THE BLOG

Revenge of the Hyper-Rich

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

The cover of this past Sunday’s New York Times confirmed what we already know: The richest Americans are getting extravagantly richer and the poor are crawling far behind, choking on the exhaust of our luxury cars.

It’s also obvious that Bush’s tax policies are widening the gap between the very rich and the growing poor.

But the latest stomach-turning development in our nation’s saga of economic stratification is the dramatic extent to which the Bush Administration’s tax cuts benefit the wealthiest 0.1 percent of our citizenry. The income of these 145,000 taxpayers—-the “hyper-rich,” as the Times calls them—-has more than doubled since 1980. Did the earnings of America’s bottom 90 percent show even modest gains during that period? No, they fell.

Half the fat off Bush’s latest round of tax cuts, 53 percent, will go to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans. Fifteen percent of the cuts will line the pockets of the “hyper-rich” top 0.1 percent. Our President likes to say he’s looking out for working Americans. He must mean those noble proletarians, our butlers, chauffeurs and elite estheticians.

I don’t know precisely where I fall among the richest Americans—somewhere near the top 1 percent—but I think it’s important that we “people of wealth” start outing ourselves. We need to call attention to ourselves for the sole purpose of fighting Bush’s tax cuts.

We need to stop Bush’s agenda because we need to stand up for an America we—-yes, even and especially we, the rich—-can be proud of.

Bush’s tax policies violate the basic American values of equality and opportunity. They also portend a legacy not only of greed-induced social instability but also of national fiscal crisis.

The tax cuts—-combined with the billions being wasted by Bush’s wrongheaded defense strategy—-will increase the national deficit by $150 billion over the next five years. Bush’s policy of helping the hyper-rich very well may lead to hyper-inflation.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hyper-pissed. Bush’s fiscal agenda is stupid and shameful. It reflects particularly badly on us, the Americans with the most assets and wealth, the shareholders, if you will, of the nation’s total potential public offering.

Wealthy Americans aren’t the only ones who need to take a stand. But neither can we allow ourselves to be as exempt from the cause of economic justice as our inheritances are from the IRS.

Charity is not enough. We need to support—-with our money, our connections and our public endorsements—-advocacy. We need to get behind advocates who are working to increase the minimum wage and to force corporations like WalMart to pay a living wage.

And certainly, critically, we need to put our mouths where our money is. We need to speak out—-especially in the faces of those who don’t want to hear it—-against Bush’s tax cuts.

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