The great majority of Americans are not wealthy, at least in monetary terms, but we are self-supporting and comfortable.
We are either hard working or have worked hard for decades. We are honest: we pay our taxes, we give to charities. We take care of our families and try to provide for our children’s future. Some of us own and run our own businesses. We are the middle class, the backbone of the American economy and the fulfillment of the American dream.
Yet incrementally, year by year for the last 30 years, our financial stability has been eroded, and our losses have been increased by the Great Recession. Even though we have become more productive and harder working, our wages have stagnated and even declined. That’s what it means to sacrifice.
What happened to this country’s wealth? At the height of American growth and power, wealth was growing at about the same rate for all Americans. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average wealth of the top fifth of Americans grew by 147 percent from 1962 to 1983 while the wealth of the other 80 percent grew by 144 percent.
But in the past three decades, the top fifth increased its wealth by 150 percent while the rest of us lost 4 percent of our wealth. Today, corporate profits are at an all-time high, and the richest 1 percent takes home 20 percent of all the income in the country, their highest share in almost 90 years.
For most of this income, the wealthiest Americans only pay a 15 percent capital gains tax. It’s time to put an end to the popular myth that giving money to the wealthy will make the rest of us richer. It hasn’t worked.
The President has demanded that the wealthy pay more taxes. He refers to it as “shared sacrifice,” but how much of a sacrifice will it really be to those in the top income tax bracket?
Is it really a sacrifice for the multi-billionaire hedge fund manager to pay additional taxes on his private jet? Or is the real sacrifice already being borne by the teacher with two children who was laid off, lost her health insurance, and then lost her home? What the President is asking of the wealthy is hardly a sacrifice.
Amazingly, the Tea Party Republicans have chosen a partisan political agenda instead of a responsible economy-recovery agenda. They are intent on blocking President Obama’s efforts to right the ship of state. Their strategy is to obstruct, let the economy suffer, and lay all the blame on the President.
The President has tried everything to reach compromise or agreement with them, to the point that he is faulted by many in his own party for going too far. Perhaps he has had enough.
There is a crystal-clear conflict of interest in a wealthy minority having too strong an influence on our government. We the people long for the return to a real democracy, where the interests of every American are represented.
It is time for Congress to take that first tiny step away from Big Money, to set aside partisan politics and join the President to demand a tiny amount of sacrifice by the wealthy. Our elected officials, from both parties, must reject the political games of the Tea Party Republicans, and focus instead on the interests of the American majority.
Jo Holt is a member of the Democrats of Oro Valley.