Spain’s King Juan Carlos: Let them eat elephant?

Spanish workers, retirees and students are facing severe cuts to health and education services, and high unemployment. King Juan Carlos of Spain decided to get away from it all. He took a safari to Botswana for an elephant hunt.

The Spanish public may not have found out about the king’s African jaunt, except he broke his hip. Juan Carlos spent the equivalent of $60,000 for his vacay – that’s two years’ pay for most Spanish workers.

Let them eat elephant, anyone?

Trying to tamp down the ire of the Spanish people at the royal’s conspicuous consumption, the king has apologized. That may not be enough.

And get this: King Juan Carlos is the honorary president of the World Wildlife Federation of Spain. That’s the organization that is supposed to be saving elephants, not shooting them.

Poor Juan Carlos. He can’t even claim a temporary bout of insanity made him do it. A 2006 photo of him standing next to a dead elephant is now circulating.

The Spanish government is slashing budgets by 30%, but according to news reports the palace budget got a mere shaving of 2%. Did the poor King of Spain use public money for his killing spree, or did the money come from a rich Arab – as is being claimed – who was trying to buy favors from the king? Doesn’t really matter. It’s all sick.

Royalty. Who needs them? That’s why, thank goodness, we had a revolution some 200-plus years ago.

But America has a way of innovating and reinventing. Can we really say that America doesn’t have a royalty of a new type? President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said we did. He called them “economic royalists.”

As Americans, we pride ourselves in not having social classes – or castes – with permanent and immovable boundaries that ensure only the “right” people mingle and marry each other.

That’s true – to an extent. Usually the boundaries kick in on race, national origin, wealth – and in many areas of life – gender.  America’s economic royals even divide themselves between “old” money (think Vanderbilt, DuPont, Rockefeller) and “new” money (think Buffet, Trump, Gates).

Economic royals we do have. We have tons of politicians, think tanks and media conglomerates that work overtime to keep the 1% royalty going. The policies of the last Republican administrations, like the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Reagan and Papa Bush’s trickle down economics, for example, are directly related to the extreme wealth gap that we have in this country. It is a gap that is growing, as more and more 99% Americans sink into poverty.

Good tax policies are one way to moderate the effects of capitalism’s fatal flaw (you can’t have great wealth without great poverty and exploitation).

The government should collect more taxes from millionaires and billionaires than from the poor, working class or middle class people, right? Then invest those tax dollars into services that the country benefits from – education, social safety net, health care, transportation, clean air and water. Right? That’s how a democracy works.

Not according to the royals. No. They have to keep their money from the big, bad government, elected by the people, because they create jobs with it and raise people’s living standards.

Mitt Romney or Donald Trump don’t hire more people because they get a tax break on their income. No! They fire people. Not even Warren Buffet – who says billionaires should have a higher tax rate than their secretaries – would hire people because of a lower tax rate.

What creates jobs, according to most business people, is demand, which happens with “lots of regular people having money to spend,” according to former business owner Dave Johnson of Campaign for America’s Future.  

You and me, we create jobs, not tax cuts for billionaires.

Government  can “prime the pump” by spending tax money in ways that would create demand and fuel job creation. But government, in right-wing hands, can also “prime the pump” to fuel an extraordinary wealth gap.

New York Times writer Charles Blow put it brilliantly in his column “Focus, people.” It’s up to us to decide what kind of government we are going to have. Will it be a Republican one that works for the haves? Or a president (and Congress) that sees things in a dramatically different way. That’s the choice we have.

If Americans don’t chose wisely, then the economic royals will be telling us: Let them eat elephant.

Photo: Spain’s King Juan Carlos poses with his trophy during a previous hunting trip. This photo appeared on Rann Safaris, the company that organizes game hunting excursions.


Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano has been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and to Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women and Illinois Woman Press Association.