It’s no secret there’s a huge income and wealth gap in the U.S. and the ongoing stalemate in Congress suggests it’s not going to change any time soon. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be much political will to close the gap.
According to Wikipedia’s sources, a person needs to make at least $500,000 to be considered in the top 1% of wage earners and a very large percentage of those folks make significantly more than that. I cannot speak for all the members of the Muffia but I don’t make anything near $5oo,ooo. What I earn in a year not only puts me squarely in the 99%, it puts me in the bottom 50%. Still, I make more than a lot of people do.
When the Occupy movement began, I hadn’t yet finished writing The Muffia but I’d already had the thought, that if the book ever found a publisher—Thank you Water Street Press—that I would tithe, that is give, 10% of whatever the book made to charitable causes. I brought the idea to the members of the real life Muffia and they loved it. Tithing originated with the Old English practice of giving one tenth of one’s cattle sales, baked goods, whatever– to a religious entity. These days, tithes are generally voluntary and include many different kinds of giving. The Muffia wants to give to groups helping girls and women.
Why do I want to do this? There are lots of reasons. In a society where what and how much we have often seems to matter more than the content of our characters, I feel like I have enough. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff I want, but not much I truly need. Why it’s necessary for the über rich to have 17 homes and 2 private jets escapes me. Beyond a certain point, I can’t spend any more money. I only need one car and I want it to be a car I’m not worried about somebody stealing or keying; I only need one house, though I concede it could be fun to have a vacation home; I don’t need more jewelry or to throw “show me the money” parties. To me, these things are extravagances that add complication and worry even if a few people might look at me and say, “Wow, look what she has!” I’d much rather they admire me for what I’ve accomplished, not purchased.
It seems to me that no matter how much a person makes, there are many reasons to give some of it away: There are charitable deductions; there is feeling good for being generous; there’s the thanks one gets at having helped. I also don’t understand why more of those people in the top 1% of earners can’t seem to acknowledge—this is a big one you CEO’s: You would not have a salary at all if the 99% weren’t buying your phones, cereal, adult diapers and financial products. The 99% put you there so why not pay them back? An individual’s long-term self-interest could almost mandate giving some of one’s income back. History even tells us this. Cultures far older than ours have learned that when income disparity grows too great, the 99% may revolt.
The wealthy, benevolent few and those planning to give a large portion of their estates away—Bill Gates, George Soros, Warren Buffet, among them—cannot make up for all the heads of banks, brokerage firms and corporations who avoid taxes and are loathe to give unless they get naming rights. When you make $19 million a year, what do you do with all that money?
I’m just one middle class, middle age woman and I’m probably getting too political. I’m realistic enough to know I cannot fix anything but I can do my part to try to improve whatever tiny corner of the world I’m operating in. If The Muffia and I do well in the marketplace, it’s because people have bought my book. Some of those people might be wealthier than I am and others less. But either way, I would not have 10% of anything to tithe without people and that’s why it’s important to give something back.
The Muffia will therefore tithe and do what it can to help girls and women in the bottom of the 99% have a chance for more. Currently, we are concentrating on organizations in the U.S., which provide education, job and mentoring opportunities. Some of the groups we are looking at are Project Return in Connecticut, Women in Recovery in Los Angeles, and Catapult/Women Deliver for International efforts. If you know of some other groups we might add to our list, please feel free to comment here and thanks for reading.