Michael Albert: “As I recall, I’ve heard you complain that it’s unfair to claim that Democrats engage in ‘class warfare.’ Well, I submit as evidence the column you posted yesterday, ‘I am a job creator: A manifesto for the entitled,’ by Steven Pearlstein. What a mean-spirited, unfair, and prejudiced portrayal of American businessmen. If Mitt Romney was wrong to portray voters who support Barack Obama as irresponsible, why is it right for you to demonize those who have a legitimate claim to benefiting the citizens of this country?”
I do not demonize them. I concluded yesterday’s column by saying I thought most CEOs and business owners are “outstanding, decent people.” How awful is that, really?
And I don’t see an equivalence between what Mitt Romney said about the 47% and what Steven Rothstein was saying about “the job creators” . . . those who, in the context of the current national debate, feel their taxes must be ultra-low because — through their genius and hard work, like Ayn Rand’s heroic John Galt — they make the good life possible for the rest of us. Which they would not have the resources or incentive to do if they were taxed as they were in the Forties or Fifties or Sixties or Seventies or Eighties or Nineties — decades when [sarcasm ON] no businesses were started, no risks taken, no jobs created [sarcasm OFF].
When Mitt Romney said he would never be able to persuade the 47% of Americans who believe they are victims to take personal responsibility and care for themselves, he was wrong on the facts: most people who pay no income tax do take personal responsibility and care for themselves. It’s true, many of them are struggling — but struggling is the opposite of not trying.
In effect, Mr. Romney was kicking these people while they were down — struggling to find work or struggling to get by or on the income from two low-pay jobs or struggling in their old age to make do with the Social Security benefits they paid into the system to qualify for.
Pearlstein, by contrast, is kicking people while they are up, making millions of dollars a year — and not kicking them for their success or their wealth, but for their complaining, even as corporate profits are at record levels and their stock portfolios have doubled. Even after he did so much to keep the economy from collapsing. How dare the President not celebrate their genius in setting up Cayman Island shells and “I Dig It” trusts? How dare he think anyone on Wall Street had anything to do with the near-collapse of our financial system? How dare he side with the middle class and the disadvantaged instead of the billionaires whose estates Mr. Romney insists should be taxed at a zero percent rate?
Surely you know Warren Buffet’s by-now-old line, “If this is class warfare, my class is winning.”
And still they complain, louder than ever.
As the New Yorker points out this week . . . in a story titled “Super-Rich Irony” . . . “hostility toward the President is particularly strident among the ultra-rich.”
Sam Caldwell: “That New Yorker piece fascinates me. Why, when they have so prospered and been so lightly taxed, would they come to hate Obama? Do these guys feel disparaged? Do they feel like they are seen as gilded-age plutocrats? Do they feel like arrows aimed at Romney are hitting them too? I think it’s a visceral, irrational kind of thing. Maybe Obama has not been obsequious enough towards them. They feel like they should be respected and lauded for their great achievements in the Wall Street jungle. To me it’s a question of psychology more than of economics. It’s just so irrational.”
There’s more to say about all this, but let me end by saying, first, that I think most CEOs, business owners, and Wall Street folks are — as I concluded yesterday’s column as well — outstanding, decent folks. And, second, that many of them are supporting the President’s reelection — though fewer than should.