Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Open Letter to Gina Rinehart, World's Wealthiest Woman

Dear Gina Rinehart,

    I am not exactly poor, but I'm definitely not wealthy.  I am in the dying middle class in the United States.  I don't know how the middle class is faring in your country, but here, we're an endangered group.

    I'm not jealous of your wealth.  I'm not jealous of anyone's wealth.  I'm angry that anyone who is lucky enough to have made a fortune doing what they do would seize power and work their hardest to ensure that people who don't have the ability or ambition to become mining moguls (although from what I understand, yours is inherited wealth, not something you built yourself) have no influence in things that affect their daily lives.

    You see, we have people who talk just like you do here in the United States.  They consider the wealthy "the hardest-working Americans", while the poor are just lazy, good-for-nothing loafers who just want to live off of welfare.  They want to take away the social safety nets that keep people from starving in the streets when they fall upon hard times, as people sometimes do.  But it's worse than that.

    Far worse.

    A handful of billionaires, most notably the brothers Koch, with their $42 billion fortune, have set out to lobby legislatures across the country to take away collective bargaining rights from teachers, firefighters, police, and any and all others who work for the government that they also seek to control.  They pay people to sit at the ears of politicians, giving voice to their goals and desires that no other citizen could hope to have. They pass laws that benefit their industries, while killing competition in the private sector with their immense buying power.  They seek to make us subjects, not citizens, and the American people gave up being subjects in 1776--as did Australians in 1901.

     You say people who are "jealous" of the wealthy (rather than angry, as I am) should just work harder, socialize less, drink less, and smoke less, but the truth is, society can't be comprised of only wealthy people. It's not possible.  We need laborers.  We need teachers, police, and firefighters.  We need people picking up trash and cleaning sewers.  We need people doing construction.  Do you suggest that none of these people work as hard as you do?  Do you suggest that they all give it up for a dream of being a billionaire mining mogul, or something equivalent?

    The fact is, I know many hard-working people who don't drink or smoke, and keep their socialization to a minimum, but people of your ilk took their jobs overseas to places where the government doesn't offer as strict regulation on working conditions and work hours.  Their ambition consisted of living comfortably and providing for their families, and now that their jobs that paid a living wage are gone, they have to work one job for half the pay and struggle, or two jobs that might not even add up to the same wages as the one--if they are lucky enough to find a second job.

    Then, there are the people I mentioned before, lobbying legislatures across the country.  They are doing something else aside from taking away collective bargaining rights.  They are lobbying to make public services private.   What they do is take a public service, give it over to a private company, hire back the workers who used to make a living wage and belong to a union at much lower wages with less benefits or none at all.  They make this privatization look attractive to communities, because it does appear to save them money, when compared to the cost of service when run by the government.  However, the workers may no longer to afford to live in the community, option for cheaper housing elsewhere.  They will no longer frequent bars, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hair salons, or any number of other local businesses that received the benefit of their patronage.  Even if these businesses do continue to receive some patronage, it must be reduced, because the workers have less disposable income.  In the meantime, the private companies that take over the services have executives and shareholders who live outside the communities--sometimes even overseas--who benefit from the difference in wages between the old workers and the new, and at a lower tax rate than the workers themselves paid.

     So I look at all of these things, and I say, yes, I'm definitely angry with you.  Not jealous.  Angry.  When I hear statements like yours, it stirs my passion to do something about your kind, so please, keep talking.  We don't live in a world where we believe you wealthy people rule by divine right.  We have the power to tax and regulate you out of business, if only we rise up to use it--and I think we should use that power on anyone who would try to buy government to try to rule over us.

One who would not be a serf, but a citizen.

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