There is a huge industry in America built on the myth that you can become infinitely wealthy and happy through the use of self empowerment techniques. At the helm of this gigantic money making scheme are characters like Robert Kiyosaki of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad book series, Oprah Winfrey, the ultimate lifestyle guru and promoter of all things scientifically unproven, and Tony Robbins – the relentlessly positive mega millionaire who runs seminars all over the world claiming he can fix all your problems (or facilitate ‘breakthroughs’) via various forms of positive thinking and ‘peak performance’ coaching.
Of all the bullshitters in the industry, the most dangerous are the most seemingly genuine, and Tony Robbins is probably the best in the business. Much of what Robbins says is probably quite helpful, and it would be dishonest to dismiss him as a complete fraud. Many people swear by his methods and based on testimonials, it appears he has helped a lot of people. Robbins is engaged in a lot of charity and does (sometimes) come across as a genuinely compassionate person. But there is a sinister side to his personal empowerment empire, and it is built upon the same fraudulent premise as the US economy itself.
When you remove the gloss from the power seminars, mantra chanting and rags to riches stories, what remains is a sales pitch from an incredibly rich business man who has gamed a system built on massive inequality and financial exploitation, and supposedly wants to let you in on the secret – and all for $3,555. It is the same mythology spooned out to the public by the corporate media and corrupt politicians; anyone can become rich in America as long as you work hard enough.
Robbins recently complained about the California tax code that he claims had him ‘paying through the nose’, forcing him to move to Palm Beach, Florida. He wrote in Entrepreneur.com:
I grew up in California and never imagined living anywhere else. Even when I started traveling extensively and buying homes and properties all over the world, California was always my base. I never imagined leaving.
That changed in 2012 when California raised taxes on the highest-income earners more than 30 percent, to 13.3 percent. After a lifetime of paying through the nose on state income taxes (California’s are among the country’s most punishing), I found my tax situation had worsened.
I had played by the rules, and the rules had come to bite me. But instead of feeling sorry for myself, I voted with my conscience — or my feet, I should say. My wife, Sage, and I decided to take the plunge and look for a new place to live.
Tony Robbins is worth an estimated $480 million, and by his own admission is so rich that he has properties ‘all over the world’. In 2012, California was facing a severe budget crisis and raised taxes on its very richest residents in order to prevent catastrophic cuts to the state’s public schools and universities. As CNN reported, the measure was expected to raise “$8.5 billion in new revenue, according to the Department of Finance. Some $2.9 billion will go to schools, while the remaining $5.6 billion can go toward closing budget gaps.”
Alas, maintaining Tony Robbins’ lifestyle, which includes sitting in his own cryotherapy chamber (for ‘priming’), swimming in a 165,000-gallon infinity pool, and traveling frequently to his luxury resort in Fiji is so important that, well, screw the poor kids!
In Robbins’ latest book Money: Master the Game, described by the Huffington Post describes as his “four-year immersion mission to interview 50 of the most influential financial minds in the world on a quest to empower people to take charge of their own financial destiny,” Robbins provides insights from people like Ray Dalio, Charles Schwab, Carl Icahn, Paul Tudor Jones, Mary Callahan Erdoes, T Boone Pickens, Warren Buffett and Steve Forbes. The message? If you think like a rich person, you too can become rich.
While Robbins’ book may well help aspiring fat cats make and save more money, it does nothing to address the structural issues related to extreme wealth inequality and poverty levels that are virtually unparalleled the western world. This is something Robins explicitly admits:
“How many people are going to tell you the system is rigged? That’s an old story,” he told Fortune.com. “How about we go to a new story called, ‘How do you use the system that exists instead of letting the system use you?’ Let’s focus on something you can do.”
Robbins could use his powerful voice and keen insight to help shed light on the extraordinary abuses the financial sector has wrought on every day Americans – a cause he claims he cares passionately about. But when his top paying clientele consist of unfathomably wealthy hedge fund managers and corporate CEOs (pictured above), he isn’t about to jeopardize his own source of wealth to spread awareness about the system that actually creates poverty.
Tony Robbins cares about making you wealthy, as long as it doesn’t interfere with his own ability to make grotesque amounts of money.
What could be a more American than that?
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.