The Republicans have trotted out their tax proposals, insisting piously they are aimed at improving the lot of the middle class. In fact, Trump claims it’s the biggest break for the majority of plain citizens since the founding of The Republic. It isn’t. According to impartial, financial experts, trained economists all, that is a lie. As always, the proposed revision of the tax structure benefits the wealthy. The Rich get richer, not so much the 1%, but the 0.1%! And that raises a profound problem –
Why do the Filthy Rich work as hard as busboys to get filthier?
Here are thoughts from Montaigne –
Epicurus said that being rich does not alleviate our worries: it
changes them. And truly it is not want that produces avarice but
There is more trouble in keeping money than in acquiring it. When I
had more to spend, the spending weighed no less heavily upon me.
When it comes to plucking out hairs, it hurts the balding no less
than the hairy: once you have grown used to having a pile of a
certain size, you can no longer use it. You don’t even want to slice
a bit off the top…
Limits are hard to discover for things which seem good, such as
saving. You go on making your pile bigger. You deprive yourself of
the enjoyment of your own goods; your enjoyment consists in hoarding
and never actually using.
Here is Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice –
Prince Morocco asks Portia,
“Deliver me the key.
Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!”
The Prince opens the golden casket.
“O hell, what have we here?
A carrion death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll. I’ll read the writing.
‘All that glitters is not gold —
Often have you heard that told.
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold.'”
Montaigne published his essay in 1580, less than twenty years before Shakespeare wrote the play. Both make the same observation –
When you’re Rich you are at risk to lose your inner world, that is, you are in danger of losing your soul.
Montaigne uses a brilliant metaphor to expose the internal vacuity: one becomes preoccupied with one’s hair-do. It has to be just so. “For heaven’s sake, don’t take any off the top!” Forget the poor, the disabled. Forget victims of hurricanes. “I have an appointment with my hair-dresser.”
Shakespeare observes that money blinds. It’s The Strip at Las Vegas at three o’çlock in the morning. Inwardness, a level of consciousness that illuminates the dark corners of the human interior, is impossible with the dazzle and the glitter. In the light of day, however, riches are so-much carrion.
The Rich are vulnerable precisely because the outside and the external are a constant seduction. They think what is merely glitter suggests something meaningful and worthy. These days I have thought of John McCain. He owns seven houses. At least six of them stand empty. Always have. Do the arithmetic. How much time and energy did the rich senator expend on buying seven houses? How large a portion of his soul’s allotment did he sell off doing such foolishness?
1500 years before Montaigne and Shakespeare, Jesus told the parable of Dives, a member of the Filthy Rich, who could afford only a few crumbs from his table for the beggar at his gate. Whoever wrote the Republican Tax Plan sure knows the first part of the story – but, like President Reagan’s atheist son, “is not afraid of burning in hell,” its ending.