THE QUESTION that the White House has posed to the American public is, can a country that has everything ignore the problems of the rich?
At this very moment there are heartless congressmen and senators who have not only closed their eyes to the "rich problem" but are even talking about taxing wealthy people's incomes and cutting back on their capital gains.
They are opposed by warmhearted people, like the President, who say that a country that doesn't take care of its wealthy has no right to call itself a civilized society.
Angelo Montana, an estate planner who is a volunteer dishwasher in a Palm Beach tax shelter, said, "If we don't help the rich now, we'll pay for it one day when all those top-income-bracket people turn their polo mallets against us."
"Why is Bush so concerned about the rich?" I asked him.
"Because they are the most ignored segment of the population. We need the rich. If you cut the income tax for the poor it doesn't mean anything because they don't have any money to start with. But if you give a tax break to the rich, they'll go out and spend their money like drunken sailors."
"Then what you're saying is rich people are much better consumers than poor folks."
"Take the capital gains tax. Bush wanted to cut the capital gains tax on investment. Do you know why?"
"He has friends who asked him to."
"No, because it would have encouraged the rich to invest in this country and make more money to avoid a recession."
"What does he want the rich to invest their money in?"
"It doesn't matter as long as the IRS doesn't get their greedy hands on it. The president promised that he would not tax anyone in order to cut the deficit. To prove that he was serious, he gave the rich the first break. By doing this he sent a message to the middle class that he meant business."
"Is this the first time anyone has struck a blow for the rich?" I wanted to know.
"No, but it's the first time a president has drawn a line in the sand. Congress wants to compromise on the budget, but Mr. Bush has told them, 'I don't care what you do, as long as you leave Rodeo Drive alone.' "
"Is the president doing this because there are more rich people or fewer rich people than ever before?"
"There are a lot more rich Americans than in the past. All you have to do is go to any private golf club in this country -- it will break your heart."
"Are the rich organizing themselves to fight against increased taxes?"
"They would but most of them are too busy moving to their winter homes. If it weren't for people like myself willing to do their dishes for them they would be lost souls."
"What message are the wealthy sending Washington?"
"The same one that Bush is sending: No New Taxes. The rich are sick and tired of being treated like middle-class citizens. If the government can't find enough money to pay for the deficit, then they should forget it and go on to something else. There is nothing more unfair than putting a surcharge on the American Dream."