Mitt’s World

There’s a profile of billionaire Jeff Greene in New York magazine that’s worth reading. Greene thinks the folks who live in the Hamptons need to be a lot less oblivious about what’s going on in the middle class.

“This is my fear, and it’s a real, legitimate fear,” Greene says, revving up the engine. “You have this huge, huge class of people who are impoverished. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we will build a class of poor people that will take over this country, and the country will not look like what it does today. It will be a different economy, rights, all that stuff will be different.”

So, yeah, he’s worried about his own skin, but you get a sense that he understands that upward mobility is getting more and more impossible, and people are sinking.

This past April, at the Milken Conference, the annual confab hosted by the felon turned philanthropist, Greene sat on a lunchtime panel with Charles Murray, the author of Coming Apart: The State of White America, and historian Niall Ferguson, whose recent book could have been called the same thing. “Do you see this?” Greene asked the audience, pointing to a slide that showed the widening income gap. The crowd, whose members had paid the $6,000 entry fee to get investing tips, not guilt trips, made restless noises. Then there was a smattering of impressed applause, followed by uneasy laughter. Greene blinked, surprised. “People look at Occupy Wall Street as, This is just a little kind of a disorganized joke,” he said, raising his voice. “If we take another 10 percent of middle-class America’s income, who knows what kind of other social unrest could happen in this country and the changes that could happen to our way of life?”

You might remember that Charles Murray’s new book postulates that the reason so many white folks are falling into poverty is that they have abandoned American cultural values. The white middle class is sinking because they aren’t getting married and going to church and being “industrious.” Hold that thought.

Get this:

More often than not, fears like these manifest as loathing for the current administration, as evidenced by the recent wave of Romney fund-raisers in the Hamptons. “Obama wants to take my money and give it to do-nothing animals,” one matron blurted at a recent party at the Pierre for Dick Morris’s Screwed!, the latest entry into a growing pile of socioeconomic snuff porn geared toward this audience.

Greene, a registered Democrat, isn’t buying this school of thought. “It is kind of a problem in America that so many Americans believe if they elect a different president, everything is going to be fine. This whole idea of American exceptionalism, that we’re the greatest, when people don’t have health insurance, don’t have housing,” he says, swinging past the guesthouse, which has 360-degree views of the bay, and the staff house, which does not. “There are all these people in this country who are just not participating in the American Dream at all,” he says. This makes him uncomfortable, not least because they might try to take a piece of his. “Right now, for some bizarre reason, a lot of these people are supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy,” he says. “At some point, if we keep doing this, their numbers are going to keep swelling, it won’t be an Obama or a Romney. It will be a ­Hollande. A Chávez.”

So, basically, at least part of the 1 percent appears to believe they are the 1 percent not because they got really, really lucky or enjoyed extraordinary opportunity, but because they are inherently better than everyone else — More virtuous, more deserving, more industrious, even if they are living on an inheritance.

This takes us to Mitt’s statements about Palestinian culture — yesterday he denied he had said anything about Palestinian culture, and then he published an op ed in National Review restating his remarks on culture.

I strongly suspect this is the real Romney. It explains why he doesn’t think he needs to explain anything. He doesn’t need to show his tax returns. He doesn’t need to cultivate good relations with the peons in the press corps. He’s just inherently superior, and everyone ought to be able to see that. And all America needs is more “freedom,” which means tax cuts for the rich and less regulation for the financial sector.

See also Paul Waldman, “Mitt Romney Thinks You’re a Sucker.”

7 thoughts on “Mitt’s World

  1. Mitt’s statement on ‘culture’ suggests that Israelis have a better economic system because they are culturally superior. He kinda skipped past the evidence of the gulag of the Gaza and the embargo that prohibits basic materials – like concrete. How are they supposed to build an economy? But the statement suggests a tenet hels by the left and the right that is fundamentally flawed.

    Here in FL, the governor introduced a program which requires drug-testing for welfare applicants. The implication, popular on the right is that there is a character flaw, like drug addiction, which is the root cause of their poverty. The compulsion to pass moral judgement is overwhelming.

    The left does it in reverse. If you are rich, you are obviously a thief, or you inherited it, or you bribed your way into a racket of some kind. You should pay higher taxes because we (on the left) have passed moral judgement. Do you see two sides of the same coin?

    Taxes should not be skewed based on the moral value of the source of the income. (If the source of income is criminal, that’s a different subject.) Our tax code is written around all sorts of rationalizations, some quite fantastic, that allow an individual, business or industry to skip their obligation to pay their share.

    When you look at assistance, food stamps or housing assistance or medical – the issue should be need – not morality. Florida had every right to drug test IF they were going to offer intervention in addition to assistance. If a person with a drug habit needs food stamps, you don’t address either problem by denying him food.

    People with needs should be evaluated for assistance based on their need. Passing subjective moral judgement has no place in the formula. (Objectively evaluating what other intervention besides food and shelter is needed is appropriate – if the goal is to help the person become independent of gov’t help, rather than find an excuse to deny that help.)

    But the left has to kick the same habit. Income is income – assign tax levels without passing moral judgements as a justification – and knock off blanket condemnations of the rich. Some are scoundrels, some are fine people probably in ratios about equal to the poor.

    Whether providing for the poor or collecting taxes (from the rich) – government is NOT A CHURCH – and moral judgements are not supposed to be a criteria.

  2. These symptoms happen over and over again in history. I’m certain the opinions held by today’s 1% are only different in degree, not in kind, from the opinions of other detached elites, from the French Revolution to our own Gilded Age. No different.

    They also happen in fiction – a classic Star Trek episode, The CloudMinders depicts a similar world and a similar dynamic:

    SPOCK: This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts. Those who receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership.

    What’s truly sad is that a bit of timeless wisdom espoused by a fictional character in a 1960s tv show, something that seemed completely obvious to the overwhelming majority back then, has become something rare and at odds with the now-dominant culture.

    The real Romney:

    …he doesn’t think he needs to explain anything. He doesn’t need to show his tax returns. He doesn’t need to cultivate good relations with the peons in the press corps. He’s just inherently superior, and everyone ought to be able to see that.

    …is the same attitude espoused by the real George Bush when he said Who Cares What You Think?.

  3. Doug,

    I fail to see moralizing on the part of the left (yes, you can find exceptions). The key is what gets the best result, and high taxes on the ones using most of the support system has shown itself to be quite successful in creating wealth and prosperity, that is all.

  4. “I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”

    So, if that’s the case, why don’t we begin our Presidential primaries with this:
    “Ladies and gentlemen, START YOUR CPA’S!”

    And the person who pays the least, based on percentage of total income, wins!

  5. Doug,
    It seems to me that the moral judgements from the right at this time, equate poverty with immorality, and wealth with morality – because obviously God is punishing the immoral, and rewarding the moral, people.
    And that wealth and poverty can also be cultural. “White” cultures are wealthier, while “Black and Brown” ones are not. And as far as the “Yellow” ones – that seems to depend on their politics — the capitalist ones, like the Japanese, Taiwanese, and South Koreans, are moral, and the Chinese and North Koreans, are immoral Godless Communists, who kill people’s initiative, while seizing their money.

    The moral judgements from the left, aren’t on wealth, it’s on what someone does with that wealth – and sometimes, how that wealth is acquired.

    The ones who make money by actually producing some tangible products or goods, pay their fair share of taxes, and then use the profits from that money to move society forward, are not people anyone has any issues with. Examples are, Bill and Melinda Gates, and their foundation, and whacky Ted Turner, who gave a billion dollars to UNICEF.

    It’s the people who are trust fund babies, who, with lowered estate tax rates, are becoming as ‘generational’ as people in poverty. THEY did nothing to earn their money, except be members of “The Lucky Sperm Met Lucky Egg Club.” Having said that, no one has any issues with those trust fund babies who use some of their money for philanthropic purposes. It’s the ones who are greedy, and do nothing except use their money trying to make more money, to meet their, and their offspring’s, selfish wants and needs.

    And it’s people like the Koch Brothers, who, while making money by producing tangible goods, then take their profits and use them, not for the benefit of society as a whole, but forpolitical purposes to further their own selfish interests – manipulating the “public servants” and the political system with laws and tax rates that help them attain their selfish wants and needs. Sheldon Adelson is another of this type – making money off of gambling (and, maybe, prostitution – and if not making money off of it, seeming not to mind if sex workers are the reward for the “High Rollers”), and then trying to influence national elections – again, for his own selfish wants and needs, and those of his “economic class.”

    Yes, it would be better if all people, right and left, religious or not, did NOT pass judgement.
    But we are humans, and we DO judge other people.
    The problem is when that judgement includes morality – and, at least in my opinion, morality is something that’s that’s inseparable and inevitable in most religions.
    Our individual and group positions in life cannot, and should not, be looked upon as some God or God’s, rewarding or meting out punishment, based on some group idea of morality – which come from HUMAN interpretation (of projection) of that God(s) message, and will.

    Rather, those people’s lot’s in life are as much, call it “Luck” or “Providence,” as they are skill, knowledge, and hard work.
    Under slightly different circumstances, the Koch Brothers could as easily be two guys retired from working the line – living off their SS, with their pensions gone, the money used to reward the corporate executives of the company they spent their adult lives working for.

    What bothers me the most about these extremely religious people (or the ones who use religious beliefs to their advantage), who judge economic status as a sign on morality, and God’s love or displeasure with you, is that they forget that old saying – “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

    We’d be a much better country, and a much better world, if, when we looked at one another, rich or poor, healthy or sick, we remembered two old sayings, “There but for the grace of God (Luck, Providence)…,” and, “Do unto others…”
    We all know how those old sayings go.
    It’s just that while most people have “heard” them, too few people listen and understand those old sayings, and try to apply them to their daily lives.

  6. moonbat – how right you are – “detached elites” reminds me of Marie Antoinette’s famous “Let them eat cake” when told that the French people didn’t even have bread to eat.

    I happen to live (by a gigantic fluke) in a neighborhood surrounded by multi-millionaires and maybe a few billionaires. It’s not a ‘pleasant’ place to live. My neighbors are surly, unhappy, paranoid, miserable, bored, rude (even crude) malcontents. Go figure. To the familiar saying, “Money is the root of all evil” I would add that Money may also be the root of all unhappiness.

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