It’s out! This year’s list of American success stories has just been published, and according to its compiler, it “instills confidence that the American dream is still very much alive.”
Maybe you are one of these success stories. You might be a great public school teacher, for example, who motivated students to achieve new heights or an inventor who came up with an energy-saving device and got it to market at a fair price, generating a profit for yourself, the environment and society generally.
No, no, no. Not that kind of success. We’re talking money — the flow of mammon beyond regular people’s wildest dreams. That’s how Forbes magazine measures not only “success,” but also a person’s value: You are what’s in your Swiss bank account. And, just to rank last on this year’s Forbes 400 listing of America’s wealthiest people, you need more than a billion dollars in financial wealth. To get into the Top 10 requires at least $25 billion. And to be numero uno means you’ve got $66 billion socked away. Who says America is broke?
As Ray Charles sang, “Them that’s got is them that gets.” And sure enough, these richest of the richest got a lot richer in 2011 — the magazine gloated that these 400 swells jacked up their cumulative haul last year by $200 billion over the previous year — an average of half a billion each!
Now, that’s success, baby… especially when the typical American family’s income dropped by 4 percent.
These ultra-wealthy, goes the Forbes narrative, are the “deserving rich,” for they are our economy’s makers and producers — as opposed to being takers and moochers, like those commoners who get Social Security, Medicare and other government help.
Before swallowing that, however, note that roughly 40 percent of these “achievers” on the list “achieved” their wealth by being well-born — they inherited the money from Dad and Mom. And all of them have indeed been takers, not only enjoying government programs, but also subsidies and tax advantages available only to the rich. The Forbes list really says that you got special treatment — not that you are special.
But if the rich need to feel special, they can always count on the editors of Fortune. We should not be surprised that a magazine named Fortune would be empathetic to the feelings of the 1 percent, but — good grief — how embarrassingly sycophantic of the editors to hustle out a piece just before the presidential election, titled “Stop Beating up the Rich.”
Written by Nina Easton, the timing of the article was less than “fortunate,” for it came out just as the infamous video surfaced showing Mitt Romney “beating up” the poor and the middle class, while his audience of fellow multi-millionaires laughed, cheered and shouted encouragement.