I’m Patricia Martone, and I joined Patriotic Millionaires in 2016. For thirty years, I was a well-paid partner in some of the nations’ leading law firms, and I now run my own consulting law practice. I am also an investor and have benefitted from a strong stock market.
I don’t feel guilty about my wealth. I worked hard as an attorney, and my firm’s employees were well-paid. But I know this isn’t the norm for tens of millions of workers. I am also aware that eighty-five percent of stocks are owned by only ten percent of the wealthiest Americans. The current administration may brag about the melt-up in the stock market, but it means nothing to the average American, who unlike passive investors such as myself, actually has to work to achieve economic gain.
My grandfather came to the US more than 100 years ago. He built railroads in Florida, mined coal in Pennsylvania, and saved enough to open a grocery store in New York.
My father worked as a merchant seaman and fought back against deplorable working conditions as a union organizer.
My family worked hard, fought for their rights, and they were rewarded.
But the America that they succeeded in is under siege today.
The federal minimum wage is so low it forces full-time workers on to welfare. The tax system is rigged in favor of the ultra-wealthy. The size of estates subject to estate tax is so high that very few estates will have to pay it. A flood of money from wealthy individuals and corporations alters both the conduct of political campaigns and their outcome.
How is anyone supposed to achieve the American Dream in a society structured to make sure they can’t go anywhere? And as the American Dream dies, Americans are literally dying of despair.
I became a Patriotic Millionaire because I find these developments to be unacceptable. The movement away from democracy towards what can only be termed a plutocracy is contrary to everything I learned growing up in a working-class neighborhood, including the moral values I was taught by my parents, and by my Catholic faith.
Patriotic Millionaires gives me the opportunity to join with other like-minded individuals who understand that there is a business case as well as a moral case to be made for reversing the tide of increasing income and wealth inequality.
For example, public assistance provided to low paid Walmart employees is more properly characterized as government welfare payments to Walmart, a corporation owned by one of America’s wealthiest families. Businesses that say they can’t survive if they paid a living wage are poorly run businesses who seek to be rewarded with the unfair competitive advantage of government subsidies. Moreover, if their workers were better paid those workers would have more disposable income to spend, pumping more money into the economy.
What is needed is immediate action on the issues everyone should care about. For example, a living minimum wage, and not the disgraceful $7.25 per hour currently required by federal law; tax system where the wealthy pay their fair share; higher tax rates on the wealthy to provide needed money to repair our failing infrastructure, faltering educational system and inadequate healthcare. We have had marginal income tax rates as high as 70 percent before, and that was in the America that let my family thrive.
We wealthy Americans can easily afford to give back to the society that made our success possible, and we must if we want to ensure the well being of generations to come.