Why is the ‘Conference of Ideas’ Censoring Inequality?

Yesterday, Jim Tankersley at the National Journal broke a story that explained why we have been waiting so long to see Nick Hanauer’s excellent TED talk on inequality and taxing the wealthy posted online.

Apparently the otherwise terrific “conference of ideas” has decided that telling the truth about these topics is “too politically controversial.”

If you haven’t heard of Nick, he is a long-time supporter of our work and fellow anti-inequality advocate. At a TED University conference on March 1 this year, he argued that inequality is bad for the country, that the wealthy are not job-creators and that cutting taxes on the wealthy actually hurts the middle class.

A multimillionaire Seattle venture capitalist, the first nonfamily investor in Amazon.com, Nick knows business. He spoke with authority and received a standing ovation. Those of us who weren’t there couldn’t wait for the talk to be posted online.

But if we ever want to see the video, we will need to take collective action, because TED has decided not to post it.

Join us in demanding that Nick’s video be released by signing the Patriotic Millionaires petition to TED curator Chris Anderson here

You can read the short, but powerful speech here. Here’s an excerpt:

…sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. For thousands of years people were sure that earth was at the center of the universe.  It’s not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some lousy astronomy.  

In the same way, a policy maker who believed that the rich and businesses are “job creators” and therefore should not be taxed, would make equally bad policy.  

I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me. 

So when businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it’s a little like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.

Powerful stuff, right? Let’s help elevate it by signing the petition and sharing it with your friends. You can also call TED directly at 212. 346. 9333 or send them an email to demand an open dialogue about income inequality and the myths about our current tax system and  “job creation.”

And, if you missed Chuck Collins’s terrific TEDx talk on taxing wealth from last fall, it’s definitely worth checking out.

As our friend Erica Payne, the director of Patriotic Millionaires, said, “Inequality is not a political issue, it is an AMERICAN issue.”