NYC and my Fiscal Politics

About three months ago, I had an experience in the subway that really blew me away and solidified my fiscal politics. I didn't write about it at the time because I was feeling writer's blocked, but it seems important enough to reach back a little bit.

I was riding the subway home from a fancy dinner with my parents, who were in town for Thanksgiving. I was carrying a bag full of various leftovers they'd given me, which I planned to gleefully eat over the next week. I'm not exactly flush with cash, so free food was a luxury I was looking forward to.

As I was sitting there in a half-dozing, full-stomach, late-night stupor, a woman got on the subway and began one of those hat-in-hand speeches that you often hear from bedraggled people on the trains. She was missing most of her front teeth and had graying hair sticking out from the sides of her head. She said, "You're all I've got and I'm hungry and thirsty." She started to ask for whatever pocket change we could spare.

Well, I was sitting right next to her and I had all this food, so I just handed her a big thing of risotto that my parents had given me.

She stopped mid-sentence. Probably mid-word. She looked the container over, opened it, and started eating right there with her hands. She didn't really look at me, except once because I was watching her (I said, lamely, "Happy Thanksgiving,") and she got off at the next stop, still wordlessly eating.

I was so struck by her facial expression and the way she took that food. This woman was clearly starving. She had not eaten in days. It was obvious, and my heart just broke.

It's so impossible to understand living in this city. You can walk up Park Ave and see all the fancy shops and the women with obvious plastic surgery and fur coats and fancy cars with drivers. I collect hundreds of dollars sometimes in single donations on the street. And yet, there are people here who are starving.


So, it became immensely clear to me that there's no reason that the kind of extreme wealth that's on display in this city should even exist. There's just no sense in it when we could tax those people into a semblance of reasonable life and be able to feed and house the people who need it.

I'm not saying people shouldn't be able to build up money and that there shouldn't be fiscal rewards for work. I do think it's important to have a bell curve of socio-economic status. I just think we need to cut off the ends, eliminate the outliers. So yeah, still pay doctors more and let people at the top have higher salaries, but there's just no reason for anyone to have gold dinner plates or private jets or whatever. It's just gratuitous.

So I guess that makes me something of a socialist, although not an extreme one by any means. That's something I'd shied away from for a long time because I felt like our fiscal politics were very, very complicated and trying to take a stance when I don't fully understand them would be silly. But really now, I can at least grasp a general concept and think it's close to the right thing to do.


On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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