More Than Money
Issue #17

Cross-Class Relationships

Table of Contents

“Responsible Wealth Seeks To Change The Rules”

Frank Butler, a soft-spoken retired CEO of a division of Kodak, is one of the 150 founding members of the national advocacy group Responsible Wealth. "For years my wife Ruth and I have given to good causes and helped out individuals in need, as we were raised to do and as our deeply-felt religious beliefs encouraged. Although we feel giving is a creative, joyful, and energizing act, it has become clear over the last fifteen years that the gap between rich and poor has only widened. Part of the reason for this is the unfair economic and tax rules tilted in favor of those of us with wealth. Through Responsible Wealth, my wife and I have an organized way to use our voice and influence to help change those rules."

Responsible Wealth's project director, Mike Lapham, emphasizes the need to change public policy. "The U.S. wealth gap is the widest it has been since 1929. In 1965, CEOs made 44 times the average pay of their workers; today the ratio is 212 to one. The wealthiest one percent of citizens now owns more than the bottom 92 percent combined!"

Responsible Wealth is just one project of United for a Fair Economy (UFE), a national organization engaging people of all backgrounds to help close the wage gap, limit the influence of big money in politics, and remove tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy. Its activities include self-education, publications, local workshops, public events, a national speakers bureau, political art and theater, and a strong media voice.

By organizing people with wealth who support UFE's goals, Responsible Wealth vividly contradicts the stereotype of "greedy rich people." At Responsible Wealth's first national conference, thirty members agreed to donate publicly whatever money they save from the 1997 capital gains tax cut to UFE and other community organizations working for fairness and shared prosperity.

"Why in the world should anyone's self-interest be as narrow as their own private financial interests?" Frank Butler exclaims. "What will assure that our grandchildren grow up in a more secure world is a smoothly functioning, just, and equitable society, not laws and rules that help enlarge and protect the bank balance of privileged people."

Responsible Wealth is open to people in the top five percent of income or net worth in the United States. Multimillionaires? Many RW members are, but just $500,000 in household assets or $125,000 in annual household income puts you in that top five percent category.

For further information, contact Mike Lapham at Responsible Wealth c/o United for a Fair Economy, 37 Temple Place, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02111, or call 617/423-2148.

-- Steve Chase


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