Before WWII, a large number of people were against America's involvement in the wars in Europe and Asia. After Pearl Harbor, however, that argument disappeared, and virtually everyone got involved. Sons of rich families enlisted. The Kennedys, for example, lost a son and a daughter and of course, Jack Kennedy was seriously injured. Movie stars like Jimmy Stewart and sports figures all joined ordinary people in the fight. Those at home sacrificed by needing coupons to buy meat, sugar, flour and many other things. Gas was rationed. No doubt some people, maybe the rich mostly, got around these restrictions, but people in general understood the need for sacrifice. There was no whining, there were only patriots.
Today, we face an economic crisis that should call on all of us to sacrifice once again. But all we hear from the top 1 percent is whining about increased taxes and government regulations that stand in the way of even greater wealth. The truth is that the sacrifice that Americans will be called upon to make will involve us, not them. Regardless of who wins on Election Day, we are the ones — the middle class and the poor — who must accept changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, reduced Pell Grants and all the rest to reduce the national debt.
The rich won't be touched by any of these changes. Yet the one contribution (and it's not really much of a sacrifice) the rich can make for the common good, to pay higher taxes in order to make it a little easier on the rest of us, is labeled "class warfare." But what if their taxes did increase, how would their lifestyles change? No more country clubs, no more multiple homes, no more what? How would life change for the run-of-the-mill billionaire? That is never explained.
Instead, Mitt Romney and his friends claim the 47 percent of us see ourselves as victims sitting around looking for the next handout, while they are heroically working hard every day to keep the American dream alive. Mr. Romney and his wife made it through college by cashing in stocks, and one of their sons now has his own equity fund (Mom helped out with her own $10 million trust fund to get him started). Wealth, the best private school education, and connections to all the right people seem not to register with them as significant advantages. Where would his son be today, if his name were Smith from Baltimore with a single mom making $10 an hour living in a violent, drug-invested neighborhood? Any equity funds in his future?
Mr. Romney has asked his friends to remind their employees through memos in their paychecks of the dark consequences if they vote wrong. One owner says that he sees his employees as a big family and they are his children who need his direction.
No election in my memory has been more consequential.
Kenneth Weeden, BaltimoreCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun