Friday, May 18, 2012

Breaking: The business conference website "TED Talk" tried to suppress impressive speech by US multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer who makes convincing case that rich citizens should pay more taxes

By Patrick 

You may not have heard about the "TED Talk" conferences, and you also may not have heard about multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer, but all this is about to change.

When a multi-millionaire explains in a brilliantly delievered speech that rich people should pay more taxes because businesses demand a strong middle-class to grow and prosper, and that rich people alone do not create jobs, then such an opinion is viewed by some people in the USA as being so outside the range of acceptable opinions, that they apparently feel compelled to suppress it. Facts which in many other capitalist countries are regarded basically as universal knowledge are considered by some people in the USA as so shocking and "partisan", that they apparently do not want other people to be bothered by them.

So what happened? On March 1 this year, venture capitalist and multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer, who was the first nonfamily investor in, gave a short speech at a "TED conference" which received a standing ovation. "TED" (their motto is called "Ideas worth spreading") has an extensive website where afterwards many of the speeches from these conferences are published, but the speech by Nick Hanauer did not make the cut - despite a complaint by Nick Hanauer himself.

At their blog, "TED" today explained their reasons:

Here's what actually happened.

At TED this year, an attendee pitched a 3-minute audience talk on inequality. The talk tapped into a really important and timely issue. But it framed the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan. And it included a number of arguments that were unconvincing, even to those of us who supported his overall stance. The audience at TED who heard it live (and who are often accused of being overly enthusiastic about left-leaning ideas) gave it, on average, mediocre ratings.

At TED we post one talk a day on our home page. We're drawing from a pool of 250+ that we record at our own conferences each year and up to 10,000 recorded at the various TEDx events around the world, not to mention our other conference partners. Our policy is to post only talks that are truly special. And we try to steer clear of talks that are bound to descend into the same dismal partisan head-butting people can find every day elsewhere in the media.

We discussed internally and ultimately told the speaker we did not plan to post. He did not react well. He had hired a PR firm to promote the talk to MoveOn and others, and the PR firm warned us that unless we posted he would go to the press and accuse us of censoring him. We again declined and this time I wrote him and tried gently to explain in detail why I thought his talk was flawed.

So he forwarded portions of the private emails to a reporter and the National Journal duly bit on the story. And it was picked up by various other outlets.

And a non-story about a talk not being chosen, because we believed we had better ones, somehow got turned into a scandal about censorship. Which is like saying that if I call the New York Times and they turn down my request to publish an op-ed by me, they're censoring me.

Today, Nick Hanauer's speech has been published at youtube, and you really need to check out this "mediocre" and "explicitly partisan" speech yourself. Again it has been proven that in the age of internet, the free flow of "inconvenient" information is difficult to stop, and this short, but amazing speech has now started to go viral, because its content and message is simple, straightforward and compelling:

Nick Hanauer has been around for a while. He recently published the book "The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government" and has given numerous interviews, for example to an ignorant Neil Cavuto on Fox News and to the US Progressive blog.

The "National Journal", which originally broke the story, reported in an update that TED-curator Chris Anderson took issue with some of the statements by Nick Hanauer, and also thought that the speech was "out and out political", as he wrote in an email message to Hanauer on May 7, and that TED therefore could not publish the speech on their website.

But this argument is weak, as for example Ezra Klein observed in a comment at the Washington Post which he published a few hours ago:

To my ears, Hanauer framed the issue in a way that was explicitly nonpartisan. The only mention of either party comes at the beginning: “If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down,” Hanauer says. “This idea is an article of faith for Republicans, is seldom challenged by Democrats, and has indeed shaped much of the economic landscape. But sometimes the ideas we’re certain are true are dead wrong.”

My impression is that the statements by Nick Hanauer in this speech were simply too hot to handle, as the assertion that rich people need to pay extremely low taxes is seen as a "quasi-religious dogma" by many US-politicians, and certainly not just by Republicans.

Nick Hanauer's speech has now caused a sensation, and several media outlets like the "Atlantic", the "Washington Post" and the "Huffington Post" are on the case, which is good. But it would be even better to have an open and frank discussion about the role of the middle-class in the USA, as this would be one really important step in the right direction. The message by Nick Hanauer is as simple as it is true: It's the middle-class which drives a capitalist economy, and not the very rich people. In the USA, this is not any different than in other capitalist countries - and I can confirm Nick Hanauer's opinion by my own observations, living in a country in which the middle-class always has been very strong. Businesses only employ new people if there is strong demand for their products - and this demand needs to come from the middle-class.

Finally, here are some of the slides from Nick Hanauer's speech:

No comments:

Post a Comment