Read any article mentioning Obama in the general news sites, and you’ll find a lot of ignorant people claiming that the rich liberals are stealing my money. They usually say that the President is some sort of cronyist typical Chicago Democrat fraud-political-machine poster boy, his fat cat banker friends (aided and abetted by the communist IRS) are draining away money from their pockets to add to their own, and that all their (non-skilled) jobs are being sent to China. They claim that we need to take the money back from these corrupt liberals and redistribute it. They don’t always use the word redistribute, but it usually comes down to some philosophy that’s socialist. The rich are ruining our country, so the poor need to take it back. That’s fine – you can be angry, and we all understand anger. What I don’t get is their other favorite argument: those same corrupt liberals are trying to make this country socialist, and that’s bad. Wait. Didn’t you just say that the poor need to take it back? That we need to wrest control from the rich and make Americans equal again? That the pursuit of money is perverted in some way, which is why those CEOs should be considered the scum of the earth?
I was very much amused by the comments section of an article detailing Romney’s declaration that the GOP was a party not of the rich, but “of those who want to be rich.” The outcry is a little strange and mostly hypocritical. I don’t think a lot of people have reconciled their beliefs or really thought out their positions. There are many Republicans and Democrats that believe that aspiring to wealth has perverted politics and the economy in the United States and screwed poor people. Seeing that belief in Democrats isn’t necessarily a bad fit; the desire for more social services and more safety net for the poor helps to counter the greediness of the rich who would otherwise take all the money and leave everybody to rot.
However, seeing self-avowed poor Republicans say these things is just ludicrous. The Republicans are much more business-friendly (and I can say that as a business owner) and so having a voting base of poorer Republicans who are decrying capitalism and the American Way (but who still support Romney?) is just weird. Why is it inherently wrong to be rich? America is the land of opportunity, and everyone who was ever anyone did what they could to get their fair share of opportunity. By definition, taking an opportunity means someone else didn’t. The American Way – most exemplified in the boom of the 1950s, with a chicken in every pot and a car in every driveway – was to always be better, always get better, always do better than your neighbors.
Some would argue that it’s not being rich that’s bad, it’s how you got there that counts. That also becomes sticky. Is paying taxes bad or good? Is avoiding paying taxes bad or good? People grumble that rich people are attempting to avoid taxes, but then they also grumble about paying taxes. They advocate shutting down the IRS but then they want more benefits. They want to push more regulation and cost-bearing onto corporations, but then expect more jobs. What this peculiar state tells me is this: there is a lot of jealousy in the land. Behind jealousy is mass inequality. Behing mass inequality is something more troublesome: social unrest.
Political discourse is increasingly classist these days, despite people being unwilling to say so. The American belief in capitalism is falling (the percentage of people who agree that it should be the American guiding philosophy has dropped since a decade ago); Occupy movements and long-term protests are much more popular (which take away time from job-hunting or entrepreneurship, by the way); and education is faltering and little is being done, with suggestions that to become educated is to also become part of an elite that is destined to rip off the country.
[There are all kinds of examples of the latter, but the one that struck me most today was an op-ed covering sports, of all things. It suggested President Obama do more to regulate the NCAA and college sports, such that they profited university endowments less, and the actual student-athletes and regular students of those universities more. The abuse of the NCAA athletes by the NCAA is particularly savage; many are not paid and still have to cover their tuition and living expenses while the university and NCAA profit millions from TV deals and endorsements - as a student, they cannot be paid as part of being on their college team. The outcry from the reading public wasn't focused on the plight of those unfortunate students; rather, it was that Obama needed to "fix the economy" and "give back our jobs" before doing anything about silly domestic concerns. Some posters even suggested that college sports was something the government should have no legal ability to touch. Yet state college tuition goes up, more students need financial aid or student loans and some will discontinue school for financial reasons... all while those same state colleges pay their coaches millions of dollars. Education indeed.]
While all these are merely ways in which to take a political temperature of a nation, I find it very disturbing that many so-called anti-Socialists would have a gripe against the very pathway to getting rich. I see commenters claiming that “rich people create jobs” being shouted down; apparently, rich people only want to hire as few people as possible, with a maximum of work. That is true – it’s human nature. But if you wanted to take a job rather than create one, you need to work under somebody that bothered to put together the capital and resources to be able to pay you for one. That requires accumulation of wealth and power, or else your job wouldn’t exist. If that’s unacceptable, you’re in trouble… there’s really nowhere in the world that you could go where that principle would not apply.
Guess it all comes down to jealousy. Basically, if I can’t have it, no one else can. But which candidate better reflects this particular mindset? Obama or Romney?