Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Joan Walsh is puzzled:
What explains the toxic mélange of entitlement and shame that’s driving the raging 1 percent sore-winner backlash? From Tom Perkins comparing the ultra-rich to Jews during "Kristallnacht," to tycoon and newspaper-destroyer Sam Zell insisting "the top 1 percent work harder," to investment banker Wilbur Ross proclaiming that "the 1 percent is being picked on for political reasons," there's an epidemic of plutocrat self-pity afoot. Just last week ex-CEO of Morgan Stanley John Mack told the media to "stop beating up on" CEOs Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein after they got obscene raises from JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

The sore winner backlash is odd timing. There's no longer any real movement to hike taxes on their income or their wealth, both of which are at all-time highs. President Obama has said an increase in tax rates is "off the table." There’s no more discussion of the “Buffett Rule,” named for the Berkshire-Hathaway oracle who famously suggested his secretary should no longer pay higher rates than her boss....

So why all the whining now?
Walsh blames "buried guilt and practiced entitlement." I don't think that's quite right -- certainly not the "buried guilt" part. I think if you want to understand this, you should look to the gun rights movement.

I've said for years that gunners enjoy believing they're under siege. If criminals are everywhere, and if government is always on the verge of turning fascist and tyrannical, then the adult toys gun owners enjoy become tools of justice and civic virtue, and gunners become heroes. Even if the things they fear never come to pass, the belief that those threats are imminent feeds gunners' Walter Mitty fantasies. (Ultimately, of course, this mindset gives us George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn killing unarmed black youths, and Curtis Reeves killing Chad Oulson for texting in a movie theater.)

The rich want to believe that they're under siege, too. That would make them heroes just for continuing to show up at their offices, and for giving a few people jobs. If the rich are under siege, then whatever they want government to do to the have-nots -- cut the social safety net, permanently refuse to raise the minimum wage, transfer even more of the tax burden to the 99% -- is justified, because those people are trying to harm them. That makes the millions the rich contribute to pro-plutocracy, pro-inequality politicians the only reasonable response: What? We're supposed to have a social contract? With these savages who want us dead?

I don't think the angry rich feel the slightest guilt. Just the opposite. They think they're the ones fighting to keep the barbarians -- us -- away from the gates. They perceive an imminent threat -- and as in Florida, it doesn't matter whether that threat is real so long as they feel it is. So they're standing their ground.


Raymond Smith said...

I agree the rich in the USA are scared of the Average American rising up and rebelling. I would not be surprised if they feel that they are like the aristocratic class of the French Revolution.

What I am waiting to see is how long the Average American is going to continue to take the "Let them eat cake" attitude of the rich.

Jules said...

They're heavily invested in lumber, hardware and power tool manufacturers.

So if they incite the masses to rush out and build tumbrils, gibbets and guillotines, they'll make a killing!

Unknown said...

I feel confident in saying these bastards have never felt guilty about anything, much less being a rich 1%er. It's more like a "How DARE you?" situation.
They feel they are beyond being questioned about the circumstances of their wealth, and the system that enabled it. Furthermore, they don't want any such questioning to inhibit their future earning power.
I like Walsh, but really, it's not that mysterious.

Victor said...

As long as they're even only fairly decent programming on TV, and the NFL and other sports are drawing eyes, then there'll be no reason for people to put down their remotes, get up off their fat asses, look around at how they and their neighbors are struggling, and maybe even thinking about doing something about it.

Most people, even the poorer ones, in the US have it better than in the countries that are currently having problems - the Middle East, Ukraine, etc - and we have just enough entertainment "soma," that we don't want the trouble of losing what we still have, to make the wealthier realize that they can't have it all.