Monday, June 25, 2012

Tack Room

Booman on class warfare:

I’m tired of hearing people on the right talk about class warfare and people envying success and hating capitalism and all that nonsense. I’ve run a progressive website for seven years and I’ve read a ton of progressive comments and opinions. There are always a couple of people who want to cap income or radically redistribute wealth, but they make up about two percent of the American left. The other 98% don’t have any problem with Bill Gates or Steve Jobs making a cajiillion dollars. If you made a ton of money, that’s great. Good for you. You want to buy a fancy car and seven or eight homes? Fantastic.

What people overwhelmingly object to is the idea that we need to balance our budget by cutting our Social Security benefits or our Medicare benefits or entirely by cutting programs that help people in need or that help people get ahead. Federal, state, and local income taxes haven’t been this low since Harry Truman was president. I’m not kidding about that. They went up because of the Korean War.

In other words, the reason we can’t have nice things is because it means very rich people might have to pay one or two percent more of their income in taxes. And that would mean the end of Western civilization as we know it.

I grew up in a nice suburb with a lot of well-off people. They were neighbors, family friends, and their kids were classmates. I’m pretty sure at least one or two of them had fortunes that rivaled the Romneys. But you sure couldn’t tell it by the way they lived. They had nice houses, not huge palatial spreads. They drove Buicks or Ford LTD’s — no one would be caught dead in a Cadillac (even the local funeral home had a hearse built on an Oldsmobile chassis) — and a lot of them did their own gardening and yard work. They also gave back to the community, doing work for charities that benefited all of society, and they did it with very little public recognition. Signs of ostentation and conspicuous consumption were considered to be, as my mother put it, tacky.

People who flaunt their wealth are asking for scorn and derision. It’s not that the 99% are jealous or envious; it is the lack of self-awareness that showing off your extravagance might be considered boorish. And in a time when the economy of just about everyone else is suffering, talking casually about the number of homes you own, the number of Cadillacs you drive, or the tax write-off you get on a horse is just plain gauche. It doesn’t mean you have to live in a shanty, but it might be a good idea to understand why the people who do live in them might not want to hear about it. And it is especially grating when they know that you earned a lot of that money by screwing over people and sending their jobs to other countries.

It’s ridiculous to whine about class warfare when you don’t have any to begin with.