What is your name and what do you do for a living?
Jackie Boberg. I used to be in tech sales and marketing and now I’m a retired and an artist.
At the height of the pandemic can you describe what a typical day was like for you?
To be honest, I recognize my experience is vastly different than what so many others experienced during the pandemic. I could afford to be pretty insulated from the ravages of the virus. Like many people of wealth, I was able to hunker down in nice surroundings without having to put myself in harms way to survive.
How has your financial situation changed since the start of the pandemic? Why?
We were basically not impacted since we live on our investments. And some of our investments did better than others. We were also able to help our grandchildren switch from public school to private so they could attend in person.
Since the beginning of the pandemic billionaires have increased their wealth globally by 5.4 trillion. That’s enough to vaccinate the whole world and give a $20,000 cash grant to all unemployed workers. How does that make you feel?
I would like to see them paying a special pandemic profiteering tax! I am a strong believer in a fair tax code that’s designed to benefit the majority of people. We currently have a tax code written by the wealthiest people in the country so that it benefits only them.
What I am seeing now is billionaires more concerned with preserving wealth by seeking ways to park their money abroad or become citizens of tax heavens, rather than giving back to the communities that supported their initial growth of wealth.
A report came out this past June that showed that the world’s second richest man, Jeff Bezos, did not pay any US federal income taxes in both 2007 and 2011. Amazon paid zero federal taxes in 2017 and 2018. Propublica came out with a report in July that showed several billionaires paid less than 1% in federal taxes. The average American pays roughly 13.3% in federal taxes. What do you think of when you hear statistics like this?
I‘m horrified. I was extremely disappointed when Obama didn’t abolish the Bush tax cuts and things have only become worse since then. A disproportionate tax burden has been shifted to the middle class since the Reagan-era and not on corporations and the wealthy. It is the old adage, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, AND now the middle class are getting poorer too. This turn of events is making us a weaker player on the global stage.
This summer, billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk spent billions of dollars flying to space. Do you think this was a good use of money?
No, we do not need to privatize space – we need to fund NASA and government programs to do what they do best. Government is designed to do programs at scale like FEMA, health care, weather reporting, education, and infrastructure – the type of programs that benefit the whole nation.
I would prefer the money the billionaires are blowing into space be redirected into the public as tax dollars. I would rather billionaires pay their fair share of taxes to benefit the greater good.
In January 2022, a few thousand of the richest people in the world will be meeting in Switzerland to talk about the world’s problems and what, if anything, they should do to fix those problems. What do you think the world’s millionaires and billionaires should do to fix the world’s problems?
Here’s the problem, you are asking the people that caused the problems to fix the problems. I think they should pay their fair share of taxes and EMPOWER their governments to fix the problems as much as humanly possible. Climate Change is a prime example, it is such a global issue that cannot be solved by a handful of wealthy people in a smoke filled room.
The theme of the meeting in Davos is “Restoring Trust.” What do you think of a bunch of millionaires and billionaires talking about trust?
Foxes should not look after hen houses. Period. We are returning to the era of robber barons. We have to empower our leaders to think in terms of a 21st century country that is equipped to compete in the global economy, instead of trusting an elite club of billionaire’s to act as “father knows best.”
Do you trust billionaires? Why or why not?
Why would I? They have an outsized influence through campaign financing, literally writing our laws WITHOUT being elected or having any form of accountability. When I spoke to a Russian friend about the money laundering corruption in his country, he said “Well you have Citizens United which is basically institutionalized corruption.”
So no I don’t trust billionaires – they have created a system of corruption where they hope to never be held accountable for their actions. Just look at the Sacklers who fueled the opioid crisis – where is their personal accountability?
Do you think politicians pay enough attention to the needs of billionaires?
Billionaires are at the top of a food chain. They have created lobbyists to support their wealth-making engines, while in turn they have pressured our legislators to allow unfettered access to politicians through campaign financing laws that give them open ended spending in political campaigns. In every political fight, you will find a politician who is beholden to a lobbyist’s special interest – coal, oil, technology, etc. We’ve become a national of one dollar one vote.
What do you worry about for your future? For your country’s future? For the world’s future?
I think the US is in great danger of becoming a Russian style autocracy where the ruling elite play a huge role in misinformation, manipulation of the voting system, and an outsized hand inwho gets to benefit in the economic marketplace.
Globally, I see a similar autocratic trend with numerous democracies under threat. Our children and grandchildren are going to have to deal with the ravages of global warming. We are going to see mass migration, food, energy, and water shortages and outcomes we could barely imagine.
On a positive note, in the US at least, I feel we have it in our power to a create opportunities for people who feel displaced by globalization and technological change but we have to fix our campaign financing rules and our tax system that benefits the wealthiest 1% to make any headway.