It's out! This year's list of American success stories has just been published, and according to its compiler, it "instills confidence that the American dream is still very much alive."
Maybe you are one of these success stories. You might be a great public school teacher, for example, who motivated students to achieve new heights or an inventor who came up with an energy-saving device and got it to market at a fair price, generating a profit for yourself, the environment and society generally.
No, no, no. Not that kind of success. We're talking money — the flow of mammon beyond regular people's wildest dreams. That's how Forbes magazine measures not only "success," but also a person's value: You are what's in your Swiss bank account. And, just to rank last on this year's "Forbes 400" listing of America's wealthiest people, you need more than a billion dollars in financial wealth. To get into the top 10 requires at least $25 billion. And to be numero uno means you've got $66 billion socked away. Who says America is broke?
As Ray Charles sang, "Them that's got is them that gets." And sure enough, these richest of the riches got a lot richer in 2011 — the magazine gloated that these 400 swells jacked up their cumulative haul last year by $200 billion over the previous year — an average of half-a-billion each!
Now that's success, baby, especially when the typical American family's income dropped by 4 percent.
These ultra-wealthy, goes the Forbes narrative, are the "deserving rich," for they are our economy's makers and producers — as opposed to being takers and moochers, like those commoners who get Social Security, Medicare and other government help.
Before swallowing that, however, note that roughly 40 percent of these "achievers" on the list "achieved" their wealth by being well-born — they inherited the money from Dad and Mom. And all of them have indeed been takers, not only enjoying government programs, but also subsidies and tax advantages available only to the rich. The Forbes list really says that you got special treatment — not that you are special.
But if the rich need to feel special, they can always count on the editors of Fortune. We should not be surprised that a magazine named Fortune would be empathetic to the feelings of the 1 percent, but — good grief — how embarrassingly sycophantish of the editors to hustle out a piece just before the presidential election titled, "Stop Beating up the Rich."
Written by Nina Easton, the timing of the article was less than fortunate, for it came out just as the infamous video surfaced showing Mitt Romney "beating up" the poor and the middle class, while his audience of fellow multimillionaires laughed, cheered and shouted encouragement.
Despite the timing, Mitt and company undoubtedly appreciated the writer's disdain for those who so insolently dare to criticize and even demonize those worthy ones at the top who, as she explained, "gained their wealth through their own efforts."
Also, you can almost hear the privileged ones applauding appreciatively as she scorns the divide between the 1 percent and the rest of us as a "flawed prism, marred by hyperbole, half-truths and unnecessary pessimism about what it means to succeed in America."
Passionately deploring "diatribes against the 1 percent," Easton assails critics of America's widening wealth inequality as being people who want "to raid the gold pot." On behalf of the pampered rich, she issues her own emotional "grito," wailing that critics must "stop the name-calling."
Does Easton propose any specific remedies for narrowing the wealth gap? You betcha, and it just happens to be one that's a favorite of Mitt and the multimillionaire's club — one that they prescribe for any and all of our nation's economic woes: "corporate tax reform," by which they mean lowering the corporate tax rate. Yeah, three decades of that trickle-down idea has worked so well for the middle-class and the poor, let's give 'em another jolt of it.
It's unclear why Fortune felt the need to print this piece of fluff or why Easton got the assignment, but her credit line does mention that her husband "is senior strategist for the Romney campaign." Curious, huh?
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.