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BEFORE RUSHING TO PUNISH THE `RICH,’ AMERICANS NEED TO LOOK IN MIRROR

SHARE BEFORE RUSHING TO PUNISH THE `RICH,’ AMERICANS NEED TO LOOK IN MIRROR

I am speaking today to that 70 percent or 80 percent of Americans who believe it is time to punish "the rich."

"The rich" being anyone who has more money than you have or can reasonably expect to have anytime soon.I am speaking to those who believe the rich all got that way through the intervention of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and at the same time got fat and greedy (while you presumably were becoming more generous), and that now is the time they ought to pay for it. To those who vote for politicians who promise revenge.

The politicians do not call it revenge, of course - it is couched in other terms, most of them centered around the words "fair share" - but there can be no missing the animus beneath it. Or the class hatred it promotes, or perhaps which it reflects.

Indulge me a moment.

Imagine the world as a single political entity, and all the countries in it are the pieces that make it up. The United States of America, therefore, is only one of a hundred of these pieces, although it is certainly among the biggest and richest.

America consumes more of the world's resources than any other country; its citizens own more cars, watch more television, eat more ice cream, ride in more airplanes and live in bigger houses than any other people in the world.

And while it is true that the standard of living in certain other countries has improved to equal or perhaps surpass America's, it is America that people all over the world - particularly the residents of the Third World - think of when they think of wealth and greed.

Greed always accompanies wealth when viewed from a distance.

And the less-fortunate people of the world, who make maybe 30 cents an hour and don't have anything to buy that's any fun or tastes good even if they had the money, look at America and say this isn't fair. America, they say, has had it easy for too long. It got rich off the work of slaves; it stole its land from the Indians.

And as it turns out, these people outnumber us and elect a new leader who promises to bring fairness to the world.

And the way he does that is by demanding that Americans pay 45 cents in tax on every dollar they make. Not just Americans making more than $200,000 a year, but all Americans with houses and cars and television sets. And all the ones who eat ice cream.

Now, my question here is simply this: How do you feel about being told to cough up 45 percent of what you make because you are richer than a guy living in a hut? How do you feel about being hated for having more than he does?

How do you explain to a parent who has lost a couple of babies to dehydration that you're having a tough time just putting a little bit of money away for retirement and the kids' schooling and maybe two weeks at the shore in August?

How do you tell him that he has no intrinsic claim on you because you have more than he does?

In the end, of course, the question is the answer.

Don't misunderstand. I am not trying to talk anybody out of the new tax rates today - President Clinton will get his way, and we'll all see what it does to small business and the economy.

All I'm talking about today is hate.