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A capitalist calls for a new capitalism

Salesforce chairman and co-C.E.O Marc Benioff in a New York Times op ed entitled We Need a New Capitalism becomes another capitalist advocating for big changes in American capitalism. He writes:

To my fellow business leaders and billionaires, I say that we can no longer wash our hands of our responsibility or what people do with our products. Yes, profits are important, but so is society. And if our quest for greater profits leaves our world worse off than before, all we will have taught our children is the power of greed.

It’s time for a new capitalism — a more fair, equal and sustainable capitalism that actually works for everyone and where businesses, including tech companies, don’t just take from society but truly give back and have a positive impact.

Benioff joins Ray Dalio, Nick Hanauer and Tom Wilson on a growing list of high-profile capitalists calling for big reforms in American capitalism. They all agree that capitalism, as it is practiced in American today, is leaving far too many American households behind.

Benioff’s list of challenges that today’s capitalism is failing to fix includes equal pay for women, privacy, climate change, quality K-12 education and homelessness. In each area he argues if government is not up to the task then corporate America needs to act.

But he also understands that corporations and philanthropy are not adequate substitutes for public policy. And that part of the public policy response needed is increased public investments that require higher taxes. He writes:

Of course, C.E.O. activism and corporate philanthropy alone will never be enough to meet the immense scale of today’s challenges. It could take $23 billion a year to address racial inequalities in our public schools. College graduates are drowning in $1.6 trillion of student debt. It will cost billions to retrain American workers for the digital jobs of the future. Trillions of dollars of investments will be needed to avert the worst effects of climate change. All this, when our budget deficit has already
surpassed $1 trillion.

How, exactly, is our country going to pay for all this?

That is why a new capitalism must also include a tax system that generates the resources we need and includes higher taxes on the wealthiest among us. Local efforts — like the tax I supported last year on San Francisco’s largest companies to address our city’s urgent homelessness crisis — will help. Nationally, increasing taxes on high-income individuals like myself would help generate the trillions of dollars that we desperately need to improve education and health care and fight climate change.

Wow! Benioff is exactly right. If we want an economy that as it grows benefits all we will need to increase public investments. Those public investments need to be paid for and a big part of paying for them should be a more progressive tax system.

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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