We’ve decided to get with the times and start hating rich people. All the cool kids are doing it, so our previous attitude that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house suddenly seems terribly old-fashioned.
Being au courant on the class envy craze is proving more difficult than anticipated, however, because it isn’t quite clear who the rich people are and which ones we are supposed to hate. The recent “fiscal cliff” agreement only raises the income tax rate for people earning more than $400,000 a year, for instance, but perhaps we should still be hating anyone raking in more than the $250,000 a year that the president has always set as a threshold for hatred. There are probably a lot of people out there making between $250,000 and $400,00 a year, so it would save us a lot of energy if we were to forgo hating them, but one can never be too careful when striving to be trendy.
That “fiscal cliff” agreement also contains several reminders that some rich people are to be hated more than others. Buried in the bill are numerous tax breaks for certain essential industries, such as stock car racing and Puerto Rican rum, but apparently the people enriched by such frivolous pursuits as energy, aviation, and agriculture are still to be punitively taxed. The motion picture industry is also exempted from any punitive taxation, of course, and as always the people who become rich by being pretty and able to convincingly pretend to be someone else are to be adored rather than hated. Perhaps this is because movie stars are exceptionally fine people who take time out from their busy schedules of making blood-splattered shoot-‘em-ups to demand that guns be taken from law-abiding citizens.
Such blatant hypocrisy always seems to confer an immunity from class hatred, somehow, although we’re still trying to discern all the subtleties. We see that Al Gore just picked up yet another $100 million by selling his stock in something called Current TV to the al-Jazeera network , making sure he got the sale done ahead of any tax hikes, but we expect that he’ll retain his membership in the un-hated rich. One hundred million bucks is a lot of money by anybody’s definition, and it’s coming from a network owned by dirty-oil-rich Qatar, which intends to use the little-seen network’s cable access to spread its pro-terrorism editorial policy, but so long as Gore flies on private jets from his opulent and energy-consuming mansion to spread the warning about global warming he will likely remain one of the officially designated good guys.
Gore was once a Democratic presidential nominee, too, and that also seems to mitigate the evil of wealth. The John Kerry-John Edwards ticket was by far the richest in the history of presidential politics, but we can’t recall anyone raising any of the moral objections so many people had to Mitt Romney’s much smaller fortune. Maybe that’s because marrying into money or ambulance-chasing malpractice suits that drive up the cost of medical care are more honorable occupations than rescuing companies and their workers from bankruptcy, which will surely screw somebody over at some point, but we suspect it has more to do with party affiliation. To say that our current Democratic president lives like a king would understate the matter by many millions of dollars, judging by the difference in the American taxpayers’ cost of supporting their First Family and what the British spend on the royals, but so long as he’s willing to repay a small portion of it on tax day he’ll always be regarded as a righteous class warrior.
Lacking any information about a particular rich person’s voting registration, political ideology seems to be the most reliable indicator of how much we are supposed to hate them. Warren Buffett has become extremely wealthy by providing tax shelters for his fellow rich people, but he urges further tax hikes on the rich and thus his wealth can be forgiven. The Koch brothers have become extremely wealthy by providing the public with affordable refined gasoline, and then worsened the offense by using some of the money to promote free market capitalism, so of course they are to be hated with a special passion. “Pinch” Sulzberger has made his family less wealthy by turning its New York Times into an unreliable purveyor of left-wing propaganda, so we suppose he’s some sort of saint, but we can’t say for sure.
We’ll eventually figure out all the vexing rules of class envy, and then we’ll begin hating in earnest. It sounds like great fun, and if things keep going as they have been the past four years it might be the only entertainment we can afford.
— Bud Norman