op-ed

FACT: Our Civilization Would Be Nowhere Without Free Money From Ultra-Rich People

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Richard Torregrossa Journalist and novelist
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Growing up I used to hear it all the time in my middle-class household, that wistful shopworn axiom: ‘The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” But I never thought that was a bad thing, at least not all of it. I’m still middle class, not rich, not even upper middle class, but I’ve got no gripes. I’ve had my shot, took my risks, did what I wanted, and accept the outcome because I believe it falls squarely on my shoulders.

But there’s a growing animus towards the top one percent that I don’t understand.

Recently, after signing the GOP Tax Bill into law, President Donald Trump jetted to Mar-a-Lago to spend Christmas. According to Newsweek, quoting unidentified sources, he told his super-rich friends at the exclusive resort where initiation fees cost $200,000 and annual dues run $14,000 that they just “got a lot richer.” Fine with me. Apparently my opinion is in the minority, especially among my economic peers.

And I can see why. The middle class demands its share. And middle-class people don’t like this kind of thing rubbed in their face. No doubt they should get their due, as President Trump promised. Days before he left the White House for his holiday hiatus he told reporters that the tax bill would be “one of the great Christmas gifts to middle-income people.” Opinions vary on the credibility of that statement among accountants, policy wonks, economists, dry cleaners, cab drivers, and of course sparring partisans and journalists.

But I do not regard swells that pay ridiculous fees to hobnob at the president’s resort so that they can take status-symbol selfies with him to hang on their office walls as venal. I see them quite differently. And the reason is cancer.

During the last year or so I spent an enormous amount of time at various hospitals, the offices of surgeons and oncologists, imaging centers, post-surgical waiting rooms, ICUs, and chemotherapy infusion units supporting a braved loved one battling Stage IV cancer. As the de facto health advocate, which is what you eventually become, a kind of medical watchdog, making sure nothing of importance slips through the cracks, I conferred with anesthesiologists, fought with dilatory scheduling nurses, pestered physical and occupational therapists, and asked a lot of questions, but mostly I just waited around…and waited…and waited, the hardest job of all, hoping for encouraging news.

That’s a lot of stressful downtime, so I took breaks wandering around the facilities before my muscles started to atrophy, mostly to the coffee kiosks, cafeterias, gift shops, and the pharmacy to check on prescriptions.

I don’t know why this is, but hospital corridors, lobbies and the warren of doctors’ offices and clusters of buildings that house them are like a giant maze, so I often got lost and disoriented, but I saw a lot, too. And what I saw that impressed me the most were the hospital placards commemorating the donors who made these enormously expensive facilities possible as well as the hospital’s main contributors whose names are astride the broadside of the buildings, names like Mary Birch, Conrad Prebys (no relation to Reince), Scripps…names that meant little or nothing to me, much less how they accomplished such towering acts of philanthropy.

However, I did recognize a few of the contributing donors on the placards placed in the lobbies — one a former NFL player who suffered from Crohn’s disease. It was hypnotic, a hieroglyphic gazed upon with gratitude.

I don’t care how many Ferraris, multi-million-dollar houses on tropical islands — or entire islands — ultra-wealthy people own, I felt a refreshing faith in humanity for their gifts. What would we do without the top one percent and those likeminded generous individuals? You certainly won’t see my name on the signage of a medical pavilion anytime soon — or doubtfully ever at the rate I’m going. But they fill a huge void for which I am grateful.

My pursuits have always been artistic and my view is that a life devoted to the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake is senseless. Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

But that’s just me. And I’m sure many of the one percent squander their riches on self-aggrandizing purchases, but those of a higher calling, those philanthropists who construct monuments not solely to themselves but for the greater good of suffering souls comprise a kind of roll call of hope, a sanctuary, a chance for salvation, for what is more important than the return of a loved one that you thought was lost forever? Now is being part of the one percent such a bad thing, really?

Richard Torregrossa is a journalist and the author of eight books, including the mystery crime thriller, TERMINAL LIFE: A Suited Hero Novel.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.