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Jewish World Review Oct. 7, 2003 / 11 Tishrei, 5764

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Forbes gives advice on making rich list


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | By now you've probably gotten over the annual disappointment of not finding your name on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest people in America.

After 21 years, Forbes' annual ranking of the rich has become a big media deal. It's a great PR tool for an always-readable magazine that never shies away from tooting the horn for free-market capitalism or praising the men and women who've gotten obscenely wealthy by understanding how magically it works.

As you might have noticed, the mainstream liberal media, always ready to play the greed-and-envy card during an economic downturn, played up the angle that the Richest 400 of 2003 — now worth a collective $955 billion — saw their wealth rise 10 percent last year. Poor folk were supposed to become outraged and call for even higher taxes to soak the rich.

But, as Forbes points out, the richest 1 percent of Americans today pay nearly 40 percent of the annual federal income tax revenues. In 1980, the top 1 percent paid 9 percent.

If you'd like to join the Richest 400 yourself someday, Forbes' publisher Rich Karlgaard offers some sensible advice. You should move to cities with good universities that attract smart people, that are low-cost enough to incubate baby new businesses, and — here is where Pittsburgh falls off the list — that go light on taxes, regulations and big government-planned redevelopment projects.

One bonus of reading Forbes is the frequent appearance of Paul Johnson, the eminent British historian and journalist. His one-page commentary in the Richest 400 issue paints a grim future for the already rickety European Union.

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He says the EU — a French concept, by the way, that mirrors French society — is another bad utopian dream founded on socialism and the micro-regulation of everyday life. It's "built on a fantasy — that men and women can do less and less work, have longer and longer holidays and retire at an earlier age, while having their income, in real terms, and their standard of living increase."

Johnson also is a regular contributor to National Review, where his current offering, "An 'Ism' for All Seasons," points out that pessimism has replaced communism as the No. 1 ideology of intellectuals and their camp followers in academe and media.

It is especially true in Europe, he says, where pessimism — about Iraq, the Middle East, America, the environment, all human life on earth — is not only popular, it's become the official government policy of Germany and, you guessed it, France.

Pampered Euro-pessimists, Johnson says, do all they can to slow the human progress, economic productivity and scientific advancement that raises living standards of poor people all over the world — while also complaining loudly that the poor are getting poorer.

Johnson doesn't exactly say it this way. But one of the reasons pessimists hate free enterprise is that they know they lack the imagination and daring — not to mention the optimism and hope and energy — necessary to qualify for the annual Forbes 400.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald