By Gary Hardaway
As sure as roosters crow at sunrise, every election season brings a similar cock-a-doodle-doo from certain politicians who have nothing to offer voters except class envy. The nation has grave problems; who’s to blame? The Rich. Anybody who makes more money than you or me. (In my case, that’s a very great multitude. It’s going to take a gargantuan effort for me to stir up enough envy to pour out on all these evil misers.)
We’re told those greedy corporations and robber barons “aren’t paying their fair share.” They won’t let us have our fair share. They are parasites sucking blood out of the body politic.
Here’s a typical example. “I, for one, am not willing to have my tax dollars pay for the lifestyles of the richest Americans.” How our taxes pay for all those yachts and villas and Maseratis is not explained. Nor can it be explained.
I help Bill Gates not with tax dollars but by buying Microsoft products. I helped Elvis amass his immense wealth by buying some of his records. My wife and I “donate” regularly to the Walton family – and we’re glad to do it because WalMart supplies us with decent goods at excellent prices. The envious seem to resent – or abhor – effective entrepreneurship. I wonder if they would like to go back to the days when a PC ran on DOS. Or when long distance calls across country cost.
Into the fray comes Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, announcing her bid for her party’s nomination for the Massachusetts Senate seat now held by Scott Brown – formerly held by Teddy Kennedy.
“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did . . . . But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Warren deceptively implies that these entrepreneurs pay NO taxes. No taxes for education, nothing for highways/road, police, fire, and other social services. They’re just a bunch of freeloaders sponging off the rest of us.
Those who rank in the top 1% of the income chart provide 38% of federal revenue. The top 5% account for 59% of federal taxes. The top 50% dole out a whopping 97% of the total take. That means the remaining 50% manage to escape with a meager 3% of the bill — and a great many of those pay zero. And every politician in Washington knows this.
Those who traffic in class envy hope that Americans don’t know these tax facts. They hope to foment resentment that will translate into votes for more spending, transferring money from those wicked wealthy, who don’t deserve what they have, to us, who deserve to get more of what they have.
This strategy relies on our willingness to give in to a depraved instinct. It fuels grudges and bitterness. It feeds the desire to inflict misfortune on others. Ancient wisdom has long warned, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house . . . wife . . . or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Early Church authorities classified envy as one of seven deadly sins.
Envy has a twisted relationship to racism (and classism). The racist needs somebody to look down on, to feel superior to. It terrifies and enrages him to see the hated “inferior” one show signs of worth, talent, merit, achievement, excellence, or virtue.
No doubt some rich persons are, in fact, evil. But many others are generous, compassionate, honest, courageous, and good neighbors. Do not give in to the ugly impulse to punish the wealthy because they have more than you do.
Gary Hardaway, is a freelance writer in Lynden, WA and a regular contributor to the Amy Internet Syndicate.