I come from a fairly privileged family. I'm not talking Rockefeller wealth, but we did okay. Even with all the perks, one thing that was always drummed into me and the rest of my generation was the responsibility we had to give back for all that we had been given. Certainly, that teaching has informed my liberalism and I hope that I am passing down that same attitude to my children now.
Sadly, there are not enough people enjoying the good fortune of their lives who understand that life is not a zero-sum game and that helping others makes things better for all of us as well. But billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer shares my feelings of obligation and actually teared up talking about the need to give back:
"You said that you would be willing to have your taxes higher. Many Americans, particularly those who are successful say, hang on, I did this work, this is a capitalist society, this is my just reward. You disagree with that notion," anchor Christiane Amanpour asked Steyer.
"I certainly do," he said.
"Because?" Amanpour asked.
"I think anyone who doesn't give credit to the system that they are born into is taking an awful lot onto themselves. I mean, I really think that people have sacrificed a lot more than a little tax money to make that system available for all of us. And I would be ashamed of myself if I didn't give some credit to them," Steyer said, choking up and pausing to regain his composure.
It's easy to take a cynical view of the weepy billionaire, but Steyer actually does put his money where his mouth is. A signatory to The Giving Pledge, Steyer has promised to donate half of his fortune to charity and has already given money to various philanthropic sources, including the successful defeat of Prop 23 here in California.