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Saturday, August 2, 2014
Open Letter to Warren Buffett from a Prison Rape Survivor and Another Century
Originally Published on forbes.com on August 1st,2011
I asked my friend Tom Cahill to comment on the current discussion swirling through the blogosphere on Warren Buffett’s call for higher taxes on the wealthy. Tom is a life long activist, the more unpopular the cause the better, as long as it is about people treating one another and the earth better. Tom considers me part of the establishment and will often complain to me about what “my government” is doing. In my opinion, Tom’s greatest contribution is being one of the earliest members and for a while president of Just Detention International , an organization dedicated to the elimination of sexual abuse in all forms of detention. He served in Iraq, as a human shield. Tom is, I believe, the only veteran of the United States Air Force with that distinction. He worries about the spiritual welfare of the wealthy, so he was happy to provide Mr. Buffett with his thoughts. Here is what he has to say:
God bless Warren Buffett, a generous and enlightened billionaire as he describes himself in his op-ed piece in “The New York Times,” August 14.
Would that the rest of Forbes 400—now all billionaires mind you—be so fair-minded.
The billionaire Koch brothers, for instance, are bamboozling the majority of Tea Party members who are working class into campaigning against their own self interest. David and Charles Koch are using the money they should have paid in taxes to support the corporate dictatorship that has been in power at least since the coup d’etat of Nov. 22, 1963. Yea, I’m one of those who believe conspiracy is synonymous with politics and economics.
It always has and probably always will be that way for people who suffer terminal greed and lust for power. The likes of the Koch brothers keep making our case stronger and more clear.
Like the poor, these “economic royalists” as FDR would have called them, will always be with us but when not regulated, hell breaks loose like today with a melting economy, multiple wars, environmental devastation, crumbling infrastructure, etc. As for regulations, “We know what they are worth, spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of the government,” wrote Pierre-Joseph Proudon, 19th Century French socialist.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the income tax originally progressive—the more you earned the more you paid? When and how did it become regressive?
My income is right on the poverty line but I’m not complaining. According toGlobal Rich List, I’m in the upper 13 percent of wealthiest people in the world. I live in an ungentrified barn with an outdoor privy but I have electricity and asatellite connection for my computer which makes me feel like I’m living with one foot in the 19thCentury and one foot in the 21st. The irony is worth much to me.
So how much is enough for those plundering America and the whole world for that matter? When will they wise up and realize they are helping assassinate the goose that lays golden eggs? They better wake up while we still have a choice—revolution or renaissance.
When I said that Tom’s message was from another century, I did not mean the 19th century, referring to his lack of indoor plumbing. I was referring to the24th century at least the version envisioned by the creators of Star Trek. In that universe humans have evolved not just technologically but also morally. That would make for pretty boring stories so many of our more entertaining, if less endearing, qualities have been attributed to alien races. In the Star Trek 24th century many of us would be considered to be Ferengi, who live by a set of principles known as The Rules of Acquisition. For example Rule 97 – Enough is never enough. I believe in that century, Tom would be recognized as distinctively human.