Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

721Gates and Buffett

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Could you do a better job of spending your "death taxes" than the government does? Bill Gates thinks he can. Warren Buffett agrees.
When the two richest men in America make announcements within a couple of weeks about giving a major portion of their estates to charity, rather than to the federal government and their children, do you suppose they might start a trend?
Who knows? Many folks, especially the rich, complain about the debilitating effects of welfare. Warren Buffett says he hears it all the time at the country club in his hometown of Omaha.
But, says Buffett, these guys leave their kids a lifetime of food stamps. "Instead of having a welfare officer, they have a trust officer. And instead of food stamps, they have stocks and bonds, Buffett says."
The nation's second wealthiest man says he has left his children enough money so that they can do anything -- but not enough so they can do nothing. Buffett says he has never made his distaste for inherited wealth a secret to anyone.
But those rich enough to have to worry about "death taxes," as they call them, are still working hard to get inheritances repealed in Congress. Those on the other side of the measure call the bill the "Paris Hilton Relief Act." Poor Paris, we'd hate her and those like her to have to change their lifestyles.
If you give your money to charity rather than to the government, you'd be limited to charitable causes rather than some of the other matters on which the government spends its money. But it's the government's charitable contributions that seem to tighten jaws, especially of the rich.
It is the poor about whom both Buffett and Gates are concerned. Buffett contends that with six billion people in the world worse off than he is, he just can't be an enthusiast for dynastic wealth.
It's true that many of Americas rich and poor have an entitlement mentality -- and many in the middle class do also. This column has previously reviewed the recent book, "The World is Flat," by Tom Friedman of the New York Times.
In that book Friedman identifies a new generation of youth, first noted by a magazine in India. They are called zippies and can be recognized by the zip in their stride. They ooze attitude, ambition and aspiration. They are cool, confident and creative. They seek challenges, love risks and shun fear.
And they can come from any socioeconomic background. Friedman explains that with the flattening of the earth, mainly by the Internet, almost any youth, anywhere in the world, has an equal chance to find the good life. All he or she must do is really want it.
How many zippies do you think Friedman found in the United States? Forget about it. Americans aren't hungry enough. Zippies are found in India, millions of them, and China and Russia and in developing countries throughout the world.
And these Zippies are in direct competition with our youth. Anybody who loses a job in the United States isn't likely to lose it to the guy next door. He or she will lose it to someone halfway around the world.
Although we are slipping behind the curve, we're still the envy of much of the rest of the world for our hard work, efficiency and output. On our recent European trip, we heard more than once that Europeans work to live, unlike Americans, who live to work. Americans are interested in success, they told us. Europeans seek the good life.
That's going to put Europeans even farther behind the curve than us. The average American is still willing to work hard., we just want to be paid more for it than do people in emerging nations.
It will cause some economic pain to many in this country until that discrepancy balances out. The secret is to be adaptable and look for jobs that can't be outsourced.
Or be born the great grand daughter of former New Mexican Conrad Hilton.
FRI, 7-21-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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