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

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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