The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One Percent

President Obama has escalated his class warfare rhetoric in what appears to be a desperate attempt to gain some political traction among many within his base who are becoming increasingly disaffected with his leadership. Although class warfare is a common political meme among those on the Left, the President is the first chief executive in my lifetime who has been so strident and obvious on the subject.

Rep. Paul Ryan ((R-Wisconsin and certainly no friend of the President) characterized the President’s class warfare strategy in the following manner:
"He gave us a message of hope three years ago of uniting, not dividing. And what we're getting now is class warfare. We're getting very polarizing rhetoric that puts class against class, pits people against one another. And I would simply say sowing social unrest and class resentment does not make America stronger, it makes America weaker."

It seems that the Occupy Wall Street movement has picked up on the President’s meme and introduced the term “one percent” into the political lexicon. The term is pejorative, suggesting that those who reside in the top one percent of all income earners somehow did not work hard for their wealth, did not pay taxes or paid them at an unfair rate, do not contribute their “fair share,” and are therefore subject to government mandated income redistribution. The one percenter cut-off income of just under $600,000—is far, far beyond my personal income. Yet, I don't sympathize with those who are now trying to demonize the one percent.

Over the years, I’ve worked with and have known many one percenters. In the main, they work very long hours, take substantial risks to build businesses that employ others (sometimes, many others), pay their taxes at rates that exceed those of the other 99 percent, are philanthropic by becoming major donors for charities, universities, the arts, and medicine. Relatively few work on Wall Street. Many are politically liberal. And yet, if you are to believe the President, they’re somehow to blame for uncontrolled spending, skyrocketing deficits, and 9.1 percent unemployment.

The President and his supporters appeal to anger and envy when they talk about private jet owners and billionaires who pay taxes at rates that are lower than their secretaries. They want the listener to extrapolate these anecdotal accounts to everyone in the one percent. In reality, it’s likely that billionaires and jet owners make up less than 1 percent of the one percent and are hardly representative.

It also appears that politics has more to do with one’s membership in the one percent club than annual income or wealth. Consider the following conversation between CNN’s Piers Morgan and Michael Moore, reported by :
Piers Morgan:I need you to admit the bleeding obvious. I need you to sit here and say, I’m in the 1 percent, because it’s important.
Michael Moore: Well, I can’t. Because I’m not.
Morgan: You’re not in the 1 percent?
Moore: Of course I’m not. How can I be in the 1 percent?
Morgan: Because you’re worth millions.
Moore: No, that’s not true. Listen, I do really well. I do well. But what’s the point, though?…

Moore denies the obvious. His net worth is well in excess of $50 million. He earns additional millions from his movies and books. He goes on the claim that because he "cares" about the "workers" and has dedicated his life to their plight, that he somehow doesn't qualify for the one percent. Of course, many others in the one percent care about their workers by creating businesses that employ them, a work environment that supports them, and opportunity for those same workers to progress to higher levels of achievement and income. But somehow, that doesn't seem to count.

By Moore’s logic, I’m certain that Al Gore, Sean Penn, The Clintons, and thousands of other multi-millionaires are also not members of the one percent. To Michael Moore and those who think like him, only those people who are politically agnostic, centrist, or conservative qualify for one percent demonization. It’s not about the money—it’s about the ideology.

It seems to me that Moore clearly understands that one percenters are being demonized. That’s probably why he adamantly claims that he’s not part of the group. Discarding all logic, he ignores the definition, steps through the looking glass, and baldly states that he is not a one percenter.

Well, neither am I. But I know demonization of a particular class of people when I see it. It’s distasteful at best and dangerous at worst. I expect those things from Michael Moore, but I believe that the President of the United States should be held to a higher standard.