the decks are slanted, the playing field is not level.
What can we do about it? Below are a few examples of people
with wealth taking steps to fight unjust privilege.
a descendent of someone who started a multinational company,
Marion Hunt-Badiner was sobered to learn about the increasing
power and influence of large corporations. "I felt some
connection and responsibility. I began to talk to other
descendants whose families started multinationals, and
we are beginning to explore how to leverage our wealth
and influence to encourage these corporations to act with
greater social responsibility."
the past year a core group has formed and is developing
strategies with a distinguished advisory board. "We aren't
sure how we will exert our influence, but we are excited
to take the power of our legacy and use it for the common
feel conflicted when a candidate for public office calls
for a contribution" says Charles Knight. "They are often
people I'd like to see get elected, but the system is
flawed that makes our leaders dependent on wealthy donors
in order to win. This year I'm capping my direct contributions
to candidates and putting more resources behind efforts
to end the undue influence of money on elections."
is now active with Maine Voters for Clean Elections, a
broad-based coalition organizing to sharply reduce the
distorting power of private campaign contributions on
the political process. Among other campaigns, MVCE is
bringing to the ballot a referendum of national import.
passed, it would provide a set amount of public financing
for candidates willing to refuse all private contributions
(their own money as well), to limit their spending, and
to shorten their campaign season. While a prior Supreme
Court decision prevents requiring limits to candidates
fundraising for office, this voluntary public funding
is still a notable step towards helping level the playing
talk about the widening gap between the rich and poor
as if it is some natural phenomenon, like sunspots." says
Chuck Collins, the great grandson of Oscar Mayer. "I was
horrified to learn how deliberate and systematic the policies
are that multiply the wealthy people's assets while the
incomes of working people stagnate and decline."
by the unfairness of it all, in 1994 Chuck joined a diverse
group to start "United for A Fair Economy." UFE educates
the public about the past two decades of public policies
and corporate practices designed to benefit the most affluent
ten million people in the U.S.
at the expense of the bottom two hundred million. These
rule changes include: tax cuts on the wealthy, and tax
and fee hikes on everyone else; trade policies that undercut
workers and the natural environment; and winner-take-all
corporate salaries. UFE's action arm, "Share the Wealth,"
builds campaigns to change these policies and practices.
growing number of people with wealth are seeking an organized
way to speak out against public policies which exclusively
benefit the very wealthy. In response to requests, Chuck
and others have begun a project called "Responsible Wealth."
Over 30 people signed an initial statement and are beginning
to discuss action ideas. Says Chuck, "Participating in
the Responsible Wealth group is a way for high-asset people
to say, 'Inequality is not in my interest! This growing
polarization is creating a seriously insecure world for
my children, and I won't stand passively by and allow
it to continue in my name.' "
for Family Land
a woman brought up in true Southern tradition, I was taught
to be acquiescing and polite. I put everyone else's needs
first, and felt anguished any time I needed to speak up.
family wealth included a 3,000 acre coastal tract of land
with an unspoiled barrier island. Since my childhood,
the sparkling water and fresh breezes of that place envelope
me in a peace I feel no where else.
my uncle died in '86, we found out this miraculous property
was "worth" $30 million dollars. Of course, some family
members were more interested in money than in the land.
When some of the property was sold without any conservation
protection, I knew I had to speak up or be haunted for
the rest of my life. But how? I knew nothing about standing
up for myself. Could I stand up for the land I loved?
started by supporting my mother. Her life-long wish was
to preserve the land, so she set up a charitable foundation
that would preserve her portion and avoid 5.5 million
dollars in estate taxes. Within six months of establishing
the foundation, Mother was dead. What I feared most came
to pass: some family members sued to overturn her will
and her foundation.
once extremely close-knit family was torn apart. Unfortunately,
lawyers only worsened the situation by pitting us against
each other. I gave up millions of dollars of personal
revenue to protect the land, yet on the witness stand
I was accused of being motivated by greed.
through therapy and personal growth did I gain the strength
to separate myself from my family's view of me. Previously,
I thought power was only a negative trait. Breaking the
rules of propriety and standing up for what I believed
was like a rite of passage about what it takes to live
in the world. I emerged from it a more mature woman who
deeply values personal power, and who can assert herself
while still acting on a vision of understanding and empathy
for all. Taking charge of my life is the most important
thing I have ever done.
and my share of the land (1,200 acres of coastal property)
will be preserved forever. This may seem like a drop in
the bucket, but I believe that every piece of land preserved
matters. I am glad I could do my part to counteract our
long history of the lack of concern that has consumed
the earth. Every season that the loggerhead turtles nest
on the island, I am filled with a peace that money could
that my family is working with mediators (instead of through
litigation) to divide the remaining property, my brother
and I are speaking civilly to each other for the first
time in ten years. I even feel hopeful about the healing
of the family. .
- anonymous author
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