Why Do So Many Super Rich Despise the Poor?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Only days after the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Donald Trump unleashed a tweet that outraged many but surprised few. With millions of Puerto Ricans without food, water, and fuel, Trump lashed out against those islanders literally begging for more federal help.

“They want everything done for them,”  Trump snarled.

“How terribly insensitive,”  millions of us on the mainland muttered in response. “How predictably Trump,” we all sighed. The Donald being Donald.

We’re making a mistake, a big mistake, when we react that way. Trump’s graceless insensitivity doesn’t just reflect Donald being Donald. His comments reflect Donald being rich. Super rich.

Remember Mitt Romney? In his 2012 campaign for the White House, the phenomenally rich Romney displayed the same basic mindset as the Donald, his successor as the GOP Presidential nominee. Some “47 percent” of Americans, Romney told a gathering  of his big-time contributors, “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them and believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Romney’s “welfare bum”-style comments came in a private, behind-closed-doors, no-press-allowed session, a setting where Mitt and his fellow rich could let their hair down and share what they really feel. But why do they feel that way? Why do the rich so often see those who lack the wealth they have in abundance, as ingrates who want everything done for them?

One possible reason: Grand fortune encourages the rich to see in others the approach to life that great wealth cultivates in them. No one gets more “done for them” than the super rich.

Who else but the rich can hire chauffeurs to drive their cars and nannies to raise their children, maids to clean their houses and personal trainers to tone their bodies, chefs to cook their meals and captains to steer their yachts, personal assistants to do their shopping and PR flacks to sing their praises?

Americans of more modest affluence can also partake of some of these services, but only the truly rich have the resources to get virtually “everything done” by others, day after day, year after year.

Life in this entitlement environment shapes how the awesomely affluent interact with the world. They come to see their privilege as the proper order of the universe. The wealthy deserve to be served. Those without wealth do not. If those without wealth did rate as deserving, after all, wouldn’t they already be wealthy?

Social scientists have a label that may be useful here. They speak about “projection,” the phenomenon of projecting onto others what leaves us ashamed in ourselves.

Deep down, the wealthy who have “everything done for them” must at some level feel the artificiality — and inhumanity — of their privilege. We individual humans, as social animals, simply cannot perpetually take without giving. Rather than confront this inhumanity, the rich ascribe it to others.

Meanwhile, the suffering — in Puerto Rico and everywhere else people suffer to survive — continues.

Would some really good therapy turn all this around? Could some ace therapists help the Donald Trumps and Mitt Romneys see the error of their insensitive ways? Most probably not. Grand concentrations of private wealth make the poisons of privilege inevitable. The longer we let these grand concentrations fester, the more poison they produce.

These poisons have only one lasting antidote. Greater equality.

***

Reposted from Inequality.org

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Last year, he played an active role on the team that generated The Nation magazine special issue on extreme inequality. That issue recently won the 2009 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism. Pizzigati’s latest book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives (Apex Press, 2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year ranking from the American Library Association’s Choice book review journal.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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