Both the rich-defenders and the rich-haters are right in their own way, given what they’re focused on.
This was previously published on New Plateaus.
Are you mad at rich people? Do you respect them? The class warfare debate is as alive as ever, and an article in the New York Times stirred the coals with this piece. It says that France’s new Socialist President, François Hollande, is eyeing a 75% income tax for French citizens who make over $1.25M a year.
This is music to some folks’ ears, but to others the music sounds more like the theme to Jaws. It’s a matter of perspective, dependent on how you see the rich. Indeed, there are different ways to get to “the top”, and herein lies the disconnect in reactions to this news.
And this disconnect is very polarized today.
Tough economic times (caused in large part by some rich people) has the less-wealthy eyeing the more fortunate with scorn and jealously. The scorn for the rich’s irresponsible actions; the jealousy because as families scratch for food money, rich folk can wonder which color their new Mercedes should be.
And in a time when the rich and the poor are also being more polarized, it’s no surprise, then, that all the rich get categorized as the enemy: the 1%. But while some rich get to be so at the expense of the middle and lower classes, and while they do leverage their governments to create the rules in their favor, this doesn’t define the majority of millionaires out there.
For most rich people, their wealth is an indication of how hard they work, what they do with their money, and the resultant growth they generate to the economy and job market. A salesman gets a 10% commission and sells a ton of product; an inventor creates a device that makes life better for others; a business owner expands and can now offer jobs to more workers. These folks are the lifeblood of an economy. And as they increase the size of the pie, they should be rewarded, and we should be thankful for them because our eight-hour work day in an air-conditioned office, enough extra money to by iPads, and the resources to provide education and a social safety net wouldn’t be there without them. Laborers make the economy go, but these rich are responsible for seeing it elevate from the agricultural to the industrial to the electronic.
A protester wouldn’t have the luxury of spare time and extra money to take off of work and buy the paper and markers needed to make and hold up his sign:
To take this thinking further (and what may sound crazy in these economically trying days), it would actually benefit a country to tax these rich folks less. Let these doers, these job creators, these wise investors, keep more money because they’re doing a wonderful job with it—certainly a more efficient job than government has the removed capability to be.
But people who don’t like the rich either don’t understand this or only focus on those rich folks who get rich at the expense of others. It’s understandable people conflate the two, but know there’s a big difference between a Goldman Sachs exec, and say, John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods. And the irony is that while taking your frustrations out on the rich, you’re going to harm all the rich, and this will include taking away resources from those who use them best for all. It’s cutting your own nose to spite to your face.
Mackey (left) has created thousands of jobs. Lloyd Blankfein (right), CEO of Goldman Sachs, played a big role in the financial crisis then got billions in bail out money.
The idea is to grasp this difference.
Our inability to do so allows this sloppy idea that it’s simply the rich vs. the poor. The bourgeoisie vs. proletariat. It’s simplistic and inaccurate when both the poor and rich work together as they do so often. It’s incomplete to see the rich as all Goldman Sachs types; similarly, it’s incomplete to exclude them when considering the upper class. Both the rich-defenders and the rich-haters are right in their own way, given what they’re focused on. We can broaden our perspectives to include both truths.
When doing so, we see that our common concern is in eliminating the ability for the “bad” rich folks from fleecing the poorer. Eliminate the enabling laws, prosecute those who steal, use the power of organized labor to stand up to abusive bosses, and have sensible regulations for working conditions. In other words, stop doing what’s been done so much in U.S. history: using government to help allow the bad rich to thrive.