In Davos, Ken Goldman, a former Yahoo Chief Financial Officer stood up for the rich and argued that a panel discussing the role of taxes in economic development was one-sided. He said, "The U.S. basically has the lowest unemployment rate ever, the lowest Black unemployment rate ever, the lowest youth unemployment rate ever. We've actually reduced poverty around the world, no one's talking about that at all." To him, the panel was missing the point. Davos was meant to celebrate billionaires and the rich rather than attack them. It therefore makes sense that this gentleman patronizingly instructed the panel, "So I'd like for the panel to talk about, beyond taxes, which every one of you have talked about - the only thing that you've talked about in this whole panel on inequality - what can we really do to help solve inequality over time beyond taxes?" He wanted a discussion that would make the rich look and feel good; a discussion beyond taxes!
Winnie Byanyima, the Ugandan maverick heading Oxfam, was happy to go beyond taxes with the upper class' emissary. She explained to the out-of-touch millionaire: It is not just a matter of jobs but the quality of those jobs. And the lesson on how the world is not designed to simply cater to the needs of the rich began! Byanyima had good examples, particularly in the very same America that the millionaire had poured lavish praise. She said, "[Oxfam] also works with poultry workers in the richest country in the world, the United States... Dolores, one woman we work with there, told us that she and her co-workers have to wear diapers to work because they're not allowed toilet breaks. This is in the richest country in the world. That's not a dignified job." She also explained how taxi-drivers in Kenya took turns to sleep in a single room because they could not afford to individually rent out separate rooms. This is what the gentleman from Yahoo was telling the world to celebrate yet Byanyima maintained, "The quality of the jobs matter. It matters. These are not jobs of dignity."
The attempt by a rich white man to distract people alive to the true source of the problems left a bad taste in the mouth. He condescendingly attempted to shut down a discussion that attacked him and his ilk thus exposing that Davos is not meant to solve real problems but to celebrate the sources of the problems and stroke their egos. He was happy to discuss any other solution just as long as it did not end up imposing a financial burden on him and therein lies the problem. This attitude of trying to make the most out of little is exactly why workers like Dolores are wearing diapers to work to maximize the profits of men who then do not contribute to the fiscus as much as they should. These niggardly rich men have also been getting billions of profits from Africa and shipping them away to tax havens, avoiding the burden of developing the countries enriching them. It is insensitive for the rich to then turn around and pretend they are doing the poor a favor by overworking them and stealing from their economies. Byanyima concisely spelled it out to them: Don't tell me about the low levels of unemployment. You're counting the wrong things. You're not counting the dignity of people. You're counting exploited people.
Header Image: Pulitzer Center