Has eccentric Virgin Group founder Richard Branson realized he has too much money? According to comments he made while participating in a panel at the Milken Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi this week, Branson believes—rather vaguely—that the ultra-rich should be taking greater steps toward filling in the gaps that government has left behind.
Branson, who is 68 years old and worth upwards of $4 billion, said, “We have to try and do everything we can to lift the vast majority of people up, when for the last few years the vast majority have not seen their living standards improve.”
Neoliberally ruminating on the issue, Branson went on to say, “I don’t think we should throw out capitalism. But for those of us who are fortunate to have made wealth, we have a responsibility to throw that out there and tackle some of the great problems. If we don’t do that, then we deserve to have very heavy taxes leveled on us.” Branson has been living in tax exile on a private Caribbean island that he has owned for 40 years.
As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s disastrous rolling out of an independent Presidential bid has revealed, people are no longer falling for this kind of empty rhetoric from billionaires. Forty percent of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 in case of an emergency, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve, and 26 people now have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the rest of the world’s population, according to a survey by Oxfam.
The ultra-rich have long been able to recognize themselves as symptomatic of a brutal economic system that massively redistributes wealth upward. Strangely enough, they prefer to bloviate vaguely about how they “pledge to do more,” all the while criticizing any actual steps toward the redistribution of wealth in Washington, and still accruing more riches. Guilty sentiments from billionaires are appreciated, sure, but ultimately amount to hollow neoliberal wash without any direct support of economic policy change in government.