President Donald Trump, speaking at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, touted the wealth of some of his top economic advisers. ‘In those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person,” he commented. (June 22)
“The rich are different from you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald is quoted as saying.
Fitzgerald went on to write “The Great Gatsby” about old money, new money and the pathologies and psychoses inherent in each. One of his contemporaries bluntly put wealth in perspective and Fitzgerald in his place.
“Yes,” said the irascible Ernest Hemingway. “They have more money than us.”
When it comes to wealth in America, it’s complicated. Some despise the wealthy while aspiring for affluence. Politicians play on this dissonance, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama to Bernie Sanders and, to a degree, Donald Trump. Attitudes about wealth divide us.
In 2015, Gallup found 86 percent of Democrats thought the distribution of wealth is unfair while 56 percent of Republicans felt riches are fairly distributed. Only 31 percent of independents said wealth was fairly distributed.
When it comes to government taking from the rich to give to the poor, 75 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents wanted the feds to play Robin Hood. Only 29 percent of Republicans wanted government confiscation and redistribution. Lower-income and younger Americans were more likely to support redistribution.
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But Pew Research Center in 2012 found some interesting attitudes given the envy exposed in the Gallup poll. In a study headlined “Yes, the Rich Are Different” Pew found a plurality of all surveyed felt the rich are more likely to be viewed as intelligent and hardworking. Respondents also thought the rich are more likely to be greedy and less likely to be honest.
Which brings me to the Tennessee governor’s contest. GOP gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Mae Beavers said in a recent statement she has been fighting the “establishment” for years. “The bottom line is that conservatives can’t be bought by the moderate millionaires,” Beavers said.
In her populist zeal, Beavers, intentionally or not, dinged the past two Tennessee governors, Republican Bill Haslam and Democrat Phil Bredesen. Haslam is reportedly the wealthiest elected official in the nation while Bredesen got plenty rich in health care before offering his services to the public. But Beavers for sure dinged a couple of her Republican opponents.
Randy Boyd is running across the state — literally — and got rich starting his own business. Bill Lee built his bankbook in business and just finished an RV tour of all 95 counties. Diane Black is plenty wealthy as well. Meanwhile, criticism of the rich guys rises on social media as some conservatives complain about wealthy candidates being able to “buy” the governor’s mansion.
Ironically, Beavers and many tea party types just last year praised a wealthy businessman, a guy who knew how to get things done, a guy not beholden to special interests because he already made his money. Beavers and the others who disdain “moderate millionaires” embraced another rich guy. His name is Donald Trump. And he certainly is different from the rest of us.
Greg Johnson’s column appears on Fridays. Follow him on Twitter @jgregjohnson. Visit his Greg Johnson Opinions Page on Facebook. Email him at email@example.com.
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