Book of the Month

Hunting the rich?

The Economist's September 24 print edition has a cover story called "Hunting the Rich": http://www.economist.com/node/21530104

Awhile back I made a cultural comment about victim envy--how everyone, no matter how relatively well off, seems in our day to want to portray themselves as a victim for political advocacy purposes.

I was reminded of that comment on seeing that Economist cover page this morning on the newsstand.

The rich in this view--their view--are the hunted.  (for purposes of this piece I'll arbitrarily define "rich" as bringing in more than, say, $10 million a year.  There are any number of ways of defining "rich", all arbitrary, which put to bed the convenient charge by people who truly are rich that those making $250,000 or $350,000, say, are not rich.  And, as I've written, in high cost of living parts of the country, that is not a ridiculous claim.)  Not the predator.  Or the sociopath.  The hunted.  They victims of misplaced resentment among the ungrateful masses.  

They are the hunted on this view because others are trying to force them to share more of what is rightfully theirs.  The audacity of those masses.  Who do they think are?  What is theirs is owing to their talent and merit and obvious superiority.  They don't owe anything--or at least nothing more than they're paying now--to anyone else.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is nothing more than a thinly disguised would-be thief.  Tax and regulatory avoidance is their mantra.  They know better how to spend their own money than any lame government.

The truth that is difficult for the rich to swallow is that they bring such sentiments upon themselves.  They do this through their refusal to share money or power, and by their abject callousness towards the vast majority of those who, nominally at least, live in the same societies as they do.  All made possible by their extraordinary insularity.  They live in their own world in which they are society's last true heroes, who must defend themselves from becoming victims of the immoral leveling tendencies lesser humans are susceptible to.

There is the occasional Warren Buffett.  And any individual wealthy person could decline to play the tax avoidance game on their own, as some surely do.  Rich people differ in as many ways as any large group of individual humans.  But in their impact on economic policies they behave as a class and have in the past few decades in the U.S. been engaged in vicious class warfare to--very successfully--shift not only taxation but risk burdens away from themselves and onto others. 

I'll be among those declining to send notes of sympathy in response to their pity party.  They can change the situation in a heartbeat, in responsible and socially beneficial ways, if they choose to.  Or--eventually--in ways much less to their liking, it will be changed over their objections, as it were.  The other thing about them is that most of them don't seem to know much history.

 

Related to this, see Rove's September 28 WSJ online piece, "On Obama's Risky Run to the Left"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204138204576598723352014938.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Rove--consummate class warrior, he--can only wish his readers will buy his framing.  It's flatly incorrect.  Congressional--and Obama's--actions on this issue have been wayyyyyyyyy to the right of public opinion. Obama is moving in the direction of what is overwhelming public sentiment on this matter.  Call it the "center", more meaningfully and accurately understood, for those who like the sound of that better.  

Good read...it just shows how deep in the weeds his party is in. All he can talk about is class warfare and then go into polling numbers on the president.
The world's economy has changed and now the rules the wealthy used to maintain their status is now being redefined. The uncertainty of this change is threatening to them. Being asked to pay more taxes is not being hunted. It is not like they are being voted off the island. The social contract of this society requires them to make sacrifices where needed too.

Well said.

Well, the fact is, the wealthy have seen gains just shy of 500% in the last 25 or 30 years. The rest of us? Maybe 20% which isn't enough to keep up with energy and housing costs.

IOW, the rich have been stealing the wealth created by the productive class, and as those occupying Wall Street have realized, WE WANT OUR MONEY BACK.

So yeah, they should be quaking in their boots. Most of us have decided to trust our own "lyin'" eyes rather than believe their nonsense.

You are right. It must be scary to learn that selfishness is not a virtue or good business.

I don't think the Economist did the rich any favors by introducing the idea that they were hunted.

Thanks, Dreamer..

Awhile back I made a cultural comment about victim envy--how everyone, no matter how relatively well off, seems in our day to want to portray themselves as a victim for political advocacy purposes.

Why not. It's worked so well for Israel for so long.

What an ugly and uncalled for comment.

It's highly offensive and has zero to do with this blog. WHAT IN THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

It's offensive to call it like it is?? Israel has always played the victim card. And this blog post is talking about the rich playing the victim card. The rich won't get very far with it but Israel has gotten a lot.

It "helps" that Israel has actually been invaded several times by its neighbors (i.e., they have been victims in every sense of the word). I don't defend all of Israel's actions, but I do understand why many Israelis are a wee-bit paranoid.

I mean, if you're black, and someone threatens to lynch you because of that, are you "playing the race card" if you call the police?

this blog post is talking about the rich playing the victim card. The rich won't get very far with it

If so, then I confess I've been wrong for many years now.  I'd thought, based on the data and the policy outcomes we've seen, that they've gotten away with it for most of the past 30 years.  Look at the continuing high and growing levels of inequality in the U.S.  Look at which portion of the income and wealth distributions have accrued vast increases during that time as median incomes and living standards have stagnated or declined.  The data on this is so overwhelming that even occasionally honest conservatives (David Brooks is the person I'm thinking of now) acknowledge it, while usually disagreeing with raising taxes on uber wealthy people as one means to address it.  I would have thought it would be difficult to avoid exposure to this data for any reasonably aware citizen.  But then again I have to remind myself how easy it is for people to expose themselves only, or mainly, to views they already agree with, and screen out the inconvenient or unpleasant ones to hear.

As for Israel...sigh.  You have a point that since I made a point about victim envy it's fair to explore its wider applicability, or not.  I've written on I-P before, not a whole lot, as I tire of the subject more readily than I used to.  I see Israel, both historically and now, as both a victim and a victimizer.  It's pretty typical of human behavior to focus much more on the ways one is the former and not the latter.  If and when that changes we'll see more justice in this world.

Truth hurts.

Thanks Chicken, ain't gonna ruin AD's thread.  xo

Hey Dreamer, Wolfrum featured your piece at Crooks & Liar's: http://crooksandliars.com/william-k-wolfrum/mikes-blog-round-15.

Thanks for letting me know.  I feel honored that he thought it worth linking to at such an esteemed site.  I figured there had to be some explanation such as that for why it got a relatively high amount of hits overnight and into today.  Or maybe it was the semi-obligatory, or at any rate seemingly inevitable, invocation of I-P.  Had to happen.  surprise

Congrats, AD, and very well-deserved.

Thanks for linking to the article.  Good read.

I would say more but do not think the powers that be want me to since they disappeared my two attempts during composition. :D

 

As an addendum on this topic, near the end of last night's Ravens-Jets NFL broadcast, Al Michaels made a throwaway joke about how Warren Buffett wants one of the players in the game who'd gotten a big contract to pay more taxes. 

I've long thought that Al is a great broadcaster.  I have to think he puts in a hell of a lot of time and care into preparing for his broadcasts.  The likely lack of time Al has to devote to reading up on various perspectives on relative burdens of US taxation policies, coupled with his generous compensation package (some--unconfirmed, I wish to stress--reports have his net worth at $20 million or thereabouts, with annual salary at $2-3 million; either way it's probably safe to say he's not having trouble meeting his mortgage payments) may give some context for the gratuitous barb directed at Buffett late in the broadcast. 

It's just Al's politics I don't care for.  I have to say I wouldn't mind if he spared his audience those views and stuck to his night job instead.  He has maxed out to GOP candidates during some election cycles when I've checked the publicly available information on that--and not, as many large companies and wealthy interest group lobbies do, also given to Democrats in order to be able to ensure access to whomever the voters elect.  Which he has every right to do.  As do I to share that publicly available information.  Maybe the U.S. Supreme Court will give us a second generation Son of Citizens United decision, whereby even that information will no longer be publicly available.

I'm trying to figure out who to feel sorrier for, NFL players or CEOs...

Am mixing it up a bit with an amazon review commenter (on Robert Frank's new book, The Darwin Economy, which I disagree strongly with on at least one point, have significant questions about on others, and think is a provocative and very worthwhile read) on the tax issue here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1EDI2IZUIDDWP/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0691153191&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful

S/he exhibits movement libertarianism in its full frontal ugliness, which appears to necessitate a bunker mentality, and, arguably, a generic contempt for most of one's fellow citizens.  Of course true movement libertarians in my experience tend, operationally if not explicitly, to agree with Thatcher that there is no such thing as "society", only individuals.  Given that view it's hard to see what concept of "citizenship" can follow. 

It's really a great philosophy for true misanthropes (not the apparent ones one sometimes finds around these parts--scratch the surface of their cynicism and most of them are probably just depressed and/or fatalistic idealists). 

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