The accountant prepared my taxes last week. Usually, I get a refund, something I can use to buy myself a few extra lattes and my monthly SEPTA pass. This year, thanks to changes in the tax code, I will now end up owing the government. In fact, I’m thinking that President Donald Trump will be able to use my contribution to build one steel slat at the southern border (you’re welcome, Donald).
After the initial explosion of anger, I’m fine. But I’ve heard a lot of other people complaining about how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That very well may be true, and I feel compassion for the folks who normally would have gotten a refund to pay their property-tax bill or cover their kids’ tuition for summer camp, and who will now have to figure out where to cut and scrimp and make do.
But I’m also annoyed at the over-the-top rhetoric about billionaires and paupers. That language is regularly used by some of the newest members of Congress, including the Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - Sandy, as her friends called her before she became famous enough to have three names - wants a 70 percent tax on those making more than $10 million, wants Medicaid for all, and wants to get rid of cows and airplanes.
Frankly, she’s not the only one. I’ve noticed over the last decade or so that the real fault line in society isn’t race, or gender (all 87 of them), or religion, but class. It’s so funny to realize that in a country based upon the idea that you can be whatever you want to be as long as you work hard enough, envy has become a fundamental value.
Case in point: An artist named Joe Boruchow decided to paint a picture of the Union League flying the Confederate flag, despite the fact that it was founded to help destroy the Confederacy. He created his work of art out of anger. The anger was produced when he was marching down Broad Street a few years ago with all of the other social-justice warriors who hate Trump, and saw a bunch of horrible people standing on the balcony at the league, drinking and laughing and smoking cigars. No felonious activity. No bigoted displays of blackface. Not even someone munching on a Chick-fil-A sandwich - which as we know would have angered our mayor, who wanted to ban the fast-food joint from the City of Brotherly Love because of its CEO’s stance on same-sex marriage.
Nope, the artist was annoyed because while he was marching down the street, a bunch of arguably affluent people were having a very nice time. It was the microaggression of the microbrew set. According to Boruchow: “They were sipping martinis, chomping on cigars, and laughing at us. At the time, no one in our group realized that these people were the ones we should be protesting.”
I realized that this is exactly the type of animus that motivates Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and that 70 percent tax on the rich. It’s the reason that people erect those inflatable rats at construction sites if some entrepreneur commits the mortal sin of hiring nonunion labor. It’s the ridiculous idea that poverty bestows virtue, and that wealth is a sign of a corroded soul (and, yeah, I know that whole thing about it being easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than to get a rich man into heaven, but God got a little melodramatic there).
I am not a rich woman. I will not have a cushy retirement, and I budget like pretty much everyone else I know. That may come as a surprise to the folks who write and tell me that I’m a wealthy lawyer and know nothing about suffering. Next time you see me on the Broad Street subway, say hi.
But I’m not envious, either. I don’t begrudge someone for having a larger bank account than I do (unless that person came by it dishonestly). Bankrupting some to give to others out of a misplaced sense of entitlement is un-American.
I mean, last time I checked, the guillotine was French.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at email@example.com.