Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Politics of Envy ^ | May 5, 2012 | John C. Goodman

Posted on 05/05/2012 3:34:02 AM PDT by Kaslin

Why are so many liberals obsessing about inequality? Why does the president keep talking about rich people as part of his re-election campaign?

Two things to remember about the pundits: (1) the chattering class has to chatter about something and (2) the worst thing for a professional chatterer is to be ignored. One thing to remember about the president: he desperately wants to be re-elected.

Here’s the overall problem: The political left has no solutions to our most pressing problems. Whether the issue is economic growth or runaway entitlement spending or non-performing public schools, left-of-center solutions were tried and found wanting here and abroad during the last century.  Further, the only solutions that seem to work today are right-of-center — requiring privatization, individual empowerment and free markets.

For Barack Obama the problem is even worse. If the election is about the economy or government regulation of the economy, or whether bigger government or smaller government is the solution to what ails the economy, the president is almost certain to lose.

So what to do? Make up a problem whose only solution appears to be higher taxes and bigger government. That’s where inequality comes in. It’s a way to change the subject. It’s a way to find a scapegoat to blame (explicitly or implicitly) for the problems at hand. It’s a way to distract attention away from the fact that the president is not solving our problems (and even making them worse!) toward people who are not generally loved. It’s also a way to justify a more active role for government.

There is nothing new about any of this. The tactic of finding a scapegoat to blame for our problems and using the argument to justify more government power is as old as politics itself.

During the Great Depression, people were in misery everywhere and political leaders had no idea what to do about it. In Germany, Hitler made a scapegoat of the Jews and blamed them for Germany’s economic problems. In the United States, racist politicians in the South and Midwest blamed economic bad times on blacks, other minorities and immigrants. At the national level, Franklin Roosevelt did the same thing with the wealthy. In fact, his administration launched an attack on 60 wealthy families — calling them “plutocrats” and blaming them for prolonging the Depression and preventing economic recovery.

Granted, Roosevelt didn’t put wealthy individuals in concentration camps. He didn’t burn crosses on anyone’s front lawn. But he definitely violated the civil liberties of our most successful citizens and their families, and he skillfully used the politics of division and envy to distract voters from real problems and real solutions. As Amity Shlaes reports in The Forgotten Man, Roosevelt got the IRS to delve into their tax returns; he got the Justice Department to pursue criminal investigations and prosecutions — even when there was no obvious crime; and he got the Securities and Exchange Commission to publish the salaries of utility executives in order to publicly shame them.

Roosevelt had tax commissioner Guy Helvering give out the names of 67 “large wealthy taxpayers (Pierre du Pont included), who by taking assets out of their personal boxes and transferring them to incorporated pocketbooks have avoided paying their full share of taxes.” He referred to the wealthy as “princes of property,” even though he was wealthy himself. His Interior Secretary, Harold Ickes, railed about an “irreconcilable conflict” that “must be fought — until plutocracy or democracy, until America’s 60 families or America’s 120,000,000 people — win.”

Barack Obama has obviously learned from that experience. High gasoline prices are a political problem? Blame the oil companies. Families are hurting? Blame the rich. People are not successful finding a job? Blame the most successful 1%.

What is surprising about the current era is the willingness of respectable economists to become pawns in this scheme. On “Morning Joe,” Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs complains about rich people “sucking up all the income.” Paul Krugman frequently implies that the gains of the rich have come at the expense of the non-rich. But no economist has actually come out and said that the top 1% are the cause of our failure to recover from the Great Recession.

Until now. In yesterday’s New York Times column Paul Krugman finally goes over the top. Resurrecting the Roosevelt term “plutocracy,” he blames the failure of economic recovery on the country’s billionaires. “Money buys power,” he writes, “and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties [guess which one?], in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.”

There’s more:

And the takeover of half our political spectrum by the 0.01 percent is, I’d argue, also responsible for the degradation of our economic discourse, which has made any sensible discussion of what we should be doing impossible.

You have to wonder, who does Krugman think is attending those $35,000-a-person dinners to support the president’s re-election campaign? Is he really unaware that Obama receives far more funding than any Republican from Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street? Does he really not know that almost all of the largest foundations have fallen into the hands of liberals? Or that worthless heirs are hugely in the Obama camp?

Go figure.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections

1 posted on 05/05/2012 3:34:05 AM PDT by Kaslin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

If not envy, then an inaccurate economic worldview. In sane economies money circulates and rich people don’t cram their gold into mattresses to leave to their pets, in the meantime doing nobody else any good. Rich people are the best customers of poor people.

2 posted on 05/05/2012 3:39:40 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Mitt! You're going to have to try harder than that to be "severely conservative" my friend.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Krugman, yes, the party that will not cooperate is the Democratic party. It’s their way or the highway.

3 posted on 05/05/2012 4:45:43 AM PDT by yldstrk ( My heroes have always been cowboys)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

The rich people are Democrats, not Republicans. The Democrats lie about this however. Look at Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi

4 posted on 05/05/2012 4:47:04 AM PDT by yldstrk ( My heroes have always been cowboys)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

I’m more convinced than ever that Obama refuses to allow the Keystone pipeline proceed because it would demonstrate how effective private enterprise is. If it were a government program, it would have started years earier.

5 posted on 05/05/2012 4:55:34 AM PDT by monocle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

If you knew the mindset of the average Dem, you’d know why Obama keeps talking up class warfare. Many of my Dem friends and family members were/are obsessed with the fact that some people have more than they do. All I heard from a lot of them over the years is that it just wasn’t “fair” that some people were rich and they weren’t. (Dem males more than females...Dem females I know are obsessed with abortion “rights.”) Obama speaks to those people. He will right those wrongs. He will make sure they get what’s rightfully theirs and make the nasty, greedy rich give up theirs. As long as one person has one dollar more than some other person, the class warfare tactic will be used. It’s the basic pillar of the Democrat Party.

6 posted on 05/05/2012 4:58:41 AM PDT by driftless2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: yldstrk

They can’t help it. Lying comes natural to them

7 posted on 05/05/2012 5:02:37 AM PDT by Kaslin (Acronym for OBAMA: One Big Ass Mistake America)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Their lips are moving so we know they are lying?

8 posted on 05/05/2012 5:05:22 AM PDT by yldstrk ( My heroes have always been cowboys)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Thou shalt not covet.

Of the Ten Commandments, God gave us only one about personal behavior because of its destructive nature.

9 posted on 05/05/2012 5:33:03 AM PDT by griswold3 (Big Government does not tolerate rivals.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: driftless2
This describes most of northeast Minnesota.
10 posted on 05/05/2012 6:40:02 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin; All
Plain and simple, Obama's world view, derived from the ideas in which he immersed himself earlier, is at odds with the Constitution's strict and severe limits on the power "the People" allow its elected representatives to possess.

"The People," who, according to Justice Story's "Commentaries on the Constitution. . . ," are the "only KEEPERS", of that Constitution must, themselves, understand those limits and bounds on coercive power in government, or they may be hoodwinked into temporarily yielding up their constitutional rights to what George Washington described as a leader "more artful" than the rest.

In this President, we see an "artful" individual who is using every semantic and ideological maneuver he can come up with to extend his "reign" and to break the "chains of the Constitution" (Jefferson) on his power.

Thus, the use of that powerful and destructive appeal to the human capacity for "envy" and division of the voters, pitting those who have less against those who have more material possessions, because he understands that the numbers of potential votes among those of the former exceed those of the latter.

All the while he is pulling this magic trick in the media, he is, himself, especially enamoured of the very "rich" "millionaires and billionaires" he castigates for vote-getting purposes to the general public. Check out his black tie fund-raising parties. They are not conducted among ordinary people, even though he "envies" the poor people's "contributions" to his power grab also.

"Equality before the law" is the great principle underlying America's Constitution.

The President's utopian view is of a forced equality which reduces all to a level of mediocrity well known throughout history and in the modern world.

Americans should hold fast to the Founders' ideas of liberty instead of allowing its leaders to plunge it into European-style socialism.

From the Liberty Fund Library is "A Plea for Liberty: An Argument Against Socialism and Socialistic Legislation," edited by Thomas Mackay (1849 - 1912), Chapter 1, excerpted final paragraphs from Edward Stanley Robertson's essay:

"I have suggested that the scheme of Socialism is wholly incomplete unless it includes a power of restraining the increase of population, which power is so unwelcome to Englishmen that the very mention of it seems to require an apology. I have showed that in France, where restraints on multiplication have been adopted into the popular code of morals, there is discontent on the one hand at the slow rate of increase, while on the other, there is still a 'proletariat,' and Socialism is still a power in politics.
"I have put the question, how Socialism would treat the residuum of the working class and of all classes—the class, not specially vicious, nor even necessarily idle, but below the average in power of will and in steadiness of purpose. I have intimated that such persons, if they belong to the upper or middle classes, are kept straight by the fear of falling out of class, and in the working class by positive fear of want. But since Socialism purposes to eliminate the fear of want, and since under Socialism the hierarchy of classes will either not exist at all or be wholly transformed, there remains for such persons no motive at all except physical coercion. Are we to imprison or flog all the 'ne'er-do-wells'?
"I began this paper by pointing out that there are inequalities and anomalies in the material world, some of which, like the obliquity of the ecliptic and the consequent inequality of the day's length, cannot be redressed at all. Others, like the caprices of sunshine and rainfall in different climates, can be mitigated, but must on the whole be endured. I am very far from asserting that the inequalities and anomalies of human society are strictly parallel with those of material nature. I fully admit that we are under an obligation to control nature so far as we can. But I think I have shown that the Socialist scheme cannot be relied upon to control nature, because it refuses to obey her. Socialism attempts to vanquish nature by a front attack. Individualism, on the contrary, is the recognition, in social politics, that nature has a beneficent as well as a malignant side. The struggle for life provides for the various wants of the human race, in somewhat the same way as the climatic struggle of the elements provides for vegetable and animal life—imperfectly, that is, and in a manner strongly marked by inequalities and anomalies. By taking advantage of prevalent tendencies, it is possible to mitigate these anomalies and inequalities, but all experience shows that it is impossible to do away with them. All history, moreover, is the record of the triumph of Individualism over something which was virtually Socialism or Collectivism, though not called by that name. In early days, and even at this day under archaic civilisations, the note of social life is the absence of freedom. But under every progressive civilisation, freedom has made decisive strides—broadened down, as the poet says, from precedent to precedent. And it has been rightly and naturally so.
"Freedom is the most valuable of all human possessions, next after life itself. It is more valuable, in a manner, than even health. No human agency can secure health; but good laws, justly administered, can and do secure freedom. Freedom, indeed, is almost the only thing that law can secure. Law cannot secure equality, nor can it secure prosperity. In the direction of equality, all that law can do is to secure fair play, which is equality of rights but is not equality of conditions. In the direction of prosperity, all that law can do is to keep the road open. That is the Quintessence of Individualism, and it may fairly challenge comparison with that Quintessence of Socialism we have been discussing. Socialism, disguise it how we may, is the negation of Freedom. That it is so, and that it is also a scheme not capable of producing even material comfort in exchange for the abnegations of Freedom, I think the foregoing considerations amply prove."

11 posted on 05/05/2012 10:07:49 AM PDT by loveliberty2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin
Blame & Envy Cocktail--Demagogues' Path To Power.

Obama is on an old, familiar & despicable path. Unfortunately, it has worked to major human detriment, before.

William Flax

12 posted on 05/05/2012 11:35:52 AM PDT by Ohioan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin
YOu can sum up the perennial core of the democrat platform in these few words: "If you vote for us, we'll take money from those other people, and give it to you."

Everything else is just details.

13 posted on 05/05/2012 5:53:38 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson