Saturday, October 27, 2012
We were not well off by any means, but we had more than some. There was a family in our neighborhood who we gave my school dresses to once I’d outgrown them. They were really the only “poor” family I knew, but at least they had a house to live in.
Eisenhower was in the White House, the highest tax rate was 90%, and the country had never been more prosperous. Those folks in the 90% bracket were mostly the stuff of movies to the rest of us, but sometimes my family would pile into our old Hudson and cruise the rich neighborhood to gaze at all the mansions. Nobody begrudged them their wealth. It gave us something to strive for.
Today the term “wealth inequality” is one we hear a lot. The highest tax rate is supposed to be 35%, but if you’ve made your millions from investing, you only pay 15%, and if you’re Mitt Romney with an investment income of $57,000 a day that figure inexplicably drops to a paltry 13.9.
But who can really fault him? He’s not breaking any law. Okay, those foreign bank accounts of his aren't exactly kosher, and having the tax laws written by the same Wall Street interests from which Mitt and folks like him derive all that dough might be the teensiest bit skewed, but as Romney would explain it -- the rest of us are just lazy, envious, free-loaders.
Ours has historically been a class-based society with extremes on both ends of the money spectrum and a vast middle where the majority of Americans comfortably resided. It was a society where your birth status took a back seat to your dreams, and those “poor kids” who wore my hand-me-down dresses needed only a willingness to work for those dreams to achieve them. I miss that America.
Today, most of those mansion-filled neighborhoods that I drove through as a child have gates around them, and gone from our collective consciousness seems to be the notion that when we all have an equal opportunity to succeed our country also succeeds.
A strong and prosperous society depends on a balance between collective rights and individual rights. Today’s GOP would have individual rights, primarily those of the richest 1% among us, trump all else – except when it comes to a woman’s right to make decisions governing her own body, of course.
Despite what Romney believes about us, I know that given an even playing field Americans are the hardest-working folks on the planet. As for me, I’m still that seven-year-old who wants everyone to have enough. The difference today is, I now also know that there really is enough for everyone.
Posted by Jayne Martin at 3:09 PM