A Scene From Our Unshared Sacrifices:
The old lady at the pharmacy counter obviously wore an adult diaper. That tell-tale sharp urine scent half-masked by sweet-smelling chemicals emanated from her, and the Rude Pundit stood right behind her yesterday, waiting to pick up the pills that prevent him from going on a five-state killing spree. She was getting three prescriptions. The total was $6.00. This puzzled the old lady. She had never paid anything before, and even this seemingly small amount was obviously causing her consternation. The cashier checked with the pharmacist, who said that there had been a minor change to her plan, and now she had to pay a little for the scrips, a buck-fifty, three bucks. She apologized and put aside the couple of other things she was going to purchase to pay for the medicine.
The Rude Pundit didn't know if the change had been to Medicare or to a supplemental plan, but, either way, she was being asked to contribute more than she had before, which she did. He also thought of another story, one that he thinks about a great deal these days.
A few years back, the Rude Pundit was at dinner with a really, really, really rich friend - we're talking in the half-billion dollar range - and he reached for the bill when dinner had arrived. The friend put out her hand. The usual kind of argument ensued over who was going to pay. Finally, she said, "Look, I live like a princess. $100 to me is like 50 cents to you. Give me the bill." Now, the Rude Pundit could have been pissed off, he could have insisted as a point of pride on paying his fair share, he could have resented her wealth. Instead, he let it go, realizing that, at the end of the day, he was dining with someone for whom most of his notions of money were absolutely worthless. (By the way, she gives a ton of money to charities and good, liberal causes and works with at-risk kids, so, really, it's hard to get mad at her.)
At his press conference last Friday, President Obama said, "If you’re a senior citizen, and a modification potentially costs you a hundred or two hundred bucks a year more, or even if it’s not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more. The least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well." It's probably the closest he's come to making an emotional, non-political case for higher taxes. But it still misses the point.
A drug benefit cut for an old lady in a diaper and a closed tax loophole on private jets are not balance. That six bucks cut into that woman's limited income in profound ways. To use the friend's equation in reverse (times ten), $6 is like $3000. And even that's not a big deal to the wealthy because you can bet that the woman is living paycheck to paycheck. The millionaire has shitloads of money that don't even count as taxable income.
Our savage economic inequality in this country is coming to a head. We talk about "spending cuts," as if what we're not really talking about is "making the poor pay more for stuff." We talk as if the services that are cut will be picked up by the aching states and cities. And we talk about nonsense like "shared sacrifice," as if that's the rational position in any of this. When the wealthy actually sacrifice something, we can talk about sharing.
At this point, any Americans earning above, say, to be generous, $500,000 a year who don't believe that they should be paying more in taxes are just goddamned greedy assholes who deserve a real Marxist revolution to take it all away. They have benefited from a country that generously gave them decades of low taxes in the hopes that they would help make this a better place. They fucked it up, and it's time to give back. If your parents supported you through college in order for you to get your MBA and get rich, then you take care of them if they go through hard times. You don't say, "Sorry, Mom, but how can I create jobs if I have to help you avoid losing your house?" Unless you do, in which case, you are a dick and deserve to be put up against the wall in the aforementioned revolution.
Back at the pharmacy, the old woman walked away from the counter, putting back the cheap socks and orange juice she was going to buy, leaving with her prescriptions, her sacrifice far from shared.