. Is it so obvious that a rich man, already beyond bingeing, who wants an extra dollar is being more greedy than a middle-class man who wants to get a dollar closer to the bingeing stage?
Let me be clear that I don’t believe that all of the Mr. Riches are trying to be Bill and Melinda Gates. But I don’t see how you can conclude just from the fact that someone is rich that they don’t have reasons that we would be completely sympathetic to if we knew them.
And if I were a smart do-gooder who thought that everyone on Wall Street was evil the obvious thing to do would be to start a hedge fund, rip them off, and spend their money to meet my goals.
Ghutrah greeting: gappy3000.