I joined the Patriotic Millionaires because I believe that everyone deserves the same chance at success that I had. Starting and operating a business is among the greatest experiences of my life. I want to live in a country where institutional barriers and inequality are no longer roadblocks for young entrepreneurs who want to do the same.
These days, it is harder than ever to get ahead when you’re starting from behind, and exponentially easier to get further ahead once you’ve already made it. I didn’t always believe this, but in the past decade, I’ve seen how exclusive the American Dream has become.
I grew up in small-town Wisconsin as one of eight children in a post-war family. My parents weren’t steadily employed, and our family was living paycheck-to-paycheck and sometimes still not making ends meet, so my siblings and I got jobs to help out. At the age of 10, I started selling newspapers. Being thrown into the competitive world of sales at such a young age quickly taught me the value of managing scarce resources, dedication, and hard work.
Though I was unable to attend college (I like to say I graduated several times from The School of Hard Knocks), I went on to become a master news distributor, and along with my wife, created the largest privately held periodical distribution company in the Western United States. However, back then I had a very different view of the world than I do now. I believed that everyone could make it, given they work hard enough. After all, If it worked for me, why couldn’t it work for others?
But it wasn’t until I stepped down as CEO that I realized that the opportunity to succeed may not be as universal as I once thought. I began to volunteer my time teaching entrepreneurial skills to people who want to start a business, including the recently incarcerated. I saw that not everyone had the same opportunities I had growing up.
While working with formerly incarcerated people and hearing their experiences, I realized that there are structures in our society and government that give advantage to certain groups over others. Unfortunately, in today’s America, many people need more than a little encouragement to move themselves up the economic ladder when the tax and incentive system is rigged against them.
For instance, thanks to a tax structure that’s weighted in favor of wealthy people, I can take advantage of tax deductions and loopholes that low and middle-income people cannot. Most wealthy people like myself make their money through capital gains, which are conveniently taxed at a lower rate than earned income. That means most high-income earners effectively pay a lower tax rate than working Americans. Structures like these only help the rich get richer and create barriers for working people who might want to try to get ahead financially or start their own business.
As a progressive country:
- We must restore income taxes rates to where they were before 2017
- We must enact a surtax to curb the disconcerting amount of wealth accumulated by the 1% to begin to right the scales in favor of the workers and innovators of this country.
- We must enact a stronger estate tax to prevent America from becoming an oligarchy made up of wealthy dynasties.
- We must close the carried interest loophole to stop private equity managers from dodging taxes that most other Americans pay.
- We must make healthcare more affordable and available
Policies and tax codes that I advocate against have contributed to one of the largest disparities of wealth inequality since the gilded age. Tax cuts for the wealthy are leaving millions of Americans to fall behind. When the wealthy hoard their gains, it isn’t just selfish – it’s bad economic policy. Workers and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy, so if they’re financially overburdened by rising rents, stagnant wages, and a general increase in the cost of living, they can’t participate in the system that drives our economy forward.
Every person in this nation deserves to grow up in well-funded communities that can foster the skills and training they need to succeed. Our government has a responsibility to invest in its citizens in order to accomplish this. As a Patriotic Millionaire, I understand that we can achieve this when we start taxing wealthy folks and using it to invest back into the nation. I fear that the longer our country favors wealth over ability, stories like mine will be harder to find.
I believe that we can return to the kind of country that gave me the opportunity to start my business. The next generation of Americans deserves the same universal chance at success that I enjoyed. But this dream is only achieved when we begin restructuring our economy to work in favor of all Americans – not just the wealthy few.