Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Not Your Usual Forbes 400 Gripe

Yesterday I was reading about the newly released list of the 400 Richest Americans as reported by Forbes magazine. Shortly after browsing the countdown of the usual suspects I started reading comments across the web about the state of the country and the “greed” that is supposedly pervasive in our society. It never fails, every time a list like this is compiled, especially the annual Forbes edition, the same comments pop up.

Before I go any further (and really get into my rant) lets go over some of the broad strokes about the list. First, let’s briefly go over how the list is compiled. According to Forbes, they prefer to meet with potential candidates in person and, during this year’s process, spoke with nearly 100 billionaires (interviews with those in their inner circle and employees were also pursued in this annual endeavor). When calculating the bottom line they looked to numerous public sources including (i.e. Securities & Exchange Commission documents, court records, probate records, federal financial disclosures and Web and print stories) and took into considerations all assets including stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art, yachts, planes, ranches, vineyards, jewelry, car collections and more. Finally, just like anyone’s balance sheet, debts were taken out at the end to calculate the final figure.

I don’t know how I would feel having to calculate those gargantuan figures knowing the salary I would potentially be making as a columnist or editor but kudos to the people that put forth the considerable effort.

What made this year’s list particularly interesting, and which might account for the increases venom in some of the responsive commentary strewn about, is the tremendous growth that the overall list has experienced over the past year (approximately $300 billion). With a current total of just over $2 trillion, or roughly the equivalent of the GDP of Russia, the average net worth of the 400 currently stands at $5 billion with the cost of entry being a staggering $1.3 billion. The last time the average was this high was in 2007 and 2008 before the financial meltdown. Unfortunately, the list was limited to 400 which meant that 61 American billionaires were left out in the cold licking their wounds.  

Many people have read these figures and voiced their bitter opinions about these people whom they’ve never met. My view is very simple, good for you. The vast majority of the people on this list worked their tails off to reach that level of wealth paying more in taxes along the way than most of us will ever make in our lives. Good for them.

Despite what may have been preached to some, life isn’t fair and we are not equal. Some people are more fortunate than others, some get lucky breaks along the way, and others are never able to reach the one percent let alone achieve top 400 status. The majority of these people worked hard for what they have and have been smart with their money. The top two, Buffett and Gates, are prime examples in that they started with very little, worked hard, and were smart with their business and financial decisions. Good for them.

Maybe the problem in this country is not in the one percent, it is in those members of the 99 percent that lack a good work ethic and expect someone to take care of them. I am far from the one percent and I don’t expect to ever fall into that category (it would be nice though) but I want to work and I chose to earn my money rather than collect the same exact amount in unemployment. This is not to say that unemployment is a bad thing, sometimes it truly is needed, and sometimes it is unavoidable. But many people have the choice.  

Sometimes reality stinks but you have the chose to either accept it or work your butt off and change it. Many on that list did just that. So, to all of you out there complaining about the “one percent” in this country, stop it! The problem is not in those who chose to work and are successful in their endeavors, the problem lies in those choosing not to work. Let this free advice be your last handout.  

SIDE NOTE: If you have enough time and energy to protest, you have enough time and energy to work. All too often I have found myself watching reports on protests (on a variety of topics) which took place in the middle of the day and found myself wondering why those people weren’t at work. And many times those protesters have prevented others from getting to work and doing their jobs. You have the right to your opinion and you have the right to share it but, come on, this is getting out of hand.