Inequality: Can the capitalists fix capitalism?
Hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon are among a growing chorus of capitalists questioning the efficacy of capitalism, said Kate Rooney in CNBC.com. Dalio, who predicted the 2008 financial crisis, wrote last week that the inequality gap has reached levels unseen since the 1930s. This represents an “existential risk for the U.S.” He went even further on CBS’s 60 Minutes, saying that “the American dream is lost.” Dalio’s critiques echoed Dimon’s words in a shareholder letter that capitalism is “leaving people behind.” Dalio, who has a personal fortune of $18 billion, said that “he supported raising taxes on the wealthy.” These business titans aren’t backing socialism. But they are “calling for changes to the system that enabled them to get rich.”
The business press is eating up Dalio’s “little capitalism-bashing media tour” like it’s an extra helping of ice cream, said Charlie Gasparino in FoxBusiness.com. Of course they are: You can’t give liberal reporters enough about the “various evils of capitalism.” But Dalio’s a strange courier for this message. “He’s a billionaire many times over, not from inventing anything special, but as a market speculator.” He runs a “cult-like” organization that feels like a police state, where he videotapes and records his employees. And “charging big bucks for investing money” doesn’t automatically make Dalio a deep thinker. When taxes go up, billionaires like Dalio will just leave. And the people who will get hammered are the ones who are really trying to achieve that American dream.
Thanks for the feedback, Ray, said Helaine Olen in The Washington Post—your idea of creating a “bipartisan commission” to fix things is sure to be a real game changer. Just one question: “Who is going to select the members of the bipartisan commission Dalio thinks can restore mass prosperity to the American people?” Or should we assume that people like Dalio and Dimon believe such a committee can be staffed by business titans like themselves, “the best and the brightest of our time”? These billionaires can see, as the rest of us do, that the system that earned them their wealth and power is breaking down. But let’s face it: The plutocrats who are the “biggest beneficiaries of our record-breaking age of inequality are not the people who are going to end it.”
Sure, some of the “sentiments may sound a little rich,” said the Financial Times in an editorial. These are “paid-up members of the Davos elite.” At least they do see the problems, and their “efforts to consider the growing malaise at the heart of the global economy” are worth applauding. But their proposals will be “inconsequential unless there is a broad rethink of attitudes across business and government.” ■