The Ultra Rich: How Much Is Too Much?
The super-rich are getting more like you and me: conspicuous, lavish consumption is out, big household staffs have given way to catering services, many moguls just want to ``live quietly'' and avoid publicity that might attract IRS agents, kidnappers, robbers or charity fund-raisers. That's the prognosis from Packard ( The Hidden Persuaders, etc.), who interviewed 30 ultra-wealthy people for this probe. Eighteen of them are self-made entrepreneurs; many made a killing in merchandising, real estate or financial services. The sample includes potato baron Jack Simplot of Boise, Idaho, Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, investment king Edward Bass, Dallas heiress Jane Hunt and New York realtor Sam LeFrakwhose net worth supposedly exceeds that of Donald Trump. From this cross-section, Packard concludes that while America's most wealthy do not constitute an elite leadership group, corporate raiders and ``green-mailers'' are the new robber barons of our society. He calls for a wealth tax, plus a ceiling on transfers of great fortunes to others, arguing incredibly that such policies might induce the self-centered ultra-rich to refocus on broad social concerns. (Feb.)