Guilt is a powerful emotion. Whether observed in a Shakespearean tragic character struggling to wash away invisible blood or in the sobbing tears of a child who has transgressed against parental edicts, this negative feeling can obliterate all else from the sufferer's mind. We are profoundly lucky that most humans are able to experience self-censure or -condemnation when they have violated the lives of others or even their own. The motivational potency of guilt can lead someone to change his ways or to make amends and attempt to heal what he has broken.
Those incapable of contrition are rightly considered psychopathic and dangerous to their fellow human beings. A person who can lie, cheat, steal, assault, rob, or kill without remorse -- in "cold blood" -- will have few compunctions in following whatever illicit impulses flow through his warped thoughts. The capacity for regret aids us in establishing and observing the rightful boundaries that protect each of us in the social sea in which we swim.
At the other extreme are those who are filled with self-reproach in nearly every area of their lives. They feel guilt for experiencing sexual pleasure. Penitence must be done if they enjoy their food too much, if they dare to sit and relax for three nanoseconds, if they take pride in their accomplishments, if they have a better lifestyle than their neighbors. Shame upon themselves if they dare say "no" to a request or assert themselves against baseless lies or grow angry at injustices improperly laid at their feet.
These self-styled "wicked" folks, these "sinners," these "disgraceful" individuals wear the stigma of guilt upon their brows with a kind of...guilty...pleasure. Somehow denigrating what is best about themselves -- embracing their "guilt" -- absolves them of "guilt." The sad spectacle of such self-flagellation is nauseating. But self-inflicted masochism can ultimately be cured only by the recipient of such abuse.
Unwarranted guilt crosses the line from sickness to outrage, however, when the self-proclaimed depraved felon casts his net to catch others whom he deems should feel guilty...but do not. Ayn Rand's "sanction of the victim" is not merely a rhetorical catch-phrase.
The nonprofit organization United for a Fair Economy (UFE) [http://FairEconomy.org/] and its sister site, Responsible Wealth [http://www.responsiblewealth.org], are dedicated to converting the heathens to the gospel of unearned guilt. If these dedicated souls are successful in their quest, humiliation and mea culpas shall rescue the oblivious from their delusions of innocence. (All quotes are from these two sites.)
These selfless (and I do mean, "selfless") individuals "are leaders in business, community, government, philanthropy, academia and finance. We are among the wealthiest 5% of Americans, the primary beneficiaries of the robust growth of the American economy." This self-description merely establishes the fact that wisdom and the ability to amass fortunes or achieve social prominence are not necessarily coincident.
Most of the names listed on the site are unfamiliar to me. But I do recognize William H. Gates, Sr. (This is the father of the richest man in the world. Unfortunately, Bill the Younger is a case of like-father-like-son. Unlike T. J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, the guru of Microsoft never developed a moral backbone capable of withstanding criticism from the guilt-inducers yipping at his feet.) That great man who sins by thought as well as deed (e.g., adultery), former president and Nobel Laureate Jimmy Give-Me-a-Hammer-I-Never-Heard-of-Comparative-Advantage Carter, tells us that a book by Gates Sr. and UFE Project Director Chuck Collins "provide(s) a clear rationale for retaining the estate tax in this helpful and unselfish analysis."
(See? Whadda I tell ya? Selfless. But oh-so-helpful... [Lord, save me from the "helpful"...])
What else -- what other issues and problems -- do these "unselfish" rich folk focus upon besides the continuation of the death tax? Let's just see, shall we?
"Responsible Wealth" is "united by our common concern that...many are not sharing in the prosperity" of a booming economy. (Hmm. They might want to update their web site regarding the latter point...)
"Responsible Wealth" is concerned with "the dangers of excessive inequality of income and wealth..."
"Responsible Wealth" seeks to "advocate fair taxes."
"Responsible Wealth" wants us to "support a living wage for all."
"Responsible Wealth" is worried about achieving "greater corporate accountability."
"Responsible Wealth" wants to "promote broadened asset ownership for all Americans."
In today's squishy feel-don't-think-ignore-history-and-facts world, many citizens would doubtless find the goals outlined above to be reasonable and desirable. After all, whenever a statist-collectivist politician wants to score points with his constituents and be viewed as a "nice guy," he slams the rich (even if he is slamming himself... See? I said they were masochists...) and decries "tax cuts for the wealthy."
But the collectivistic egalitarianism trumpeted by UFE and "Responsible Wealth" violates not only the spirit of liberty that animated this nation in its youth but any notion of justice or real fairness. All the pleasant-sounding verbiage produced by these organizations is merely a mask for income redistribution, for robbing those who earned their wealth and shoving it into the greedy paws of those who did not.
If these people experienced true compassion for the less fortunate, they would propose eliminating all the barriers to wealth accumulation that primarily affect those who are relatively poor and who are just beginning their climb up that cliched ladder of success. Huge companies -- and the rich folk such as these yahoos who run those businesses -- can afford to wrangle their way past regulations and taxes and laws and expensive mandates. They can afford lawyers and accountants and lobbyists.
An entrepreneur eking by on a rapidly diminishing savings cannot.
If these people operated from a valid concern for fairness rather than their own guilt, they would work to obliterate all taxes...or at a minimum, push for a lowering of taxes to that level required for government's few legitimate functions; and a flat tax that actually treated individuals as properly "equal under the law" and did not penalize those who work harder, longer, smarter.
A progressive tax is a collectivist/statist's wet-dream.
If these people really wanted to make it possible for Americans to earn a "living wage," they would not seek to evade basic economic laws of supply-and-demand but would, instead, slash-and-burn spending and all the laws that confiscate half the money of the average citizen and effectively mandate that both husbands and wives work to support their families...while they shunt their children off to day-cares made overly expensive by yet more State-established rules and requirements. If a paycheck loses its purchasing power year-by-year, the answer is not to force businesses to offer $18/hour wages but to halt the debasement of our currency by an inflationary State!
"Responsible Wealth" says that the death, i.e., estate tax "falls exclusively on the richest 2% of taxpayers" and that almost "half of all estate taxes are paid by the wealthiest 0.1% of the American population &endash; a few thousand families each year. Repealing the estate tax would result in multimillion dollar tax cuts to this tiny sliver of Americans."
In other words, as long as there aren't enough of these blokes to outvote us, let's have at 'em and help them atone for their guilt after they die. Can't let their grieving relatives enjoy the legacy the deceased worked a lifetime to develop. Screw 'em. Rip it up, spread it around, drive the stake into the heart of the enterprise so this "most progressive tax and...important source of revenue" can be used "to recycle [!!!] wealth through the nonprofit sector."
(Profit: another filthy word to the terminally-guilty.)
According to "Responsible Wealth," at least two-hundred rich idiots have shrieked, "Tax me more!" when they took the "Tax Fairness Pledge" to achieve "real economic justice" by giving away more of their money.
Yes, these stalwart, guilt-ridden activists even decry "predatory lending" that dares adhere to proper risk-assessment practices and charge borrowers (in this case, those collectivist icons, "people of color and the elderly") higher interest and fees based upon their actual credit histories. Imagine: how dare the "sub-prime lending industry" think that "low income communities" might have greater difficulty repaying loans and thus be more likely to default!
The UFE and "Responsible Wealth" calls tax cuts, i.e., letting people keep more of their own money "reckless." They also gasp in horror from their guilt-ridden holes that the "radical right" wants to "Shrink government to nothing more than a 'Watchtower State,' limited to military, police and property-rights protection. Shift the tax burden off investments and onto wages, off of federal progressive taxation and onto state and local taxation that hit low- and middle-income people hardest. Shaft people who depend on government safety nets or investment in equality of opportunity."
* Gasp! *
(Would that the "right" had any such real intentions. As the "conservatives" have always made amply clear, they are in the forefront of expanding the State and jacking up taxes and spending at all levels of government.)
Instead of a Free State, these intellectual Luddites want an "Opportunity State, where everyone has an equal chance and where there are strong safety nets to protect people against economic forces beyond their control."
These organizations list so many ethical, economic, and political errors and fallacies on their sites that a complete rebuttal would take volumes. What they fail to realize is that the very goals they supposedly seek -- "UFE raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart." -- are the very results that will occur should we fully accept their agenda and employ the coercive means they propound.
Rather than attempting to impose on all of us their utopian vision of "responsible wealth," these guilt-laced scions of society need to ask themselves a single question:
Who is responsible for wealth?