October 18 2012

Class Warfare: The New Bigotry

Charlotte Hays

One of the most disheartening aspects of the current presidential campaign season has been President Obama’s relentless class warfare strategy.

You could hear the president’s contempt for those who have been successful in his “you didn’t build that” speech.

There is something else disturbing: the president’s class warfare rhetoric seems to imply that the rich have somehow stolen from the rest of us. If they weren’t so rich, we would be better off. It should not come as a surprise that this reflects a gross misunderstanding of how capitalism works.

In Forbes magazine, John Tillman, CEO of Illinois Policy Institute, a free-market think tank, points out something else bad about class warfare. He calls it “a form of bigotry” that “shouldn’t be tolerated any more than we would other forms of bigotry in public life.”

Most people think of bigotry only in terms of race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. But at its core, bigotry simply is intolerance – which all too often leads to singling people out for attack based upon their group identity.

It is interesting that attacks such as the ones lodged by POTUS (who seems to quite like millionaires and billionaires when he doesn’t need scapegoats) don’t consider how many of the rich started out. The president, despite his own smashing successes in life, regards our class system as static.

POTUS's attacks don't take into consideration this:

Think for a moment about the small business entrepreneur just starting out in his basement, mortgaged to the hilt, wondering if he will make it. Everyone loves these heroes when they are struggling to survive. But when they rise from the basement and make it all the way to the penthouse, these heroes suddenly are “not paying their fair share.” Today, it is open season on them….

Think about who the 1 percent are. They are entrepreneurs who have pursued life, liberty and happiness. For many, pursuit of a dream is the root source of their wealth. They risked some of their own money and perhaps recruited investors to put in some of theirs. They hired workers to join them in making this dream a reality. Some of those workers became 1 percenters, too.

And how do these dreams come true? By operating businesses that succeed by serving others well. That is the essence of the free market and capitalism. Despite all its flaws, despite the risks, despite the many challenges, success is achieved by serving others well. This should be championed, not vilified. It’s surreal we must be reminded of this.

For most entrepreneurs and business people who become part of the 1 percent, it takes years of hard work, massive sacrifice and perpetual resilience.

For President Obama, at least in his campaign rhetoric, when he sets citizen against citizen, the rich are seen as people who have benefited from inheritance, luck, or federal programs for which they are insufficiently grateful. This idea is as obsolete as the spats-wearing millionaire on the old Monopoly board. Many rich people have created their own wealth. As for inherited wealth, yes, they’ve benefited from somebody else’s exertions. But (pace death tax supporters) the original creator of that wealth should have every right to determine who gets her wealth.  

President Obama seems to think that Mitt Romney got rich closing factories rather than creating jobs. Note to president: if a business fails, it is not good for investors. But more than his economic ignorance, I deplore the president’s attempt to sow seeds of class hatred.

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