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Billionaires getting the wake-up call?

It should have only been a matter of time before the über rich woke up to the fact that for them to control 1% of wealth isn't healthy for a working, healthy democracy.   Needless to say there is more than an element of self-preservation in all of this, but seemingly a growing number of billionaires are recognising that something needs to be done to redress the 1%-99% balance.

“The messenger matters,” Mr. West said. “When people of modest means complain about inequality, it usually gets written off as class warfare, but when billionaires complain, the problem is redefined” — in a helpful way, he added — “as basic fairness and economic sustainability.”

This is not to say that the current crop of concerned tycoons is working purely out of altruistic motives. “There’s been a major backlash against inequality,” Mr. West said. “And some wealthy individuals have felt a pressure to address it.”

Given the political groundswell for decreasing wealth disparity, Mr. West added, “There’s a realization among the billionaire class that it’s actually in their own self-interest to at least spread some of the wealth around.”

Of course, it may be that some of these outspoken billionaires are not responding to politics so much as playing it themselves. “I’m not surprised to hear the wealthy saying these things, but talk is cheap,” said Dennis Kelleher, the president of Better Markets, which advocates financial reform. “These people know exactly how to move the levers of power and, until that happens, whatever they say is nothing but empty words.”

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