"I didn't take you to raise."
Among my acquaintances, that is the retort of choice when a friend or co-worker gets a little too needy and presumptuous.
As the latest debate over "tax cuts for the wealthy" rages on, I yearn to see a fairly sympathetic spokesperson for "the rich" announce, "I didn't take you to raise."
Granted, if we agree to organize ourselves into cities, states, and nations, with a military, an education system and the like, it is necessary to sit down and discuss the proper role of government and fine-tune just how progressive or regressive the tax system should be. But too many people come to the table with a chip on their shoulder and a non-negotiable feeling of being entitled to whatever money "the wealthy" have earned. We're reminded that individuals of every ethnic group, sexual orientation and criminal record are "people, too;" but "the rich" are not treated as human -- just as cash cows and scapegoats.
Despite compromising on taxes, President Obama has lampooned "tax cuts for the wealthy" as "the Holy Grail" of the Republicans. Coincidentally, influential members of the Democratic Party are seeking constituents with the gullibility of the medieval suckers who bought fake religious artifacts. ("Only five gold coins for this skull of Doubting Thomas. That small skull? It's...uh... the head of Doubting Thomas as a child.")
Too many voters have bought into the idea that the government owns all our money and all our inalienable rights and only doles them out to us. Demagogic politicians have gotten much mileage out of the old "No one deserves that much money" attitude. Well, money isn't everything. Look at it this way: Joe Blow may think you don't deserve such a hot wife or such a great head of hair or living parents. It's not his place (or Uncle Sam's) to break up your marriage, shave you bald, or kill your parents in order to "level the playing field."
A reasoned debate should bring with it concepts more articulate than "Hmph! They can afford it." People standing in the checkout lane grousing about "the rich" should pause to think that the affordability rationalization is also used by pickpockets, shoplifters, burglars, and embezzlers.
I do think the wealthy should be willing to "pay it forward" in order to say thanks for the opportunities America has given them through education and the like; but if someone asked me to cough up an extra $100,000, that had better have been one heck of a school cafeteria mystery meat sandwich.
Do some of the rich reach the top through bribery, fraud, insider trading, collusion and the like? Certainly. But have the guts to prosecute individual offenses instead of laying a guilt trip on everyone who has a high income.
Sooner or later, persecuting the rich can have dire economic results, such as choking off investment and productivity. Then you see the mixing of Karl Marx with Groucho Marx. ("I once shot an economic recovery in my pajamas. What it was doing in my pajamas, I'll never know.")
Jesus said "The poor you will always have with you." I'm not so sure about the rich. Keep vilifying them and they'll engineer better loopholes or take their money overseas. ("I tried taking you to raise. But now I'm outta here. Love, your deadbeat dad.")
Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.