Skinflint Billionaires

Via Zero Hedge:

A new Oxfam report indicating that the wealthiest one per cent possesses about half of the world’s wealth has left the richest people in the world “reeling with disappointment,” a leading billionaire said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, the hedge-find owner Harland Dorrinson said, “I think I speak for a lot of my fellow billionaires when I say I thought we were doing a good deal better than that.”

Calling the Oxfam findings “sobering,” he said that he hoped they would serve “as a wake-up call to billionaires everywhere that it’s time to up our game.”

“Quite frankly, a lot of us thought that by buying politicians, rewriting tax laws, and hiding money overseas, we were getting it done,”…..

Satire, of course. But what if the one percent went on to possess all the world’s wealth? Where ‘wealth’ means money and purchasing power? I suppose it would mean we would all be their employees. Or their serfs.

And all the politicians would be bought, and all the laws would been be bought as well.

But if they at present possess half the world’s wealth (and I have no idea whether they actually do or not), doesn’t that mean that they already own half the politicians, and half the laws?

I never understand the super-rich. To my way of thinking, there is a point where I have enough money, and I don’t want any more. And for most of my life I just about had enough. But the super-rich always seem to want only to get richer. For them, making money has become an end in itself.

About 50 years ago, the world’s then-richest man, J Paul Getty, lived in England in a suitably palatial country house. He was interviewed on TV once or twice, and came across as the most dull and boring person imaginable.  One particularly memorable feature of his country house was that it included a public telephone box, for guests to use rather than run up expensive calls on Getty’s own phone.

And that’s really how wealth is acquired. By cutting down on expenses like phone calls. “Take care of the pennies,” the old adage goes, “And the pounds will look after themselves.”

I gained the impression that J Paul Getty didn’t smoke, and didn’t drink, and didn’t party. He did however possess a considerable art collection, now housed in the Getty Museum. I don’t know whether he collected art because he liked art, or because (ahead of his time perhaps) he saw it as a good investment. I suspect, given his awful taste in furniture, that it was the latter.

And there seem to be a lot of super-rich people cast in the same mould. John D Rockefeller was one. Michael Bloomberg is another. Bill Gates a third. There seem to be very few bon-vivant billionaires. Perhaps for the simple reason that  bon-vivant billionaires are unlikely to remain billionaires for long. It’s the miserly penny-pinching billionaires with public telephones in their houses that stay rich. And that keep getting richer.

And when they die, they leave ‘philanthropic’ foundations which promote their values. The Rockefeller foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.  And these foundations – in tandem with all the other extant miserly, mal-vivant billionaires – gradually buy up the politicians, and buy smoking bans and alcohol bans and soda bans. Because they want  to make people into skinflints just like themselves.

So maybe we’re now at a point in time when the billionaires have got half the world’s wealth, and are busy using it to promote their puritanical values, with things like smoking bans.

And what happens then?

When we’ve all become skinflints, we all stop spending. Sales of everything tail off. Prices fall, as deflation sets in. Businesses go bust, and the world descends into economic depression. And everyone gets poorer.

Including the billionaires, as the industries they own go broke, and their investment income streams dry up. And they cease to be able to buy politicians or buy laws. And it takes another 70 years before a new bunch of skinflints have accumulated half the world’s wealth once again, and started to spend it on buying politicians and laws all over again.

Well, it’s one explanation, isn’t it?

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About Frank Davis

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20 Responses to Skinflint Billionaires

  1. Dan says:

    Except to be in the global top 1% you need assets of around £540,000. There are near penniless pensioners on fixed incomes who own their own house in London who are in the global 1%. Its the top 1% of the top 1% who are as you describe.

  2. Conway South Carolina smoking ban now up in the air

    http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2015/01/20/4738073_conway-leaders-set-to-take-final.html?rh=1

    CONWAY — Conway just can’t kick the habit.

    At least not yet. More likely never,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    City leaders on Tuesday opted to hold off on passing a smoking ban rather than do an 11th hour overhaul of the proposed policy, which a key supporter suddenly turned against during the council meeting.

    Conway officials have discussed a smoking ban for weeks and the measure easily passed during an initial vote on Jan. 5. But a majority of City Council must approve an ordinance twice before it becomes law, and a final vote was slated for Tuesday.

    That’s when Councilwoman Jean Timbes, who voted for the ban two weeks ago, said she couldn’t support it a second time.

    “I’d like to be able to vote for it again,” she said. “But for that to happen, I’d like to amend a couple of the statements within it.”

    Timbes voiced concerns about telling private business owners they can’t allow smoking in their establishments. She wants to strike language that refers to protecting workers from secondhand smoke. The councilwoman would also like to add wording that would prohibit smoking on public sidewalks, in parks and at other city-owned property.

    “I hate to give up on the idea of not getting a document that would keep it out of our city parks and city streets and sidewalks,” she said. “That’s my main objective.”

    But City Administrator Bill Graham pointed out that protecting workers has been the primary reason for the city considering the ban all along. Removing that language, he said, would reshape the policy.

    “If we do that, then we probably just need to go back and rewrite the ordinance,” he said. “At the last meeting we said that was the main intent.”

    Under the policy that received initial approval, those caught lighting up in private businesses would be fined $100. Business owners who allow smoking could also face penalties.

    Additionally, the proposed ordinance would require that a “no smoking” sign be placed at the entrance to each building. Those who wish to smoke outside would have to stay more than five feet from an entrance.

    Such a ban would affect nearly every business in the city. There would be exceptions for cigar bars, retail tobacco stores and vapor shops, but even those places would have to meet certain requirements. For example, to be considered a cigar bar, a business would be required to generate at least 30 percent of its gross revenues from cigars, pipe tobacco and related products. Retail tobacco stores would have to generate no less than 50 percent of their revenues from tobacco products.

    While the ban’s supporters questioned Timbes’ suggestions, those who have consistently opposed the policy praised her ideas as common ground.

    “This move, I think, is a very fair compromise,” said Councilman William Goldfinch. “And that’s what we’re elected to do. We’re elected to compromise.”

    Opponents of the ban, including some business owners who addressed the council Tuesday, contend the policy is government intruding in private business.

    “It’s not about the smoking issue to me,” said Tommy Moore, who owns Norman’s Cleaners. “It’s about government regulating our businesses more than they already are.”

    Another criticism of the ban is that it isn’t needed because most of the city’s businesses are already smoke free. During his comments to the council, Moore said he recently surveyed Conway Chamber of Commerce members and found that of the more than 500 businesses in the group, just five allow smoking.

    “I just don’t see that as a big issue,” he said.

    Moore conceded that not every person who has a Conway business license is a chamber member, but his informal research was enough to sway Timbes and some other council members.

    “The whole purpose of making a law is to have an effect,” said Councilman Randy Alford. “We shouldn’t be voting for an ordinance that affects five businesses.”

    One official who wasn’t convinced was Mayor Alys Lawson. She said she’d be uneasy accepting quick research as fact and restated her support for the proposed ban.

    “I’m not in favor of increasing government regulations except … you can’t keep your smoke off of me,” she said. “There’s no way to plausibly say, ‘You can smoke, but don’t let it hit in this man’s lungs.’”

    Lawson also appeared surprised by Timbes’ recommendations. When the council takes up the ban again, the mayor said all leaders should be at the table.

    “Obviously this is something that’s been discussed among some of us, but not all of us,” she said. “It’s a pretty big deal and we all have the right to sit down and understand exactly what it is.”

    More than a dozen supporters of the ban attended the meeting. Afterward, they seemed befuddled by the council’s change of heart.

    “We’re kind of disappointed,” said Daniel Falk, who has been leading the Breathe Clean Conway campaign. “The whole point of the ordinance was to protect workers that don’t have a choice where they work. … They were trying to get rid of that part.”

    Council members plan to hold a workshop soon to hammer out a new ban or scrap the idea altogether.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Timbes voiced concerns about telling private business owners they can’t allow smoking in their establishments. She wants to strike language that refers to protecting workers from secondhand smoke. The councilwoman would also like to add wording that would prohibit smoking on public sidewalks, in parks and at other city-owned property.

      “I hate to give up on the idea of not getting a document that would keep it out of our city parks and city streets and sidewalks,” she said. “That’s my main objective.”

      But City Administrator Bill Graham pointed out that protecting workers has been the primary reason for the city considering the ban all along. Removing that language, he said, would reshape the policy.

      This sorta goes to prove that for some of these nuts (in fact most of them) it never had anything to do with health. It’s just their personal preference extended into public arena which they now see as just an extension of their living rooms. They’d just as happily bring in ordinances banning mini-skirts or saggy trousers or anything else they didn’t like.

  3. cherie79 says:

    I don’t understand the desire to have more money than you can ever spend either. I have no mortgage, no debts a decent pension and some savings and I honestly don’t want any more. Like you as long as I had enough to pay the bills and be reasonably comfortable I was quite happy. It is nice for the kids to inherit something we worked very hard to get but that’s about it.

  4. mikef317 says:

    Frank, while I’m still working on my first billion, I thought I’d give you a donation towards yours. Unfortunately, the donate button’s program has a bug.

    I don’t have a PayPal account, but the left side of window lets me add credit card information. All well and good except that the screen want’s my UK “county” name. Since I live in the United States (which I selected at the top of the window) such names are meaningless. But no name, no donation. I thought of just picking a county name at random, but I suspect that the computers would slap my wrists, so I didn’t try.

    It looks to me like only people from the UK can make contributions.

    I’m still inclined to offer something for blog maintenance, a new drawing program, or more than a few pints at the pub. (The Jaguar is your problem.) Getting the bug fixed would be the easiest solution, but if you can’t, you should have my e-mail address from the comments. You’d have to send me your mailing address. Then I’d have to write a check in U. S. dollars (or God help me go to a bank and get a check in pounds). Then (God help me also) it would require a trip to the Post Office to get the check mailed to England.

    Anyway, I’m open to suggestions / instructions.

    • Frank Davis says:

      That’s very kind of you. And it’s not the first time you’ve offered to make a donation. And back then I suggested that you re-direct it to Audrey Silk, which I think you did.

      I’ve been thinking of removing (or at least disabling) the donation button. When I put it up, it was in part because my finances were looking a bit stretched. But they’re OK right now, and I don’t really need any donations.

      There are no expenses attached to writing this blog. All it requires is my time, and I’ve got plenty of that.. I guess there would be expenses if I had to travel, or attend conferences, or stuff like that. But I don’t do any of that.

      But I’ll email you. And if you can’t stretch to a Jaguar, a Ferrari would do. A red one. With a big ashtray on the dashboard.

  5. It appears Obamas administration is suing S&P STANDARD AND POOR FOR DOWN GRADING STOCKS AND CREDIT RATINGS OF CERTAIN COMPANIES AND THE FEDERA GOVERNMENTS CREDIT RATING………….

  6. Top doctor warns NHS may be forced to abandon free healthcare for all

    Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England, said the current way the NHS operates is ‘not fit for the future’, adding it must become far less reliant…

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2918003/NHS-forced-abandon-free-healthcare-says-Britain-s-doctor-warns-service-needs-radical-change.html

  7. Europe’s debt crisis mirrors collapse of 1930s

    LONDON — The spectre of the 1930s financial crisis that culminated in the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party and the Second World War is stalking Europe.

    In May 1931, Creditanstalt, founded in Vienna by the Rothschild banking dynasty and the biggest lender in what remained of the Habsburg Empire, suffered a run. Its collapse after a merger with an insolvent rival sparked a crisis that left Germany and central Europe strewn with failed banks, caused defaults in Europe and Latin America, knocked the pound off the gold standard, and forced the New York Federal Reserve by October to raise its discount rate by two percentage points.

    “The biggest economic catastrophe of the last century has been, of course, the big crisis after 1929,” Ewald Nowotny, governor of the Austrian central bank, said at a conference this week in Vienna. “I truly can say that when we had the big crisis of 2007 and 2008, it was in the back of the mind of everybody, all of us, every central banker, that we must avoid the mistakes of the 1930s.”

    What Harold James, professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University, calls the “vicious cycle” of contagion between banks and sovereigns is spinning today, just as it was 80 years ago. Spain’s 10-year borrowing cost has averaged 6.6 per cent this month, more than a percentage point higher than a year ago, after it sought 100 billion euros ($127 billion) to bolster its banks.

    The European Union’s accord with Spain, triggered by the collapse of Bankia SA, the country’s third-biggest lender, will leave the nation with debt about equivalent to its annual gross domestic product. Ireland’s 63-billion- euro bailout of its banks pushed sovereign debt to 108 per cent of GDP last year from 44 per cent in 2008.

    “The critical thing now and in the 1930s is that you can’t distinguish between bank and sovereign debt,” said Brian Reading, an economist at Lombard Street Research in London. “As long as banking systems remain national, it doesn’t much matter how international the bank is, local taxpayers are on the hook for it if it collapses.”

    Under Germany’s austerity policies in the 1930s, taxes rose, benefits and wages were reduced and unemployment soared, stoking the popular ire that Hitler harnessed. Extremists are gaining ground now as unemployment in Greece passes the 20 per cent mark after five years of recession. The far-right Golden Dawn won 6.9 per cent of the vote and 18 seats in the country’s most recent elections. France’s anti-immigrant, anti-euro National Front won two seats in parliamentary elections June 17.

    Creditanstalt in 1931, like Spain’s Bankia now, was created by mergers with lenders weakened by toxic loans and capital shortfalls. After Creditanstalt failed, the government stepped in to prop it up, fatally hurting its own credit. A run on Austria’s bonds and the schilling ensued, according to Michael Bordo, national fellow of the Hoover Institution on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

    “Creditanstalt had been forced into a merger with an insolvent bank, which felled it,” Bordo said. “Really, Austria had a financial system set up to service an empire which was no longer there.”

    Six months ago, the European Central Bank supplied more than 1 trillion euros to the banking system at an interest rate of 1 per cent, which banks recycled into their local government debt at higher yields as international investors bailed out.

    “As a bank, if your assets are in trouble in one country, you call in your loans from the countries that are the next most vulnerable,” said James at Princeton. “Banks withdrawing credit are part of the contagion mechanism and that’s part of the current story, as well.”

    In June 1931, as the German financial system teetered on the brink, the Reichsbank received a $100-million loan — equivalent to more than $5 billion today — from the central banks of France, Britain and the United States. The sum turned out to be insufficient to meet soaring German demand for foreign exchange. A bigger loan was blocked by France, which was concerned about plans for a customs union between Germany and Austria.

    Germany’s Danatbank collapsed after one of its biggest borrowers failed. That sent capital fleeing abroad, depleting reserves, according to a 2009 paper by Martin Pontzen of the Bundesbank. By September, German banks, including Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank, were under state control.

    A bank holiday and capital controls dragged in London’s merchant banks, which had guaranteed loans to German borrowers, according to Olivier Accominotti, a lecturer in economic history at the London School of Economics. A run on the pound cost Britain about 20 per cent of its reserves in two weeks and ended with the nation abandoning the gold standard.

    The U.S. was forced to raise interest rates to defend its gold reserves. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt imposed a bank holiday and forbade citizens from hoarding gold. “What started as a liquidity crisis became a solvency issue,” said Accominotti. “There was a major risk of a systemic crisis.” Accidents can become major economic threats, according to Larry McDonald, a former trader at New York-based Lehman Brothers Holdings and one of the authors of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense about the securities firm’s collapse.

    “It all comes down to systemic risk,” he said. “The deadly nature of a banking collapse is that it can cause everything to unwind. Banks are interconnected globally. Everything is interconnected.”

    Greek banks have lost more than 30 per cent of their deposits since the end of 2009. In Ireland, the decline through April was 17 per cent since the August 2009 peak, and in Spain deposits slipped seven per cent over the past 12 months.

    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/finance/Europes-debt-crisis-mirrors-collapse-of-1930s-160130635.html

  8. I don’t have high aims in life,I know I will never be a Billionaire. Id like to at least be a 1000aire once a month on payday and say its all mine ,its all mine!

    • Was there ever any doubt. Weve seen how they do it the last time around when they got busted planting thousands of positive comments from hundreds of emails coming from govmnt run health services groups remember. Now they slid it in under queens reviewe or whatever it was called. They don’t care how they break the law or cheat it as long as they get their way. Now why would anyone have any qualms about physically harming anyone of the Nazis…………..Theyd make you a criminal and hope youd break their insane laws and push it further and become an actual arrest for defying police orders or more! That’s what they are hoping for and rat you out in a heart beat. These people deserve to be identified and physically abused.

      • roobeedoo2 says:

        Harley, I used to work for Jane Ellison at John Lewis. She was retailer (no, really) and my boss. We worked in direct marketing to account customers and her favourite, No.1 phrase, uttered so frequently it was like drumbeat, “the devil is in the detail”, “the devil is in the detail”, “the devil is in the detail” …

        Plainly, Jane’s mantra was utter bollocks if she’s rushing this nonsense through so ardently. And do you know who her absolutely hometown hero was (is, who knows these days?)?

        David Hockney. What a fucking joke.

        I think they’re trying to flush out UKIP with this. But it’s a free vote – this could badly backfire for them so close to a general election.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/11361515/David-Cameron-orders-pre-election-vote-on-plain-cigarette-packs.html

        And don’t forget corner shops, garages etc will be putting the shutters over their tobacco stock (if they haven’t already) just in time for the start of the election campaign.

        • Frank Davis says:

          I asked my local tobacconist about this today. I was told that they’d yet to receive formal notification. When they did, the tobacco was going to go under the counter, and what was displayed under the counter would go onto the shelves where the tobacco was.

        • roobeedoo2 says:

          Under the counter … there’s nothing like ‘under the counter’ to get the young ‘uns curiosity going.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I thought the anti-smoking zealots have been too quiet lately…. It’s a pattern; if not much can be heard they already have the law in their pocket.

      A couple of days ago I was told that Austria – that is NIEDEROESTERREICH, the other counties are digging (quite rightly so!) their heels in – will be subjected to a smoking ban.

      Cannot find anything on the net, though, but since the information comes from an Austrian, I believe it. The anti-smokers haven’t occupied the whole country as yet and will be busy chipping away at the non-compliant counties first. The only thing I can find is:
      http://nova.aquatherm.at/en/aussteller/services/rauchverbot.html

      Vienna has become a no-go zone, the Alps are still as nice as ever and I might get a few more holidays in before giving the place a miss, too.
      My future travelling will be planned around insider information on smoker friendly places.

  9. garyk30 says:

    ” But the super-rich always seem to want only to get richer. For them, making money has become an end in itself.”

    I suspect that, for some, money is just a handy means of keeping score.
    The same with fancy homes, jewels, and fancy wives.

    They would rather ‘buy’ politicians than go thru the time-consuming ordeal of governing.

    I am not rich; but, my ‘net worth’ is more than that of several thousand of the natives of Africa.
    (note: ‘net worth’ would include my home, annual income, cars, and savings.)

  10. beobrigitte says:

    I never understand the super-rich. To my way of thinking, there is a point where I have enough money, and I don’t want any more. And for most of my life I just about had enough. But the super-rich always seem to want only to get richer. For them, making money has become an end in itself.

    Despite coming from two (!) highly respectable and wealthy families, one of which has an impressive family tree and whatever; my parents made the mistake of marrying each other. I grew up in poverty with an unbelievable freedom that for nothing and no money on this earth would have given up.
    I started work at the age of 15 (my father died and my mother was in and out of hospital) and very slowly and gradually started to become an average earner. When my little brother died 5 years after my father, I looked at what I had in the bank and thought about how much of this am I one day going to take with me?
    I spent the lot.
    Sure later on it would have helped; my offspring’s father wanted to buy a house (which I never wanted to do as it is something that ties you down) and I went along with it. I ended up paying the thing off in the remaining 23 years of the mortgage, during my university years having sleepless nights worrying how to keep up with the payments so my offspring can grow up in what they knew to be their home. It was a hell of a gamble and now we’re all happy and have enough to pay our bills individually plus a little for extras.

    That is good enough for me! I have what I need and a little more, so I work only part time now.
    This:
    But the super-rich always seem to want only to get richer. For them, making money has become an end in itself.
    is something alien to me. I do hope that the billionaires’ last gown will have pockets big enough for what they have accumulated in ?yuppie manner (backstabbing, bitching, outcompeting others etc.etc.) all their lives. I bet they do not know the concept of REAL friendship, less even empathy. It’s just a word they like and use for their own selfgratification.

    When we’ve all become skinflints, we all stop spending. Sales of everything tail off. Prices fall, as deflation sets in. Businesses go bust, and the world descends into economic depression. And everyone gets poorer.
    I’m not scared of being poor. been there, done it, worn that t-shirt.

    Including the billionaires, as the industries they own go broke, and their investment income streams dry up. And they cease to be able to buy politicians or buy laws.
    Now, that is a highly amusing and great idea!!! Love it!!! We all will be free again!!!!

    And it takes another 70 years before a new bunch of skinflints have accumulated half the world’s wealth once again, and started to spend it on buying politicians and laws all over again.
    Yep. Things always go full cycle. The anti-smokers will be forgotten for a while in future, too. And, yes the ugly heads will rise once again. All we can hope for is that people begin to think for themselves rather than think for them pre-thought ideas.

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