Goldman Sachs just announced $3.44 billion in profits for the last quarter. The company’s top 60 executives will trouser more than the $20 million they each pocketed last year.
More than 25,000 of the suits at JPMorgan Chase, which has declared an all-time record profit for the last six months, will go home with an average Christmas bonus of $462,000 this year, $150,000 more than what they got before the financial collapse they helped create.
Considering this great news on Wall Street, considering that big short-term profits on paper continue to land them lavish rewards they don’t have to wait for the next life to receive, and considering that they won’t have to pay back any of their windfall when the heralded profits turn into a mirage, you would think the rich would have almost perfect peace of mind these days.
Yet reports persist that epidemics of worry, prolonged fretting, fingernail chewing, paranoia, anxiety and insomnia are sweeping the penthouses of Park Ave., the North Shore of Long Island, CoCo Beach, and even the Cayman Islands.
Investigators have found that the problem all began last week when a key committee in the Congress of the United States got up the nerve to approve a health care overhaul that would, if it became law, raise taxes on the tiny 1 percent of America’s wealthiest people. The tax, tiny as it is, would mean America’s richest will pay a higher percentage of their income than they have in a quarter century.
Not since the mid 1930s has Congress ever said that the rich should kick in a little to pay for what those who have nothing need. Can you imagine? The gall to say that the wealthy should chip in to keep the entire nation healthy!
Investigators found further, however, that this was only part of what has been making it so tough on rich people trying to get a good night’s sleep.
An Upper East Side Manhattan therapist told our reporters, in confidence, that several of his patients were, independently of one another, having the same spine-chilling nightmare.
The patients, it seems, wake up in cold sweats, sometimes screaming, after they dream that the overhaul of the nation’s health care system not only succeeds but then turns into something much bigger – a historic new struggle against the dangerous concentration of wealth in America.
Even more frightening, one psychiatrist in the area told our investigators that she was dealing with a rush of patients “coming in convinced that 2011 will be the year of the apocalypse, if not something worse.”
We suggested to her that the fears related to 2011 were likely because, during that year, her patients will see the largest single-year tax hike on the wealthy since 1935. This, of course, is because the George Bush tax cuts for the rich enacted in 2001 and 2003 will expire at the end of 2010.
To make matters worse, President Obama keeps repeating those pledges of his not to extend any of the expiring Bush tax cuts.
The House Bill causing all the 1 a.m. tossing and turning is centered around a 5.4 percent surtax on income over $1 million.
The delusions about 2011 being the end of the world as we know it reflect that 2011 is when the wealthiest people will pay, on average, $88,000 more than the year before. Those who make over $2.4 million – America’s richest 0.1 percent – will pay $280,000 more.
If Obama lets the Bush tax break for the rich expire, the tax rate on the wealthiest will go back to 39.6 percent, the rate in effect when Bill Clinton left office.
The House health care surtax, added to that would raise that top rate on the richest Americans to 45 percent.
The last time the rich paid that percentage was in 1986.
In stark contrast, for 2006 they only paid, on average, because of exemptions and deductions that favored them, a 17 percent rate.
Over a ten year period, the congressional Joint Tax Committee estimates, the House health care reform tax would raise $540 billion from the richest Americans, over half the trillion-dollar cost of ensuring all Americans affordable health care.
For the moderately well off the surtax would be modest. Families making $500,000, for example, would pay $1,500 in surtax, only 0.3 percent of their income. They would pay much less in health insurance premiums and would probably come out ahead.
But let’s get back to lying awake at night and dreams.
The vast majority of the people who make up this mosaic we call America are actually having a beautiful dream, with increased frequency lately.
They are dreaming that they will be able to afford, for the first time, to provide for themselves if they get sick and can’t work.
They are dreaming that they will be able to take care of their parents who worked so hard to give them a good life.
They are dream that they will be able to afford a good education for their children.
They are dreaming that they will be able, some day, to retire in peace, with bodies physically able to enjoy being surrounded by loving and productive family members.
They dream that health care for all, with everyone, the rich included, doing their fair share to bring it about, will be the first step in the struggle to make America that shining city on the hill that has been talked about for such a long time.