The recently resolved U.S. debt-limit crisis has been described by some as a form of extortion, with a doctrinaire faction of one party holding the entire country hostage to their inflexible beliefs. The nation’s greater good seems to have taken a back seat to the greater good of the few. Nowadays Republicans strike one as the party of greed, while the Democrats come across as the party of need. Republicans have a point when they argue for hardy self-reliance, entrepreneurship, and creativity rather than dependence on government handouts. Democrats also have a point when they argue that with the best of intentions, not everyone is able to make it in the free-for-all of the so-called free market. Adhering tenaciously to one or the other of these principles in place of a balanced respect for both, while appealing, makes sensible compromise impossible. The obvious answer seems prudent cuts in expenditures (favoring social programs over defense, our domestic needs over our self-elected role as the world’s cop) balanced by higher taxes on the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. Tea Party members will not budge, of course, from their 18th-Century perches in Boston Harbor. Why, they ask, should the hard-gotten gains of people and businesses be siphoned off to support the survival of the least fit? Let the lazy bums get out and do a good day’s work instead of whining for help from those who do.
So here’s my suggestion. Encourage a few magnanimous super-rich individuals like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to start a movement of wealthy citizens who voluntarily double their current income taxes. There might even be a few progressive corporations like Costco that would follow suit. The idea would be for them to shame the selfish rich of our country into a true act of patriotism: generosity for the greater good of all.