Washington Post's Ahrens Worries About 'Super-Rich' Success
The rich are getting so rich, theyâre âsuper-richâ and tax hikes are just the kryptonite government needs to bring them down to Earth. At least thatâs the viewpoint of two liberal policy advocates The Washington Postâs Frank Ahrens highlighted in a September 22 story on the Forbes 400.
âFor the first time, all 400 Gotbucks on the Forbes tally are billionaires, from Gates (worth $53 billion) down to the bottom, Los Angeles semiconductor magnate Sehat Sutardja ($1 billion),â Ahrens observed, later calling them âeye-popping numbers that show the speed with which wealth is gained.â
Such âeye-poppingâ wealth is a good thing, a Forbes magazine editor told Ahrens, because it indicates economic growth and progress. But thatâs not what Ahrens was driving at with his story âThe Super-Rich Get Richer: Forbes 400 Are all Billionaires.â
No, Ahrens found the increase â from 13 billionaires among the nationâs 400 richest Americans to all 400 in only 24 yearsâ time â to be cause for concern.
âThe enormous sums spur the natural question,â he insisted, though not explaining why one should naturally be concerned with wealthy people becoming wealthier. âIs it good, bad or neither that wealth is accumulating so fast that numbers begin to lose their meaning?â he pondered.
For answers, he turned to, among others, âDean Baker, a macroeconomist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washingtonâ and former Clinton administration economist Lawrence Katz.
Ahrens left out CEPRâs liberal leanings, including its support of a âwindfall profitâ tax on oil as well as Katzâs ties to the liberal administration.
âI think itâs very bad,â Baker insisted. âIf these people pull away so much wealth,â he asserted, âthat means everyone else has less.â Of course, plenty of economists could have told Ahrens that his zero-sum logic is faulty. Just because one person gains doesnât mean another somewhere loses.
By âeveryone,â Baker could mean the federal government, Ahrens suggested, arguing that the Forbes 400 benefit from tax cuts at the expense of the government. âTodayâs marginal tax rate for the richest Americans is 35 percent, down from more than 60 percent 25 years ago,â the Post reporter noted.
âWe could do a lot more with the tax system,â Harvard economist and former Clinton Labor Department official Katz told Ahrens, âto help out those who are less fortunate.â
While Ahrens did add that Katz âis of mixed mindâ about growing wealth, pointing to âthe possibility of great philanthropy,â the Post reporter left out any rebuttal from economists who would vehemently disagree with Baker and Katz, such as Russell Roberts, an economist at George Mason University.
In a September 22 blog posting at cafehayek.com, Roberts lambasted Baker for âan impressive cheap trickâ of âignoring the role of inflation in artificially creating billionaires.â Whatâs more, Roberts added, the co-founders of Google, both of whom are in the Forbes 400, âcreated wealth, they didnât take it from othersâ by âcreating something new that people valued.â
âWe pay nothing directly for Google and we Google users are better off along with [Google founders] Brin and Page,â Roberts argued, adding that a mere 10 years ago, before the phenomenal success of their startup company, âBrin and Page werenât in the top 1%â of income earners.