One hears a lot of noise these days in and out of the Capitol about "the 1 percent" those at the top of the income pecking order and the moral imperative to levy higher taxes on them to support public services.
The narrative from left-wing activists and their political allies is that those at the top have rapaciously gathered more wealth while the poor get poorer and those in the middle class struggle to keep afloat.
We'll hear a lot more in the coming months because Gov. Jerry Brown and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature are beating the drums for a ballot measure that would raise income taxes on high-income Californians by about $8 billion a year to narrow the state budget deficit.
Although the higher taxes would kick in at $250,000 in taxable income, they've dubbed it a "millionaires' tax" and at one point, Brown defended the label by opining that someone who makes a quarter-million a year would become a millionaire in four years.
He later backed away from that ridiculous assertion. Nevertheless, the die is cast for class warfare in California this year. And that makes one wonder why Democrats who rail about the rich want to enhance the incomes of a few dozen individuals who already are paid several hundred thousand dollars a year.
We're talking here about the few dozen members of a quasi-private organization that supplies harbor pilots to ships entering and departing from San Francisco Bay.
The annual report of the San Francisco Bar Pilots Benevolent and Protective Association says that during 2011, the "average net income" of those pilots was $451,336, up nearly $60,000 from the previous year and twice as much as they received in 2002, when the Legislature last increased their rates.
Last year, the pilots sought a rate increase, citing higher operating costs. The Democrat-controlled Assembly voted for their legislation, carried by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, but it stalled in the Senate.
This year, Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, introduced a new bill to increase pilots' incomes by imposing extra charges when multiple pilots are needed for some ship movements, thus overturning an attorney general's opinion that such added fees are illegal.
Assembly Bill 2287 drew sharp criticism from shipping companies and business groups and was stripped to little more than a shell in the Assembly Transportation Committee last week a shell likely to be filled later with new language about second pilots and compensation, probably in the dead of night.
It's apparent that the pilots, always a politically influential group, have Democrats' support which once again raises a question about motives.
If the rich are already getting too much, why should Democrats help some of them get richer?