October 13, 2011
NEW YORK—Here is the $64-million question: Is there a moral case against soaking the rich? I can’t think of a better place to ponder such an issue than right here in the womb of capitalism, the Big Bagel, taking into account that within the narrow corridor that is Manhattan Island some of the greediest, as well as grubbiest, human beings live and work.
The second-richest American, a Nebraskan, says that the state should—but he would, wouldn’t he? I have never warmed to Warren Buffett because behind that cuddly, avuncular manner is a shrewdie who always looks out for Number One. I know, I know, he’s leaving most of his moolah to charity, but when you have $39 billion and your family is set for life, what’s the use of trying to take it with you? My beef with Buffett is the business he’s in. He makes bets on other people’s accomplishments and risks. My old man built factories in Greece and in Africa, constructed and operated commercial vessels, erected hotels and started up insurance companies. He employed thousands, who in turn fed thousands, and so on. He never bought an already existing company or business. I don’t know how many employees Warren Buffett feeds, but I guess they are mostly a few hundred accountants and analysts at best. Others take the risks and do the sweating, and if they’re successful, Warren Baby invests in them and makes a killing for himself and those who invest with him. It is an honest and profitable way of making a living, but it ain’t true capitalism. It’s more like money-shuffling. That’s what Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and others of their ilk do, and when they overdo their greed, the taxpayer comes in and rescues them. Job creation is not their strong point, and the reason we’re in this mess today is that too many of our best brains think like Buffett and not like John Theodoracopulos.
Sorry to blow old dad’s horn, but somebody’s got to say it. Capitalism should mean job creation à la Henry Ford, not banking à la Fred the Shred. Take the case of Steve Jobs, who died last week. A Big Bagel Times man by the name of Sorkin recently took him to task for not being a giver. (Sorkin, incidentally, has been accused by his cowriters of being a taker, crediting himself for research done by others in his office.) First of all, how would Sorkin know what Jobs gave away or didn’t? Just because he never bought a table at the Metropolitan Museum for a hundred grand in order to sit next to Mercedes Bass—an idiotic woman whose hubby has had enough of her social climbing and has gone his own way—doesn’t mean that Jobs didn’t silently contribute or help others. He only took one dollar per annum as a salary, which doesn’t sound to me like a taker. The fact that Jobs refused to join the Giving Pledge—the organization founded by Buffett and Bill Gates to persuade rich families to pledge half their fortunes to charity—doesn’t mean a thing. Jobs built his company from scratch and it was his right to do whatever he wished with the money he made from it.