How to Hate the Rich

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

The Lowdown On Low Info Voters

The most popular political cliché of the past election was “low information voter.” This newly identified category seems to have replaced “Soccer moms,” “NASCAR dads,” and “angry white men” as the hot bloc that every campaign simply must have.
Despite our usual aversion to neologisms we rather like this coinage, certainly more than any of its recent predecessors. We’ve never met anyone who could be adequately defined as a “Soccer mom” or “NASCAR dad,” and the many angry white men we’ve known are no angrier than the angry people of other races and sexes, but we’ve encountered so many low information voters over the years that it seems necessary they should have a name. “Low information voter” has a drearily sociological ring to it, and we would have preferred something more acerbic, but it will do.
The term is neatly self-explanatory, at least, describing someone who persists in exercising his franchise despite having little knowledge of the issues or candidates that he’s voting about. No one knows precisely how much of the electorate matches this description, but everyone agrees that it’s a sizeable share. There are enough of them, we’re sure, to determine the outcome of an election.
For many years it was the consensus of liberal opinion that the more ignorant voters were inclined to vote for Republican candidates, and such snobbery still stubbornly persists in some quarters The would-be wags at the Urban Dictionary site, for instance, define a low information voters as “One who votes based on information gleaned from other low information voters, rumors, viral emails, and FOX ‘News,’” and cites as an example someone who “will vote against labor unions” despite the unalloyed wonders wrought by the labor movement. Since the past election, however, even such impeccably liberal publications as The Hill were forced to admit that the Democrats are now winning the lion’s share of the low information voters.
Some Democratic partisans even point with pride to the Obama campaign’s careful courtship of the low information vote, a strategy that included the president’s penchant for appearing mainly on such entertainment shows as The View, Late Night with David Letterman, The Daily Show, and, as we never tire of mentioning, The Pimp With a Limp’s radio program. We stand by our frequent criticism that such appearances demean the dignity of the president and his office, but are now forced to concede that it is apparently shrewd politics.
Even without the president’s participation, though, the mass entertainment media that low information voters flock to provide a constant flow of propaganda that is helpful to the Democrats. Businessmen are almost invariably depicted as villains, religious people are routinely ridiculed, class resentments are encouraged, and everywhere a notion of “cool” explicitly associated with liberalism is celebrated. Most of the news media are just as bad, hyping every Republican misstep to a point that even the most determinedly uninformed voters will hear of it while avoiding any mention of the numerous Democratic scandals that would be front-page material if they had happened during an earlier administration. Those few outlets that do report information critical of Obama are easily ignored, and wind up with the word news put in sneering quote marks.
We’ve spoken with numerous Obama supporters who were blissfully unaware of the Fast and Furious fiasco or the Solyndra debacle, to mention just two of the embarrassing stories that somehow haven’t dogged the administration, and these people include regular readers of The New York Times and other supposedly respectable publications. More apolitical acquaintances of ours don’t know that the federal government has been borrowing a trillion dollars every nine months for the past four years, and when informed of the fact they don’t seem to understand that a trillion dollars is a significant amount of money. They feel entitled to revel in their intellectual superiority to Sarah Palin, though, and know all about the Republicans’ racist and sexist ways even if they can’t cite any examples of these character flaws.
Wooing these voters will be difficult for the Republicans. The Democrats’ tax-the-rich philosophy has a natural appeal to voters who have come through the egalitarian indoctrination of the public schools, for instance, and refuting it requires facts about the exceptionally progressive nature of the current tax system and talk of Laffer Curves and capital flight that seem to have a painful effect on the brain of a typical low information voter. Almost all of the arguments for conservatism are complex and often counter-intuitive, and none have the low-brow entertainment value of the President of the United States slow-jamming the news on the Jimmy Fallon show. The Democrats’ argument that they will give free stuff and the stingy Republicans won’t is quite simply understood, on the other hand, and the counter-argument involves less immediate consequences that the low information voter is content to wait for so long as the goodies keep coming.
So far the best advice the consultants can offer is that conservatives start schmoozing on the talk shows more often, and being as hip as possible when doing so, and that’s probably a good start so long as they don’t embarrass themselves in the process. A more effective solution will require changing the culture, though, and that’s going to be a lot more difficult than just enduring the company of the late night comedians who provide the low information to all those voters.

— Bud Norman