Today's class warfare is a "weird thing," National Review's Victor Davis Hanson writes, because poor people have got it so damn good right now. He writes, "The typical welfare recipient now owns a sophisticated cellphone a fat cat corporate CEO not long ago did not." President Obama might fly to Los Angeles in a private jet, but "a poor person on a discount nonstop ticket" can get there slightly slower for much cheaper. Hanson's essay is supposed to be about Obama's jobs plan, but it's really mostly about convincing himself that poor people don't have it that bad. His column is only one of many recent laments about Obama that indicate the rich people who are complaining about his politics don't need a new economic plan, they need shrinks.
Wealthy donors are reportedly abandoning Obama, and in their complaints, there's been a lot of defensiveness and hurt feelings. "It's going to be very hard for the president to bash the rich and create jobs at the same time," Anthony Scaramucci, who gave Obama $4,600 in 2008 but is now backing Mitt Romney, recently told Bloomberg. "It's really hard to convince Wall Street donors to give to someone who is trashing their industry," a donor told Politico. But the best example of this is a recent blog post by Ted Leonsis, who owns a bunch of Washington sports franchises. Leonsis, who counts himself an Obama supporter feels betrayed, "demonized," hurt:
I voted for our President. I have maxed out on personal donations to his re-election campaign. I forgot his campaign wants to raise $1 billion. THAT is a lot of money–money–money–money! Money still talks. It blows my mind when I am asked for money as a donation at the same time I am getting blasted as being a bad guy!
New York's Jonathan Chait finds it pretty funny: "Good and evil? Demonized? What is this man talking about? Obama has not said anything remotely like this. His riff on raising taxes for the rich has always described the Bush tax cuts for the affluent as tax cuts for people 'who didn't ask for them and don't need them' -- which is specifically designed to shield the rich from any blame."
But in many cases, it's not about the policy -- Leonsis even says that under certain conditions, he'd be willing to pay "even more taxes." The problem is Obama makes them feel guilty for being rich. The bulk of Leonsis's post is about setting up his street cred: He came from humble roots, working-class parents whose great ambition was for him to be "produce department manager at a grocery store in my neighborhood." Not that there's anything wrong with that, he says. "I would have been proud to work hard to become a leader in a grocery store and I bet I would have been good at it, too. By luck and hard work, my career took a different path." Now he owns owns 50 hours on NetJet for the "rare occasion" he needs a private jet. Look, he's got a "nice home with a housekeeper" -- but only one. Most of the time he takes the Acela, okay? (That's only $232 for a one-way ticket from Washington to New York.) "I have never seen our President on the train, have you?" Leonsis sneers. "I bet there is more staff at the White House though? And Camp David."
These are not complaints about marginal tax rates or individual mandates. This is a guy who feels like he's being told he should be ashamed for his lifestyle by a rich guy who lives like a king (for now). But even those who have major policy disagreements seem to ditch political economics for some psychosocial fears. The National Review's Daniel Foster laments what all this rich-bashing has done to the national character -- people don't aspire to be like rich people anymore:
Look, resenting the rich is nothing new in America, and it doesn't -- in and of itself -- constitute "class warfare." ... But there was an America I've heard about -- I wasn’t around to see it -- where that resentment was countered and constrained by admiration and ambition. That is, by the desire to one day be rich oneself.
But why even bother trying to get rich when, as Hanson laments, the perks of being rich aren't even that great anymore. "Some of the less-well-off go to school for near free on scholarship packages to state universities. Other students pay $200,000 for a four-year private college -- sometimes for the prestige of the degree rather than any quantifiably better education," Hanson writes. It's a great point. Those who went to state schools on Pell grants often tell themselves that rich people didn't learn anything with their fancy Ivy educations. It sure is nice to hear it from an actual rich person.