Runaway Inequality Is a National Emergency, Billionaire Banker Warns
In 2019, billionaires have more wealth than ever before while “almost half of humanity have barely escaped extreme poverty, living on less than $5.50 a day,” international charity Oxfam found in its latest survey of global inequality.
Such wealth disparity is a crisis for the future of capitalism and the United States’ economic and political standing worldwide, Ray Dalio, billionaire and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, said in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday. “If I was the president of the United States,” Dalio told “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker, “what I would do is recognize that this is a national emergency.”
In a LinkedIn essay elaborating on the connection between capitalism and income inequality, Dalio warns that conditions in America today are scarily similar to those in the 1930s, when countries like Germany fell into the hands of authoritarian governments. “There has been little or no real income growth for most people for decades” and “prime-age workers in the bottom 60% have had no real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) income growth since 1980,” he notes.
Dalio also sounds the alarm on the potential for conflict that results from major gaps between the haves and have-nots: “Disparity in wealth, especially when accompanied by disparity in values, leads to increasing conflict and, in the government, that manifests itself in the form of populism of the left and populism of the right and often in revolutions of one sort or another.”
While he advocates for higher taxes on the wealthy in general, public-private partnerships, and encouraging politicians to consider return on investments rather than focusing simply on budgets, Dalio is light on specific policy ideas for how to achieve these goals and prevent the revolution he refers to.
As writer Mark Niquette describes in Bloomberg, one example of the kind of programs Dalio supports is the partnership between Dalio Philanthropies and Ned Lamont, the Democratic governor of Connecticut. Niquette reports that the two “announced a partnership on April 5 to improve public education and economic opportunity, with $100 million from the state matched by $100 million from Dalio plus $100 million from other philanthropists and business leaders.”
Dalio is concerned not only about the inequality and social divisions capitalism causes, but whether those divisions will break the system that allowed him to become a billionaire in the first place. “It doesn’t need to be abandoned,” he said in his “60 Minutes” interview. “Like a car, like anything—a plane, a school system, anything—it needs to be reformed in order to work better.”
He elaborates on this in his LinkedIn essay, writing:
I think that most capitalists don’t know how to divide the economic pie well and most socialists don’t know how to grow it well, yet we are now at a juncture in which either a) people of different ideological inclinations will work together to skillfully re-engineer the system so that the pie is both divided and grown well or b) we will have great conflict and some form of revolution that will hurt most everyone and will shrink the pie.
Growing up, he writes, “I was raised with the belief that having equal opportunity to have basic care, good education, and employment is what is fair and best for our collective well-being. To have these things and use them to build a great life is what was meant by living the American Dream.” Now, Dalio explains on “60 Minutes,” “The American dream is lost.”
Watch Dalio’s “60 Minutes” interview here.Wait, before you go…
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