By Jim Hightower on February 24, 2014

The überrich are full of ideas. Not, unfortunately, ideas to help humanity, but to help themselves grab more money and power at our expense.

Take Tom Perkins. He's one of a growing number of the "put-upon" rich -- billionaires who've grabbed a fabulous fortune by hook or crook, but now complain that they are victims of a "rising tide of hatred." Excuse me, Tom, but the words "billionaire" and "victim" are not a natural pairing. Yet, even though he candidly concedes that he lives a life of vulgar excess, Perkins wrote a sob-story letter in January to The Wall Street Journal pleading for relief from the "war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'"

He was roundly ridiculed for that, but he's since come back with a pragmatic idea for redressing the grievous plight of the put-upon one-percenters. What's needed, he explained, is a slight tweaking of America's democratic election system. "The Tom Perkins system," he lectured, is "you don't get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes. But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How's that?"

Gosh, so much vanity and ignorance crammed into only three sentences! Apparently, no one has informed Tom that poor people pay a larger percentage of their income in various taxes than do privileged tax evaders like him. Nor does he seem aware that a democratic government can not be anything like a corporation, for government must serve the whole public, while a corporation is an autocratic hierarchy that serves only a few. And golly, Tom, why should you and all of your billionaire buddies get anything special -- like extra votes -- just for paying taxes? What you get in return for taxes is what we all get: Civilization.

I thought I would write to Tom about his plan, but then I realized, I don't know how to spell "Thhhbbbbbllllltttttttt."

Listen to this commentary:

Photo: "Rich man dancing with dollar signs on his eyes," via Shutterstock.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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