The world is in economic trouble.  It’s in trouble in lots of other ways, too, but this manifesto is about money. Manifesto sounds too fancy. This is an idea.
     It’s an idea I’ve had for some time now. But when you have a billionaire like Warren Buffett complaining that his taxes are too low, when you have a 9.1 percent unemployment rate in the US alone, and grave inequality between the highest incomes and the lowest; when you have the Occupy Wall Street Movement spreading around the world, protesting against corporate greed and the role of the financial services industry in creating the present economic mess, then I know the time has come to share the idea. 
     It’s simple really: What if no one person were allowed to earn more than ten million dollars a year? To be clear: individuals would be able to make as much as they wanted in any given year, just as they are now, but—and this is the important part—individuals would only be able to KEEP, at most, ten million dollars of that income. Which, I might add, is still being mighty generous.
    So let’s break this thing down. In 2009 there were 8,724 people making more than ten million dollars in the United States, and the total gross adjusted income of these high earners put together was 240.1 billion dollars. Most people know that 2009 was a very bad year. In 2007, there were twice as many over ten millioners, and collectively they made a much higher number, to the tune of 410 billion dollars. That’s about a third of the 1.3 trillion dollar US deficit for 2011. Yes, it is a whole lot of money.
   But what about the real effects of a greed cap? First of all—less concentration of great wealth in the hands of a few. Which means that that no one person, or group of people, would have within their grasp an inordinate ability to use personal wealth for selfish ends. It won’t eliminate selfish—that’s for evolution and enlightenment— but it is a cap. 
    Neither will the greed cap eliminate wealth, which is unrealistic, but it would distribute it more reasonably. That’s the second big benefit: less extremes between highest incomes and lowest incomes. In fact, if used wisely, the added 300 billion dollars donated annually from the very richest—I'm averaging between the best of times and the worst—could go very far to bolster existing social programs like medicare, medicaid, social security, unemployment insurance, and on.
    In these very real senses, a greed cap would go far to reinstate what is meant by democracy. It sounds so very abstract that term, but it is not. It is something felt, and seen, and in this country democracy has quite frankly been overtaken by something closer to oligarchy. Which is why we are seeing and feeling the frustration of so many people here at home, and in the rest of the world, protesting, fundamentally, to restore democracy.
   If what I have said so far doesn't persuade you to the idea of a greed cap, let me come at this from another angle. Most of us would agree that money is not bad per se—it is a fairly remarkable human invention that allows for all kinds of things to get done. But if—after the first ten million is allowed a single home (really, it's too generous)—the money system doesn't work for the greatest good for the greatest number, then it is failing.
     Many very wealthy individuals are enormously philanthropic, and I take my hat off to them. But it is not enough.  For there would still be huge sums of money breeding in banks. For each day this money begets more money in the form of interest. Here is the image that disturbs me: a faucet dripping water, little by little, into a stopped reservoir, collecting, little by little, a vast pool that does not flow. Is simply stagnant.  This is money that has ceased to work. Is self-referential only. A greed cap would significantly change this picture; it would make those pools flow back to people who actually need them.
    Some have accused me of being idealistic, or even unrealistic. But why should that be so?  If people ask persistently in very large numbers for a change like this to occur, why then wouldn’t it be possible? Why not?  How many people would be 'adversely' affected? In the United States, less than 20,000 people. How many would benefit? All the rest, which is to say 312,000,000 or so. Naturally, the less than 20,000 have a lot of power. There will be some, ahem, convincing required. But if there is a movement already afoot, and there is truth to the adage about strength in numbers, then now is the time to strike.
     Protesting is good. That’s a first step. But we need solutions. Creative solutions. The Greed Cap is not the only solution to the big mess we’re in, but along with other much-needed reforms—immediately, campaign financing comes to mind—it  could certainly make significant inroads.  Some argue that it will take away the incentive to achieve where money is the by-product of that achievement.  But the will to achieve—which is human, and not bad in and of itself—is not fueled solely by money, good god. Do you really think Johnny Depp would stop playing remarkable characters because he could only earn ten million in a given year?  Let us not be so....mercenary.  Those sorts of arguments, in my mind, seem designed to preclude even trying a different approach. In any case, that human drive is an important thing to preserve. People need to feel that they can fly. Just not so high that the rest of us crash and burn.
     But if you should find yourself in the position of achieving financially beyond your wildest dreams—whether as actor, CEO, author, lottery winner, tennis player, talk show host or hedge fund manager—do you really think it’ll be a hardship to wait just a wee bit longer to pay off the house, or the island; or to have to limit the number of Bentleys, or Picassos, or perhaps Hermes bags?
    Mr. Buffett, respectfully, what do you think?


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