For the 8 years that I have been a member of the Patriotic Millionaires, my wealthy friends (almost all of whom are conservative Republicans) have asked me the same question over and over again: “So are you saying that because you believe that we wealthy people should be paying more taxes and I don’t agree, you think that makes you more patriotic than me?”
My answer to them has always been an unequivocal “YES.” But until just this week, I had no good explanation as to why I felt that way. Then it dawned on me.
We, the Patriotic Millionaires, are more patriotic than our wealthy peers because we are willing to give to support our country with no strings attached.
Every time I talk about taxes with my friends, I hear them say “I wouldn’t mind paying more taxes too if it would go to things that I believe in.” To them, “patriotism” has more to do with supporting the military than anything else, and that’s all they want their tax dollars to go towards. The greatest litmus test for being a true patriot is being willing to fight and die to protect your country, or to let your children join the military and expose even them to the ‘ultimate’ sacrifice. But barring that, my friends see their patriotic duty as supporting the massive defense spending that the United States engages in today, spending no less than $778 billion in 2020 and 39% of the whole planet’s military budget.
I believe at my very core that we spend way, way, way too much money on our military. We just spent over $6 trillion in the Middle East over the past 20 years, and what, pray tell you, do we have to show for it? We could have retired the entire college tuition invoice that Americans owe three times over with that money.
But even though a significant portion of my tax dollars go toward that military spending that I disagree with, you don’t see me whining and complaining about paying it. I still believe in paying my fair share, and I think it is absolutely absurd to condition that tax payment on being able to decide where it goes.
Clearly, my friends don’t understand how patriotism works. Patriotism is about what you’re willing to give up for your country, what you’re willing to sacrifice with no gain or return. Refusing to make that sacrifice unless several specific conditions that you personally decide on are met is the furthest thing from a selfless act in support of the country as you can get. You don’t see soldiers saying they’ll only fight for our country if they get to choose when, where, and with who they’ll be fighting.
It’s also not how government works. In our republic, we send in our tax dollars to our elected officials, and they collectively vote on how to spend them. If we don’t like what they spend them on, then we vote them out. It’s that simple. In short, no taxpayer is allowed to attach strings to their tax dollars. Even if you don’t “support” building sewage treatment plants, patching potholes, or building schools and training better teachers, we still have to spend taxpayer money on these things.
The Patriotic Millionaires understand this and that is why, in my opinion, we are more patriotic than our wealthy peers. It’s not just about us and our beliefs, it’s about what the country as a whole decides to do. We believe that we should pay our fair share in taxes to our local, state, and federal governments and are willing to let them go without attaching any strings to them.
Furthermore, we trust that our elected leaders will do the right thing with our tax dollars for ALL people – not just those that look like us, live in the same neighborhoods, or whose kids go to the same schools as ours do. We expect our representatives, no matter which side of the political aisle they are on, to do the right thing for the COUNTRY, not just us and our wealthy friends. And that applies to everything: healthcare (for all), military, infrastructure, education, housing, and more.
The Patriotic Millionaires support all that our government decides we need to do as a nation, not just the things we believe in. That’s what a real patriot does. For this reason, I believe that our organization rightly deserves its name and that our members should continue to wear it proudly.