The pitchforks are coming

The Australian billionaire Dick Smith has been on the stump again warning of the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots.

“If we're not careful, if you end up with really wealthy people and lots of poor people, in the end the poor people will rebel,” he said late last year.

 “You look at what happened in Russia in 1917 where they ended up with the tsar and the tsar's friends who are all equivalent billionaires.

 “The pitchforks came out and we had revolution.”

It is certainly true that the wealth gap is growing — as a recent Oxfam report, Growing gulf between work and wealth, shows. The share of wealth owned by Australia’s richest 1% grew to 23% in 2017, up from 22% the year before. The top 1% now owns more wealth than the bottom 70%.

Australia now has 33 billionaires, up by eight in the past year. Clearly, inequality is worsening. But Smith’s ideas of how to ameliorate the wealth gap are fanciful.

Smith spends millions on his campaign to get other billionaires to help fund causes he believes in — especially cutting immigration. He says lower immigration would be in everyone’s best interests because not everyone will be able to find jobs.

Smith’s appeal follows US billionaire and “unapologetic capitalist” Nick Hanauer, who argued that with a tiny bit of philanthropy the rich can prevent working people from getting organised to fight for a better and fairer system.

Smith is a part of the new alt-right. He thinks US President Donald Trump and racist MP Pauline Hanson have something to offer because they “speak frankly” and say “what most people think but are too afraid to say”.

Smith defends Hanson, saying she is not a racist because Australians would not elect racists to parliament.

“People tend to say that she’s racist”, Smith said. “So I asked her, does she think that she’s superior to other races? She said ‘no’.”

Hanson reciprocates the admiration: “Like many other Australians, when Dick Smith took the time to listen to what I had to say and look at my actual policies he realised we agreed on many things. I look forward to working with him more in the future.”

Hanson is not only a racist, she is also anti-worker. The “new right” talks up its support for the “little person”, but they do everything in their power to make sure the current, inequitable system stays in place.

Part of the reason for the growth of the alt-right is that the major parties have pursued policies that reward the rich and ciminalise the poor.

Now in Australia, the top 10% of households own at least 50% of the total wealth. This is trickle-up capitalism — the way this system works!

Smith’s push to get billionaires to share a little more of their wealth will not change anything. Watch out for the pitchforks, Dick, because they will be coming for you. It’s the only rational option left for those who know that the system needs changing.

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