Every once in a while I get asked the question: where does your value set originate? And honestly, I have no real good answer.
I’m certain that part of it comes from my family. It has to. My parents were Jewish, left-leaning democrats. By the time I was a teenager we were better off than most and headed towards wealthy. I had a certain sense of privilege that I was becoming aware of, and somewhere along the line, I developed a simplistic concern for the underdog.
I remember going on a cruise with my parents when I was 13 years old. We stopped in Caracas. Getting off the ship, which was my first experience of being in what seemed like a military zone, we began sightseeing, driving down the main highway. On the left side of the road there was an Officers Club, which looked like a palace. On the right side was a hill going up, on which people were living in cardboard boxes. It was a shanty town. I don’t know if it was causative, or if it resonated with an attitude I had already developed, but the experience stuck with me. It was a very stark contrast and picture, driving down that road, seeing the two worlds, side by side.
By the time I got to college my concern for justice and caring for the underdog had translated into ideas about income inequality and democracy, with protesting the Vietnam War being secondary. I developed a particular interest in tax policy, wrote a senior thesis on it and went to law school to dig into the weeds (although there weren’t “weeds” in those days). My law school graduation was delayed a semester so I could work on the McGovern campaign in 1972. Coincidentally, McGovern had embraced a tax policy similar to the one I’d been working on.
A lot happened over the next forty years, including careers that helped create recycled printing and writing paper, push socially responsible investing, and publishing travel books, including my own guide to the 100 most fun things to do in the world.
And then the Patriotic Millionaires showed up, certainly one of the most fun things to do (thank you Erica), as well as one of the most important. The Patriotic Millionaires are able to demonstrate that successful people, people of wealth and privilege, smart people, do not forget that we all benefit from a thriving democracy and an economic system that is just.
Sure, there are others who don’t see it that way. They think they know better than everyone else. So dominating our democracy through campaign contributions, or sucking the blood out of the economy so they can have an even bigger house, seems alright. Of course, there is no evidence for this, and history time and time again proves them wrong.
This worldview cannot go unchecked. We Patriotic Miliionaires know we can afford to pay higher taxes, and that doing so is the right thing to do. We know that every person should have the right to vote and a reason to vote. We know that taking money out of politics is the right thing to do. Together, we are able to make a compelling case. These are the values I grew up with. And that is why I’m proud to be a Patriotic Millionaire.