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Okay, let’s have a show of hands. All of you that believe that growing interest in the gap between the rich and the poor is just a case of envy raise your hands.

Okay, all of you with your hands raised can go fuck yourself!


This is apparently the position Mitt Romney has recently taken on the issue. It’s a familiar bit of seasoning that certain elements of the Republican party like to add into the mix from time to time. If the difference between the rich and the poor bothers you, then you must be envious of their wealth. Just work a little harder and maybe you too can vacation in the Bahamas! Just add a reference to “Class Warfare” and stir to taste.

What makes this particular flavor of right wing rhetoric so damned vile is that it shows just how much people like Romney and his corporate masters are focused on the lives of the rich. The lives of the poor enter their minds only when cast in terms wealth and privelage.

If your neighbor has a better lawn than you, that is grounds for envy. If he has a faster car, a better boat, a bigger flat screen TV. All of these things are cause for envy. All of these things can lead to jealousy.

Would that the gap between the rich and the poor could be limited to such differences!

But envy does not explain the anguish of those that have lost their homes in the mortgage crisis; it does not explain misery of those working overtime only to find themselves a little further behind at the end of every month. It certainly doesn’t explain the fear of those without health insurance, or those who can hardly put food on the table.

Neither is it envy when someone who cannot afford basic health care,  feed his family, or pay his mortgage recognizes that that his financial limitations are linked in some sense to the spectacular wealth enjoyed by others. When some can afford luxurious vacation homes while others struggle for basic necessities this reflects an essential value judgement. It means that somewhere along the line the community at large (or rather the majority of people in that community) has decided the one is more important than the other, a lot more important. How folks came to that choice, and how they justify it is another question, but it doesn’t take class envy to question its wisdom.

Of course Romney has an explanation for that choice; it is the wisdom of meritocracy, a system that rewards hard working people with great skills and creative energy more than those who don’t. It’s the same talking point that Rick Santorum was flouting a short while ago, and it will of course be standard fair at every Republican fund raiser throughout this election. But seriously, if you actually think the gap between the rich and the poor is a function of merit, then you can go fuck yourself again.

Grow up people!

There is no Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny is road kill, and money does not magically find its way to those that deserve it most, nor does it flee from the grasp of those unworthy of its benefits. The wealthy are not categorically smarter, harder working, or more creative than the rest of the population. That simply does not explain the gap between the rich and the poor and it never will. It is little other than pretense to haul this old yarn out, just another way of suggesting that the poor do not deserve any better than they can earn themselves by working at the same crap jobs that aren’t working for them now and haven’t been for decades. But how dare those ingrates think they are entitled to any better?

The Republican party faithful would have us believe that poverty is a function of poor character, lazy people making bad choices. Now we can just add covetous character to the list of horribles perpetrated by the undeserving poor. That is the theory Romney us pushing.

But it’s a bullshit theory.

The gap between the rich and the poor is not reducible to lazyness, nor is concern over that gap simply a question of wanting nicer things. When Obama or any other politician raises this question (timid as they may be about it), it is not playing to the envy of the poor. It is addressing a real problem, albeit not one that the Republican party seems to recognize anymore (Hell, even Reagan’s trickle down theories would be an improvement over the present sense of entitlement the GOP fosters among the wealthy.)

Landing on the bottom end of the economic spectrum has serious consequences for the lives of those unfortunate enough to do so. To suggest that Romney’s comments trivialize that problem is putting it mildly. To say nothing of the overall consequences for the economy as ever increasing portions of the population find themselves unable to play the role of consumers which our economy requires. Simply put, if the poor get too poor, they won’t buy things from the rich anymore, and that could have serious consequences for those rich folk.

A vacation in the Bahamas ain’t cheap!

If Romney were simply making the case for conservative fiscal policies, then I wouldn’t fault him for that. Hell, I might even agree with him. But pretending that the growing gap between the upper crust of society and those beneath them is not a real matter of concern is well beyond the pale. Even if you only care about the wealthy, the gap between the rich and the poor ought to be a major concern. But there Romney sits, assuring the nation that this issue is nothing but the preoccupation of folks jealous of other people’s toys.

And this supposed to be the reasonable Republican candidate, the sane one. It’s beyond ridiculous.

Of course some might suggest that Romney knows better. Perhaps he would roll up his sleeves when the cameras are off him and get to work on the economy. He seems to suggest as much himself, and one can only hope that when it comes right down to it Mitt Romney will understand the gap between the rich and the poor is a real problem for a lot of Americans. One can also hope that he will realize he is responsible for those other Americans too, the ones he currently dismisses as envious. One can only hope that their welfare will be somewhere in the list of things he cares about (…albeit well below the bottom line for corporate CEOs. Their welfare must of course come first!)

And that is the hope we are left with in reading comments like this; that the presumptive Republican candidate is just playing to the faithful with this talking point, telling them a good reassuring story about their enemies. Why would anyone care about the gap between the rich and the poor? Personal pettiness. That is Romney’s answer. Its useful answer in that it helps to marginalize even the most moderate of liberals.

It’s also a bullshit answer, one that speaks loads about the character of anyone who utters it. …whether they believe it or not.

I really don’t know if Romney would have raised his hand upon reading the first question of my post.

He can fuck himself anyway.