One hundred years ago, John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire (in dollars). Other “robber barons” soon followed, and as of today, there are roughly 2,000 billionaires in the world. Already living the opulent lifestyle of their dreams, their goals in life have evolved from improving their quality of life to winning a highly exclusive game of real-life monopoly. Their life aspirations become oriented around pursuing the ultimate symbol of success, the top of the Forbes 500 list, with Bill Gates currently leading the pack and Kansas’ richest native sons, the Koch brothers, shortly behind. Their strategies include channeling strategic campaign contributions to the right combination of legislators and presidential candidates with the goal of a profitable return via regressive taxation, made feasible in part by cutting expenditures that do not benefit the upper classes (Medicaid, Social Security, Children’s Health Insurance Program, public education). Although their growth in wealth has been impressive since President Obama took office, the liberal economic policies of progressive income taxation and the estate tax have worked to redistribute much of their massive, accumulated wealth back down to the lower and middle classes, a policy economic conservatives believe has unfairly impeded their progress.
But good news. The conservative tax legislation recently passed by our Republican legislators will greatly lower their income, corporate and estate taxes, making the new “brass ring” feasible within the lifetimes of many of these younger billionaires, becoming the world’s first trillionaire. The latest tool in their arsenal, getting the government to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to fund tax relief for them, barring the pittance they designate for the middle class, a strategy enabling them to describe the legislation as “tax relief for working families.” The actual beneficiaries of this tax policy work on a three-martini lunch. Real working Kansans will only laugh, or in my case curse, at Jerry Moran’s assertion that these borrowed billions will be used to hire more employees or increase wages, or that targeting billionaires for tax relief will stimulate the economy. As happened in Kansas, U.S. wages and employment will not go up, only the national debt. Billionaires like Charles Koch and Donald Trump will see big returns as they invest their tax savings overseas in the many rapidly industrializing countries with growing economies. In Hays, where the state and federal governments channel tax relief to the rich and high local sales taxes cut the spending power of the poor, the economy will continue to stagnate.