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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Last updated: 12:24am

Huntsman Sr. is a generous rarity among the wealthy



What does the name Jon M. Huntsman Sr. mean to you? How about Jon M. Huntsman Jr.? Do you know that the first man is a billionaire? Or that his son, Huntsman Jr., is running for president as a Republican? Did you know that Huntsman Sr. is a Republican himself, but advocates the wealthy pay a bigger role in aiding those less affluent than themselves? How about that he’s one of only 19 billionaires who have actually given away more than $1 billion? He’s a generous and thoughtful billionaire who counts both Glenn Beck and Michael Moore as friends and he might just be the best example of what needs to happen in this country.

Huntsman Sr. is a four-time cancer survivor who’s out to help people. A self-made billionaire, Huntsman doesn’t buy much of the arguments about the wealthy being overtaxed. While the wealthiest 1 percent of the population screeches about overtaxation, Huntsman scoffs. Democrats have been pushing to raise taxes on the rich, and billionaires like Warren E. Buffett have asked the wealthiest people to give up half their wealth. Huntsman Sr. agreed. He told the New York Times that he suggests some of the world’s richest people give up 80 percent of their wealth. He said “a tremendous number of wealthy people haven’t given much of anything.”

On top of that, Huntsman Sr. is revolutionizing cancer research and treatment in Utah through the Huntsman Cancer Institute. For him, generosity isn’t difficult.

However, Huntsman Sr. also believes that increased taxes isn’t exactly the answer. While his actions are remarkabley generous, they are also painfully rare. Good luck convincing the notoriously tight-fisted people to voluntarily open up the bank account for society. The thing that makes generosity like Huntsman’s so incredible is that it’s guided entirely by his own will and nobody else’s. While that’s amazing, it’s not likely to happen on a large scale with other outrageously wealthy persons.

It’s nice to think of a world where people willingly donate billions of dollars on their own accord, it’s just not a reality. We know this; we’re living it right now. It’s not like wealthy people suddenly realize they could spend their money on things that benefit others on a large scale. If you want the wealthy to come to the table and start putting their wealth toward the betterment of others, you’re going to have to coerce them to. The best way to do that: taxes.

Now, don’t call it class warfare. It’s not. Class warfare is what happened long ago when we enabled the rich to get richer and the poor to fall further down the ladder. When we made it possible for the income gap to get so overblown and stretched out, we executed class warfare. Let’s just suspend reality for a moment. Even if higher taxes somehow equated to class warfare, the upper 1 percent still has far more money than the lower 99. As that saying goes, money is power. If class warfare ever were declared, the wealthy would be just fine.

Huntsman Sr. is a model for how the richest in the country can aid their fellow man and put their tremendous capital to the betterment of their countrymen. However, he’s the exception to the rule, and it’s a rule that won’t just change overnight. What makes altruism so unique is that it occurs almost completely organically. If you wanted to give a damn about the 99 percent of the population below you, you would by now. Fellow billionaires can tell you how important it is to put your wealth to good use, but if you didn’t know that by now you’re not going to actually follow through on it. If you want the countries wealthiest people to put more money to the betterment of others, you’re going to have to do it for them because odds are they won’t do it on their own.

— Storm Byrd is the Perspectives editor. He can be reached at
letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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