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Opinion: Crumbs from billionaires this Christmas

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is $187 billion, has like other billionaires seen his wealth grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(David Ryder / Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. I hope your lonely Christmas was filled with the satisfaction that you did the right thing by celebrating apart from friends and family. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

If you want an uplifting holiday message, I suggest you read our letter writers’ reflections on celebrating Christmas in solitude (or in June). Like no other holiday season before, perhaps with the exception of those in wartime, this Christmas (and Thanksgiving, and New Year’s, and whatever annual occurrence takes place before most of us become vaccinated) has been defined by hardship, even if the shopping crowds at malls betray a collective sense of reckless rebellion or plain ignorance. More specifically, this is a hardship borne disproportionately by low-income wage earners of color, as the pandemic has killed or at least economically injured people who were already struggling before and accelerated wealth accumulation by billionaires.

And those billionaires? With a few notable exceptions they’re a bunch of Scrooges, according to Alan S. Davis, a member of a group called Patriotic Millionaires. His exceedingly modest proposal, in this time of needless death and suffering, is for America’s billionaires to give according to a formula that would, in effect, double what they currently donate. This would, according to Davis, get more aid quickly to the people and charities who need it now and be financially painless for the ultra-rich — which is all well and good, just as it was for Herbert Hoover to appeal to Americans’ spirit of volunteerism to save us from the Great Depression.

One can hold out hope that America’s biggest hoarders of wealth will discover their inner altruists on their own. I’d prefer more effectively to tax these people and corporations so the fulfillment of society’s basic needs is not subject to the charitable whims of billionaires, but that’s just me. Which would make for a merrier Christmas for the masses?

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This Christmas, it’s “Home Alone, the Pandemic Version.” Novelist Diana Wagman recalls the days when she could not afford to fly home for the holidays, when she would watch other families gather to celebrate in postcard-perfect homes. The difference this year is that there will be fewer of these gatherings to begin with, and those that do happen will take place in defiance of common sense and common decency. Better to be lonely now than to spend the following weeks with ER nurses who worked on Christmas Day. L.A. Times

We keep hearing about “anti-Trump Republicans.” Why don’t they just call themselves Democrats? It’s never too late to switch parties, writes Kurt Bardella, a former Republican aide who became a Democrat after President Trump took control of the GOP. There was a time when the differences between Democrats and Republicans were over healthcare, trade, taxes and other important policy positions; those days are over, he says, and now we’re left with one major political party that supports democracy, and one that wants to dismantle it. L.A. Times

Trump is abusing his pardon power, just as we knew he would. Among the many pardons he granted on Tuesday, the president wiped away former Rep. Duncan Hunter’s conviction for misusing campaign funds. The Times Editorial Board says that there are few people less deserving of a presidential pardon than Hunter, who didn’t bother to apologize publicly to his constituents after he finally pleaded guilty. The board closed its editorial with an eerily prophetic statement, just one day before Trump would go on to pardon Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner’s father: “During Trump’s remaining weeks in office, he is likely to use the pardon power again in offensive and damaging ways. He will test this country and its democratic norms all along the way out the White House door.” L.A. Times

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The vaccine is coming, the vaccine is coming, the vaccine is coming. It’s still months away for the vast majority of people in California, but front-line healthcare workers are already starting to receive the shots developed by Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech team. The editorial board says there’s no meaningful disagreement that medical professionals and nursing home residents should go first, but what about the rest of us? Are essential workers next? Young people who spread the virus? Above all, says the editorial board, there ought to be one consideration when doling out vaccine supplies: Stop the dying. L.A. Times

Americans love a good mob movie. Unfortunately, many of them also love a mobster president. Erin Aubry Kaplan explains the modus operandi of the president and the dangerous political movement that so many of us support: “In Trump’s world, you have carte blanche to smash and grab, to seize what you want by force. Cooperation and consensus, except among the mobsters, are for suckers. So are democracy and equality. Trump supporters don’t even pretend anymore to revere the tenets of the American dream.” L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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