At some point in everyone’s life they’ve been asked the hypothetical question, “So what would you do if you didn’t have to work for a living?” And for most of my life, that question was nothing more than an interesting thought experiment. Just something nice to think about, but of course I’d never achieve anything like that. So it came as a surprise to me when several years ago I looked at my finances and realized that I could achieve that far-fetched dream earlier than I could have imagined. After taking a look at my life and the world around me I realized I wanted to work towards a community that created pathways of opportunity not just for me and my family, but for all of us. How could I enjoy this prosperity knowing others in our country might not have their basic needs covered?
When I happened upon the Patriotic Millionaires, their message resonated with me – we all need to do our part to make our country work for all of us. The American Dream is becoming more dreamlike every year, as many more Americans are priced out of a once very attainable goal. Working in and out of the housing sector most of my life I’ve seen the level of despair and suffering that comes when an individual cannot afford a roof over their head. My work with rich and poor across the country suggested an addition to the Patriotic Millionaire’s message: we should treat one another with kindness and compassion because there are people of goodwill everywhere if we are open to seeing them. We need compassion back in our politics and our tax code if we want to create a more equitable society that helps alleviate suffering and creates pathways to opportunity.
For the majority of my working career, I have had the good fortune to develop affordable rental housing throughout the United States. The wealth my family and I received in exchange for doing this work was not solely, and maybe not even primarily, due to my own efforts. I received help from countless individuals and institutions along the way: friends, family, colleagues, teachers, a variety of business enterprises, and yes, even our government too. Looking back on this path (so far), I can’t help but consider how lucky I was to be born in this country with the opportunities I had.
My work provides me with a somewhat unique perspective on our local and national communities. Every single day I see private enterprise (both for-profit and not-for-profit) work in successful partnerships with all levels of our government. These partnerships are not perfect, but more often than not they are successful. My work also affords me the opportunity to work with well-to-do bankers, wealthy philanthropists, architects, engineers, tireless housing advocates, social workers, and caseworkers all helping our most vulnerable maintain the roofs above their heads. When this vast community of people comes together to each do their part, the result allows those of modest means to be able to maintain stable housing. In some cases it allows unsheltered individuals and families to take the very first step onto the rungs of the housing ladder, along with the stability that comes with that. Our government works like this too. Great things can happen when we come together for a common purpose.
The vision of our national community doing its part to house the most vulnerable among us is so compelling to me, that a few years ago I dedicated the remainder of my working career to supporting groups around our country that want to make this change in their communities. My partners, upon hearing of my intention to do this work, offered to invest some of their treasure to amplify the impact of this work. They now provide me and all the not-for-profit groups I work with un-fettered access to all the resources of our company – this costs them real money. To be sure, this charitable inclination is commendable. But it is not enough.
The thorny issues within all of our communities cannot be adequately addressed by philanthropy alone. Strong communities create pathways to opportunity for all of their citizens. And taxes are the price we pay for such a community. And it starts with increasing taxes on people like me, who can afford to pay more.
I’ve seen wealthy individuals throughout our country charitably invest some of their wealth to improve our communities. For our government to work effectively, we all need to do our part. And it is especially important for the wealthy among us to do our fair share, so that all of us can have confidence that our system of government is working on behalf of every American. That’s why my family and I decided to add our voices to the Patriotic Millionaires and fight for a fairer tax code for every American.