Service of Fair Wealth Distribution

December 7th, 2017

Categories: Gifts, Holidays, Homeless, Wealth Distribution

A homeless man hangs out in a post office satellite the size of a small room that is unattended but has a self-service mail kiosk that I use frequently to weigh and mail packages. I’m afraid to be alone with him so I walk by with package in hand. He’s there on my way to and from work.

A few blocks away I found myself in a Godiva chocolate store earlier this week with a friend who was making a purchase. I noticed the handsome Swarovski luxury box [photo above], priced at $125 or $2.08/per chocolate. There are millions in the city who would relish such a gift to share with family and friends but I don’t think that they will be the recipients. I envision the executives and business owners who will receive it who may wince at the calories or put the box out at the reception area or not even bother to take it out of its gift bag.

All the talk about the one percent got me thinking of something that has always been true: The people who don’t need and often could care less about expensive gifts receive them. This goes for taxes, benefits and holiday presents.

Photo: amazon.com

Which led me to think: I wish that there was a City Harvest for holiday business gifts. City Harvest rescues food from restaurants and other venues with leftovers in NYC and distributes it to the hungry. This hypothetical organization would scoop up unwanted or unneeded executive gifts and redistribute them to those who would appreciate them.

However, the concept wouldn’t work because corporations send notes to vendors asking them to restrict gift-giving to a modest sum, maybe $25, or they forbid gifts altogether. Executives receive their gifts at home. And they can’t admit to receiving expensive gifts as they aren’t supposed to get them so how could they volunteer to give away something they shouldn’t own in the first place?

Some businesses send electronic holiday wishes noting that they donate to charity the money normally spent on cards and postage. I hope they really do.

I don’t mean to pick on Godiva or other purveyors of luxury treats and manufacturers of gifts like chef’s knives, drones and wireless headphones. It just seems that giving fancy business gifts to the wealthy is like bringing diamonds to Amsterdam.

Similarly, does it make sense for the wealthiest to benefit from the tax plan that’s about to be voted on in Washington, causing a deficit for the poorest and middle class to shoulder via paltry tax reductions and reduced Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits?

If you were giving a gift to a wealthy client, what would it be?

Photo: metro.us

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10 Responses to “Service of Fair Wealth Distribution”

  1. Deborah Brown Said:

    An Arbor Day card that says “A Tree has been Planted in Your Name” will mean more than a key ring with the company’s name on it.

    Many organizations offer charitable opportunities to name a service dog in someone’s honor. I have just arranged this for a wealthy friend who needs nothing, gives much, but loves this organization.

    Anything personalized such as: “12 Christmas dinners for 12 families in need at person’s religious institution, or like charity.

    I agree, no more sterling silver bottle openers, crystal tschokies for the desk, watches with company name, etc. etc.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debby,

    I love these ideas.

    Although not a business gift, and this happened many years ago so younger readers won’t get it, but my mother had a very wealthy friend, a widow, who one day spoke wistfully about not being able to use her name. My mother bought her stationery with her name, Helen Smith [not her real name], rather than the one she’d used since she was married, Mrs. XYZ, and the gift was a big hit. LISTEN to your client and you may come up with a perfect gift that does not break the bank that hit the spot as the ones you described surely will.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    I don’t have clients, so no gifts! However, if I were to have them, I would treat them as friends and give what I knew they liked, within both reason and the scope of my pocketbook. The wealthy are human and most do not appreciate groveling or undue attention to their assets.

    I’ve befriended homeless, and have given within my means during holidays. Like the wealthy, most don’t bite and have little appreciation of being patronized.

    The ideal society would have no homeless, hungry and ill to worry about, but since this is not the case, it’s a good idea to work towards such ends, and not be concerned about gifts to the wealthy.

  4. Thomas Stier Said:

    Tom wrote on Facebook: Makes no sense at all. Trickle down is proven not to work. Corporations are flush with cash and have access to cheap capital. They will increase executive bonuses and pay out more to shareholders, who tend to be wealthy. The gap between rich and poor will only widen and the middle class people who think it is a good deal should think again.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Tom,

    So well put, so clear—I am baffled that so many don’t question what they are told. Scary really for us all.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I admire you for befriending homeless people.

    The post illustrated the increasing divide in this country, one that is endorsed and therefore will increase according to the new tax laws. As an Air Force wife I lived and visited poor countries much like what we have become and where we currently appear to be going, where I saw incredible wealth and the worst poverty. It wasn’t pleasant to see then nor is it now. In this context, at this time of year, I thought a discussion of luxury gifts for the one percent was apt.

    On a wall where the holiday stalls are in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall there’s a vintage photo of homeless people sleeping on benches. I found it an unusual choice for this area and sad, as I see increasing numbers of people sleeping at the station and around the city as shown. The photo was meant to illustrate the contrast since the station had been so beautifully cleaned up. It remains an architectural beauty at least.

  7. JBS Said:

    Nothing about the tax bill is fair and I trust that at least some of the people who voted for Trump realize that. It was the “masses” who voted for him and they thought he would be their savior. Now the real Donald has emerged and they will pay the price. Frankly, what worries me far more is what Trump has done to this country’s reputation internationally. He’s a buffoon and that’s how the world views him. The attached article was in MinnPost, an internet newspaper to which I subscribe. It’s written by Eric Black, a former political reporter for the NY Times. I particularly enjoy his articles.

    A few weeks ago, I confessed that I have become totally hooked on the weekly New York Times column of Thomas Edsall. His most recent from last Thursday was brilliant but unutterably depressing.
    Edsall reviewed a Pew Research Center survey, taken in 37 countries in June, asking whether people had confidence in President Donald Trump to do the right thing in international affairs.
    By smooshing the responses from all countries together the overall verdict is, by 74 to 22 percent, ordinary people around the world lack confidence in Trump. Is that because they don’t trust America in general or any of its leaders? I could imagine that, but apparently not. When the same poll question was asked during Barack Obama’s presidency, foreigners had confidence in the United States to do the right thing by 64 to 23 percent.
    How widespread is this decline global confidence in America since Trump became president?
    Very.
    Confidence down in 35 of 37 nations surveyed
    When you break those responses down by country, confidence in U.S. had gone down in 35 of the 37 countries surveyed. The two exceptions were Russia and Israel. In Israel, the change was relatively small. The last time Pew asked the question there under Obama, 49 percent said they had confidence U.S. policy. The first time they asked it after Trump took office, that rose to 56.
    In the Russia the change was much more dramatic. Only 11 percent of Russian respondents trusted Obama, but 53 percent said they trusted Trump.
    At the other end of the spectrum, confidence in American policy from the last Obama poll to the first Trump poll fell by 83 percentage points (from 93 to 10) in Sweden, which was the biggest drop in any country. After that, Germany and the Netherlands were the biggest losers of confidence in America since the change in its top leader — a drop of 75 percentage point in both. Then South Korea (drop of 71 points); France (drop of 70); Spain (68); Canada (61) the UK (57), Australia (55), Japan (54).
    Pew has done similar polls for years. There have never been results anything close to this bad.
    This link will enable you to see all the scores. At the low end of the spectrum (meaning countries where the decline in confidence was relatively small) were Jordan, Nigeria, Venezuela, Tunisia and Vietnam.
    Sought out experts for analysis
    Edsall’s column was about more than just these horrifying poll results. As he generally does, he emailed experts at analyzing issues like these and printed some of the responses. Edsall writes, for example:
    “Arthur Lupia, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, emailed: ‘As America is seen as an increasingly volatile and unreliable partner, the reduced credibility that follows creates new international opportunities for people like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin — who can promise relative stability. The net result? We now have reduced leverage in many international settings.’”
    Personally, I’d never seen the word “decivilizational” before, but Edsall suggests that what he called “Trump’s assault — and that of his appointees — on democratic standards and principles” might be having that effect – a decivilizational effect — on the U.S. and the world order. Edsall asked some of his experts whether, perhaps, there might be a legal remedy, perhaps from the Mueller investigation? His column concludes with some discussion of that:
    “Executive authoritarianism and lawlessness can be hemmed in and checked but not fully constrained by courts, the criminal law, or the written Constitution,” Jacob T. Levy wrote this week in “The Limits of Legalism,” published by the libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center:
    They ultimately have to be confronted by elected officials: co-partisans willing to exercise serious restraint, or if not, an opposition voted into office who will do so instead.
    At the moment, Trump’s co-partisans, House and Senate Republicans, have shown little willingness to confront him. The longer Trump stays in office, the greater the danger that he will inflict permanent damage on the institutions that must be essential tools in any serious attempt to confront him.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JBS,

    We are in a period much like backwards day at summer camp when I was a kid. Everything is topsey turvey; people we’ve elected to protect us don’t make sense. One senator–Grassley–accused the poor of spending money foolishly–on booze, women and movies. Really? The other night on Tavis Smiley Dan Rather said what we are missing today is EMPATHY. I agree with that.

  9. Lucan Said:

    Riddled as I am with Darwinian and libertarian inclinations, I find myself conflicted, but I must admit I am sympathetic to your point. My common sense tells me you are right. Why not give the recipient the ability to decide what to do, give their gift to charity or consume it? Enclose a franked mailer addressed with the name of a charity which would accept the gift if your client doesn’t want it.

    This reminds of several decades ago when I served, representing my employer, on the board of the then largest publicly owned African bank, the majority of whose shares were owned by non-Caucasian Africans. Once a year our board chose to meet outside of Africa. On arrival at the meeting we directors were each handed an envelope with about $2,000 in cash in it (the equivalent of perhaps $5,000 today), “expense” money. All usual travel expenses were reimbursed upon submission. What should I do with it? It wasn’t my money; I hadn’t earned it.

    My boss didn’t want to hear about it. My accountant said I was opening up an expensive can of worms, and shuddered when I mentioned the IRS. The African bank’s chairman had just lunched with the U.S. Representative at the United Nations, a nationally important political figure and close personal friend of the President. The right wing press might have had fun with it also.

    What did I do? I kept the $2,000 and did not submit $2,000 in other unrelated travel expenses to my employer for reimbursement.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucan,

    GREAT idea–the ability to easily send a gift where it might be better appreciated is perfect. I am not surprised, given this creativity, that you were able to figure out how to use the $2,000 legally, conscience clear, without insulting the well-meaning donor or irritating the IRS.

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