Perhaps you remember the bombshell news story from a few months ago that revealed the top one percent of America’s wealthy “got way richer during the pandemic.” Yes, even as millions of citizens were begging for a few hundred bucks to alleviate the devastation of COVID-19, our billionaires raked in so much money that they were in danger of suffocating in their golden bathtubs as their servants shoveled piles of cash over them.
Yes, wealthy people have some odd kinks.
In any case, we also found out that the richest individuals in America “have a true tax rate of almost nothing,” and that wealth inequality, already the highest in decades, is only accelerating.
You remember those news stories, right? And the subsequent protests in the street, culminating in pitchfork-wielding mobs descending upon the mansions and penthouses of the One Percent and dragging the uber-rich into the street to face justice?
Ha, if only.
No, we learned that the government “works much harder to help rich people make money off their homes than to help poor people find shelter.” But the well-off faced no ramifications for any of this.
In fact, shortly afterward, a conservative acquaintance emailed me a meme that blasted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her infamous “Tax the Rich” dress at this year’s Met Gala. As we know, the vitriol aimed at AOC for her fashion statement far surpassed the hatred hurled at, for example, smug billionaires blowing money by racing each other into outer space. This particular meme, in contrast to many others, didn’t blast Ocasio-Cortez for being a communist or plotting to destroy America or for wearing an unflattering color. Instead, the email dismissed her as an idiot who simply didn’t understand that the “rich pay most of the taxes,” and it implied that we should thank the wealthy for their contributions.
And as I recall, the acquaintance who sent me this meme recently started a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his medical bills—in America, cyber-begging is an acceptable form of health insurance. What do we make of people who are so poor that their very lives are in jeopardy, but who take to social media to defend the rich and praise their glory?
Well, we can point out that this is perhaps the main reason why the wealthy are allowed, even encouraged, to flaunt their luxurious lifestyles without fear of repercussion. Yes, they have high-priced lawyers and accountants who make sure their money is never touched, and they can buy members of Congress with surprising ease. But corrupt laws, conniving lobbyists, and shady dealings are just the padlock. The vault’s heavy steel door consists of the millions of struggling Americans who shield the rich from any consequences, and who enthusiastically sabotage themselves in their zeal to protect the opulence of people who feel only disdain for 99 percent of us.
We see this every time someone proposes raising taxes for the upper income brackets. Poor people who want higher taxes on the rich are dismissed as jealous. Those few wealthy people who want higher taxes on the rich are lambasted as hypocrites. So clearly nobody is allowed to propose higher taxes on the rich, ever.
However, maybe the excesses of America’s latest Gilded Age are catching up to the wealthy. Over 70 percent of voters, “including a slim majority of Republicans, favor higher taxes on people who earn more than $1 million a year from capital gains.” And about 80 percent of Americans, including one-third of Republicans, say that “it bothers them that some wealthy households don’t pay their fair share.”
Naturally, Democrats have taken this proof of America’s disgust over wealth inequality and, armed with overwhelmingly popular support, they have… promptly backed off plans to raise taxes on the rich. Indeed, our favorite centrist party of pushovers has declared raising taxes on billionaires to be “a very difficult issue” and “a sideshow.”
To be fair to the Democrats, it borders on the quixotic to attempt to break down the political and legal wall that separates the rich from the rest of us. But the fact that they are afraid to even try implies that there is an even stronger barricade behind the phalanx of laws and societal advantages that benefit the wealthy. And that barricade is all the guys who set up GoFundMe campaigns to help cover their crushing bills but then pivot online to loudly champion the rich.
That is a wall of America’s own making. And it just might be impervious.
Featured image by lynn dombrowski/CC BY-SA 2.0