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The Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd

Posted on Aug 7, 2009

By David Sirota

I know I should be mortified by the lobbyist-organized mobs of angry Brooks Brothers mannequins who are now making headlines by shutting down congressional town hall meetings. I know I should be despondent during this, the Khaki Pants Offensive in the Great American Health Care and Tax War. And yet, I’m euphorically repeating one word over and over again with a big grin on my face.


Finally, there’s no pretense. Finally, the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd’s ugliest traits are there for all to behold.

The group’s core gripe is summarized in a letter I received that denounces a proposed surtax on the wealthy and corporations to pay for universal health care:

“Until recently, my family was in the top 3 percent of wage earners,” the affluent businessperson fumed in response to my July column on taxes. “We are in the group that pays close to 60 percent of this nation’s taxes. ... Think for a second how you would feel if you built a business and contributed more than your share to this country only to be treated like a pariah.”


Square, Site wide
This sob story about the persecuted rich fuels today’s “Tea Parties”—and I’m sure you’ve heard some version of it in your community.

I’m also fairly certain that when many of you run into the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd, you don’t feel like confronting the faux outrage. But on the off chance you do muster the masochistic impulse to engage, here’s a guide to navigating the conversation:

What They Will Scream: We can’t raise business taxes, because American businesses already pay excessively high taxes!

What You Should Say: Here’s the smallest violin in the world playing for the businesses. The Government Accountability Office reports that most U.S. corporations pay zero federal income tax. Additionally, as even the Bush Treasury Department admitted, America’s effective corporate tax rate is the third-lowest in the industrialized world.

What They Will Scream: But the rich still “pay close to 60 percent of this nation’s taxes!”

What You Should Say: Such statistics refer only to the federal income tax. When considering all of “this nation’s taxes” including payroll, state and local levies, the top 5 percent pay just 38.5 percent of the taxes.

What They Will Scream: But 38.5 percent is disproportionately high! See? You’ve proved that the rich “contribute more than their share” of taxes!

What You Should Say: Actually, they are paying almost exactly “their share.” According to the data, the wealthiest 5 percent of America pays 38.5 percent of the total taxes precisely because they make just about that share—a whopping 36.5 percent!—of total national income. Asking these folks to pay slightly more in taxes—and still less than they did during the go-go 1990s—is hardly extreme.

Stripped of facts, your conversation partner will soon turn to unscientific terrain, claiming it is immoral to “steal” and “redistribute” income via taxes. Of course, he will be specifically railing on “stealing” for stuff like health care, which he insists gets “redistributed” only to the undeserving and the “lazy” (a classic codeword for “minorities”). But he will also say it’s OK that government sent trillions of dollars to Wall Streeters.

And that’s when you should stop wasting your breath.

What you’ve discovered is that the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd isn’t interested in fairness, empiricism or morality.

With 22,000 of their fellow countrymen dying annually for lack of health insurance and with Warren Buffett paying a lower effective tax rate than his secretary, the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd is merely using the argot of fairness, empiricism and morality to hide its real motive: selfish greed.

No argument, however rational, is going to cure these narcissists of that grotesque disease.

David Sirota is the bestselling author of “Hostile Takeover” (2006) and “The Uprising” (2008). Find his blog at or e-mail him at

© 2009

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By Josh, August 7, 2009 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wait a minute - who’s the “me first screw everyone else” in these debates?  The one who says, “I want to keep what I’ve earned”... or the one who says, “I want to take what you’ve earned”?

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By LOVEMYPRES, August 7, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

Join the event “Hands Across America for Public Health Care” on Facebook & sign up to attend on
If event isn’t listed on your groups, post it as follows:
Sunday Aug 23rd 3 PM (EST) we’ll gather on Main Streets (or whatever Main Street is called where you live!) all across the United States in support of reforming our health care system. Bring a sign if you want but keep it simple.
That’s it! Easy breezy - costs nothing!
In 1966 a similar event drew 7 million people across the country
We can do this - YES WE CAN!

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By Becky, August 7, 2009 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m British - by the definitions of many Americans I basically live in a ‘socialist state’ I suppose, although I wouldn’t say that myself.

I am a well-educated professional, with two degrees.  I have never been out of work or drawn welfare benefits.  I have earned every penny I ever had.  So far so good.

But what I didn’t earn is the benefits of a family with a strong work ethic, who taught me personal responsibility, who supported me through my education, who showed an example by always working themselves.  I didn’t earn being born middle class, which has given me huge advantages in my life.

It’s a fallacy to claim that those who are rich have ‘earned’ their money, implying that those who are poor have only themselves to blame and are basically lazy.  There is no such thing as a total meritocracy.  And even if there was, who is to say that those who aren’t as intelligent, or gifted deserve less if they are prepared to work?  Many people, like my grandparents, work hard all of their lives, doing long hours in tiring manual jobs, and never earn a good salary.  In what way are those people undeserving?  Why should I have better healthcare than them?  Or a better chance at education?  My grand parents never saw the fruits of their labour in their lifetimes.  But they did manage to provide a better chance for their children, which in turn provided a better chance for me.  The dream cannot be fulfilled in one generation.  I did not ‘earn’ my status alone - my grandparents must take much of the credit.

If your parents were wealthy enough to send you to an Ivy league college, and you had the right connections to help you into a fabulous job, you should thank your lucky stars, and be prepared to pass a little of your good fortune on to those who weren’t born into such fortunate circumstances as yourself, instead of guarding jealously what you supposedly earned.

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By Leefeller, August 7, 2009 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

I got mine and I believe everyone should pay more taxes expect me, myself and I, we should be happy paying taxes, after all we have become a total socialist country, with bail outs and supporting the military complex, health care for Congress. So all people should willingly pay more taxes, not just the wealthy. In fact we should tax the homeless.

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By TripleGreenCentury, August 7, 2009 at 10:22 am Link to this comment

TheBeerDoctor intelligently wrote: “To have an intelligent discussion assumes that there is intelligence present.”

Here is an easy reply for the stupid people who complain about being in a high tax bracket.  Tell them it is their choice to earn and keep such a large amount of income.  They can easily get out of that tax bracket and avoid paying so much tax.  Said with proper antagonism and sarcasm, they will see how stupid their complaining is.

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By randomstu, August 7, 2009 at 10:04 am Link to this comment

On the Federal tax form, there’s a line where you can choose to pay taxes in excess of what’s mandatory. I wonder if the author of this piece has ever paid a dollar more in tax than he was forced to by law.

If Mr Sirota is railing that others should pay more taxes, but never voluntarily does so himself, that’s at least suspicious. It appears that the writer’s position is that it’s necessary for more taxes to be paid… but this burden should be placed entirely on people other than himself. To say that sacrifice is vital, but it should be made by OTHER people, is so convenient.


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By Leefeller, August 7, 2009 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

We are becoming a total socialist state? Great logic, so if something benefits the majority of the people it becomes socialist which mean bad, when it benefits a few it is all right and it is called?  Instituting a National medical plan does not mean we are a total socialist state, this long of tooth story, has been the straw man argument since the early 1920’s. with the attacks on unions, only now in 2009, most people know better at least those people capable of using reason.

The me, myself and I crowd work very hard to keep the lights off and everyone in the dark, seems they control the media, lobbyists and the grand old party and some of the ignorant masses, using age old techniques,  constant manipulations, divisiveness and fear. 

This may be changing or it may not, we shall see, depends on the ratio of ignorance to enlightenment. Our socialist school system seems to be falling behind for starters so the socialism is bad sales customer may be increasing, hence the birther mentality.

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By Rodger Lemonde, August 7, 2009 at 8:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Above all don’t engage in discussion with out neutral witnesses. Stop and walk away if they start to foam at the mouth.
Here in Florida we have a law that allows people to have people evaluated for their mental health if they pose a danger to themselves or others.
Not sure how an insurance company views a Baker Act detention. Want to bet they don’t look for the resolution of the case.

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By hippie4ever, August 7, 2009 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

Indeed, thebeerdoctor—the room’s been invaded by rethug idiots prattling the same old same old. They know they fit the “me-first-screw-everyone-else-crowd to a “t” and hate their exposure.

Thanks, David, for this article backed up by statistics and reason.

godistwaddle, I believe the problem with the French Revolution was mainly an Anglo conceit; the French tried to spread democracy throughout Europe but the Corsican failed in Russia and fell at Waterloo. The rest of Europe united against him and the people of France: the revolution was ultimately defeated by money, weaponry, and an inbred royalty desperate to retain their obscene wealth, power and privilege at the expense of the people. Exactly like today, only now they pose as “citizens.” They are anything but that and stand in our way.

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By Thomas, August 7, 2009 at 8:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

These greedy SOBs are going to trigger a reaction worse than the French Revolution. And then we will be rid of them.

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By hark, August 7, 2009 at 8:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“I like how I’m “greedy” because I merely want to keep what I’ve earned”

And who says you “earned” it?  Have you never considered who sets wages in this country?  The rich, that’s who.  They pay themselves as much as they can, and they pay the rest of us as little as they can get away with.  This idea that CEOs are worth 500 times the average worker is ridiculous.  They are not.

The top 1% are grossly overpaid, the people at the bottom underpaid.  It is a national disgrace that tens of millions of Americans who work long and hard and play by the rules don’t “earn” enough to make a decent living.  Well, they do “earn” it.  It’s just that the rich, who have all the power and all the money, won’t pay them what they earn.

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By oldhip, August 7, 2009 at 7:31 am Link to this comment

A lot more on this - here -  Enjoy the reality…

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By Purple Girl, August 7, 2009 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

what’s better, being judged guilty as a Racist, or a Traitor?
Whats Better, facing the public exile for being Politically incorrect, or face sentencing for War Crimes?
What’s better, being viewed as apathtic and self serving- or as a heretic.
These Folks are in protection mode- not just of their ‘own kind’ but of the facade they have built over the last 3-4 decades to entice the gullible, vulnerable and egocentric.
Repugs hate the Constitution, “We the people” and our Values- Exhibit 1 Cheney, “So”.
The ‘evangelicals’ hate Christianity’s Empathy, Charity and Hope.Exhibit 2-Perkins and the Family Research Council’s oppositon to healthcare reform.
The Repugs are willing to expose their ‘flank’ on some issues (like racist attitudes), as long as it diverts attention away from the ‘heart’ of the matter. These people are not only Traitors to the vision of our Founders, but also to Word of Christ.
The are not trying to protect themselves from exposure to the rest of US (we already knew all this)- they are trying to protect the delicate ‘group think’ of their Base from the sudden realization of complicity in High Crimes and heresy.
‘Pre Blessed’ and pre Damned are not Christian concepts- that sounds like basics of Reincarnation. Nor is the concept of Religious Conversion at Gun point. The Benefits of Apathy and self anointed Entitlements, are also not the ‘morals’ of Christian Stories.
Neocons fear the realization that they have bastardized Christianity for their own political and financial benefit.The Repug plateform has been the Antithesis of True Christianity for Decades, and it is very close to being exposed.
If you want to wake up a Religious Rightwinger, put the template of the “Word” overtop the Repug plateform.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no Evil,For THY rod and THY Staff comforts me”. Why would God or Jesus require ‘Soldiers’? What need would theer be for a True Chrisitian to bear arms? Why would you ever Equate the Christian God or Savior with Guns? It clearly tells that God only requires His Rod and His Staff to defeat evil, and you need bring nothing more than your Faith in Him.In Revelations Christ Does not ‘out man’ Satan with guns - He defeats him with the ‘weaponry’ of the Word.It is only Satan who requires the assistance of mere mortals to wage this battle. And according to St John- Loses inspite of his weaponry and legions of ‘soldiers’.
so when one of these ‘Guns and God’ Folks start spouting off, ask them to explain which ‘god’ they are talking about. Zeus was called a god, and in some realms so is Satan.

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By bogi666, August 7, 2009 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

Great article. The wealthy, especially corporations which pay very little in taxes, get most of the benefits of taxes. Their investments are protected by the Pentagon, world wide. The CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS receive the proceeds of the loans that finance the Federal deficit and the interest and principle are paid by individual taxpayers. Anyone that thinks the purpose of the Pentagon is to spread liberty and freedom are just plain idiots. Since it is the wealthy individuals and corporations that are the main beneficiaries of taxes, they should pay them. As for the 60% that’s a stalking horse as the highest tax rate is 39%. Taxes are not life insurance policies where it is the beneficiaries that reap the proceeds of the contributor.

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By DHFabian, August 7, 2009 at 6:18 am Link to this comment

“Me First”.  That’s precisely the point.  Out here in the real world, we have families, circles of friends, and live in neighborhoods, and we care about them. We do care about the common good. I have encountered no longing to protect the comforts (much less, the excesses) of the rich.  If they fear they will become impoverished by taxes, they have the means to move anywhere in the world. America is not here simply for the pleasure of the rich. History shows that nations can’t survive when government places the interests of a handful of the privileged above the common good.

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By rico, suave, August 7, 2009 at 6:11 am Link to this comment

You hit very close to the mark. Both the right wing wackos and the left wing wackos are crying about the very same thing: Loss of control of their lives. The Founders’ biggest mistake was not seeing, and providing barriers to, the obscene power of money to influence behavior. The people the Constitution designated to run the government are totally insulated from their constituencies by lobbyists and their money, and the “diffusion of power” you allude to is eliminated. The right wing response is “leave me alone.” The left wing response is “quit stealing our money.”

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By xypher, August 7, 2009 at 6:05 am Link to this comment

America is at a slow simmer, those used by corporations and the wealthiest and learning how they have been used and at what cost. Then will come the boiling point and We the People we forcefully take our country back.

Let them eat caviar.

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By rico, suave, August 7, 2009 at 6:01 am Link to this comment


“Most of them didn’t earn it (inheritance, fraud, or theft)”- Do you have a source for this? (But, silly me. Your definition of fraud and theft is probably quite a bit braoder than mine, to include any wage rate above the minimum.)

“...should be ecstatic that we don’t hang them from nearby lamp-posts.” How many “khaki-pantsers” have you heard yelling the same thing about poor people?

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By Chris, August 7, 2009 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Agree 100% with dgwilson.
are these Me-First people the same people who had the “tea parties” back on April 15th ?
If so,
I would like to correct the author’s notion that they supported the bailout of Wall Street.  They most certainly did not.  That was one of the things most decried in their literature, along with the disappointment in both political parties ...the co-opting of Hannity and Beck notwithstanding.

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By NRB, August 7, 2009 at 5:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I like how I’m “greedy” because I merely want to keep what I’ve earned. And you’re “not greedy” because you only want to take away everything from everyone else and dole it out as you see fit.

Liberalism is a mental disorder, and you are the poster boy.

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By ardee, August 7, 2009 at 4:58 am Link to this comment

There is a certain irony here. In creating this form of governance our Founders operated in fear of control by a small minority. Understandably so, having just defeated the worlds most powerful monarchy.

In order to ensure that no single individual or group would or could usurp the governance of the newly created United States they, in their wisdom, saw to it that power was diffused , very diffused.

Yet it is this very dispersal of power that has led to abysmal decision making and the ability of a small but monied class to purchase the legislators in order to have an advantageous position over the rest of us.

I thank the author for his statistical ammunition , quite useful in combating the arguments of those who wish to maintain control over our government and our treasury. Of course, like the ‘birther movement’ or any radical and narrowly focused group , the wealthy are going to remain unmoved by truth in the form of said evidence.

Power is addictive you know.

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By seeitnow, August 7, 2009 at 4:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It took Obama only 200 days. He has gone over the edge in his desire to transform America into a total socialist state. He has brought in thugs - disguised as union members to attack their fellow citizens at congressional town hall meetings. This will be his downfall.

There is probably no return to any degree of normalcy in the governance of the US any time soon. This country remains firmly devided between those that retain a desire for a meritocracy and those that would have a cradle to grave nanny state.

How one chooses sides probably has more to do with how one was raised than anything else.  Raised in an environment of responsibility and accountability for one’s actions, the choice would certainly be for meritocracy.  This is a difficult concept for those on the left who were more likely to be raised in a chaotic, me first, anything goes environment. Their choice in politics encourages the government confiscation of income for redistribution amongst those that refuse to take care of themselves. Yes, there are those who through no fault of their own need and deserve help from the rest of us - but they are not the problem. It is the elite left that insist on equal outcomes for everyone - save themselves - the truly selfish.

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By dgswilson, August 7, 2009 at 4:14 am Link to this comment

There is a lot of stuff wrong with the nations “tax business”. Such as going against constitutional guidelines - which were once viewed as the law of the land. Unless the folks that David would like to see brought down to size are doing business internationally they are probably not eligible for taxation at all. All these tax “rules” came to us via the Federal Reserve. Who created the IRS as a means of collecting the debt imposed on the public every time congress borrowed money.
Since there is only borrowing money. There is always more and more debt and more rules. People, authors, business etc. are so consumed with there own issues that they fail to focus on the main issue. All the nonsense in the news is distraction. Greedy people are easily distracted. Show them what they crave and you can steal their lives right from under there noses.
The same thinking that causes some people to whine about being taxed to much, causes others to whine about people who whine about…and so on. While we fixate on the sideshows our lives disappear. One by one a light goes out in a window. We don’t notice. We are trying to bring down people in khaki pants, or lighter skin, or different religions. “My ideas” is exactly the same as “me first”. Exactly.
The beast is at the door. The house is on fire. The children are dying. It’s time to get serious. Time to grow up. There is no Mommy and Daddy we can cry to and ask that the bully be punished.
The sad part is the real issue is not hiding. It’s on the news, in the papers, shown on c-span, written in books, made into movies, in our faces in plain English every single day, day after day, year after year. It’s only able to go unseen because of our obsession with our own selfish wanting. Wanting our way. Wanting them punished. Wanting our side to win. Wanting to be right. Wanting our way.

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By godistwaddle, August 7, 2009 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

Problem with the French Revolution:  it didn’t go nearly far enough.  The rich need to fear that their continued existence is in our hands.  Most of them didn’t earn it (inheritance, fraud, or theft) and should be ecstatic that we don’t hang them from nearby lamp-posts.

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By thebeerdoctor, August 7, 2009 at 3:10 am Link to this comment

To have an intelligent discussion assumes that there is intelligence present.

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