It's a plausible strategy to foment resentment of the rich, given how many people are suffering financially. The Occupy Movement is but a sorry asterisk in recent history, but the hatred it engendered for "the 1%," a group that the rest of us wouldn't refuse if offered, is being carefully managed toward saving Obama's presidency.
|Trainer Jan Ebeling on Rafalca|
In May, a front-page New York Times story detailed Ann Romney's interest in dressage, formal horse-riding, an expensive sport that she began in order to combat physical weakness when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Mrs. Romney's interest led to part-ownership of a few steeds, and one of those, Rafalca, will compete in the London Olympics August 2. The Guardian snarker Hadley Freeman wrote, "...the only sport the Romneys could be involved in that would make them look wealthier than dressage would be gold-coin diving in their family safe (previous winner: Scrooge McDuck)."
Stephen Colbert is all over dressage, noting on his show, "There is basically no better way to dispel the myth that Romney is detached, patrician, elite than competitive horse prancing--I mean, it's basically Nascar in a velvet top hat." He then dons what appears to be a donkey head and hoofs, dances around, and adds, "by the way, I'm available to stud." LOL.
Of course Colbert's TV competition, Jon Stewart, had his own jabs, especially when Donald Trump endorsed Romney: "If two ivy-league-educated business tycoons from wealthy families can find common ground, even when one is a billionaire and one only a multi, multi, multi-millionaire, maybe there's hope our country isn't so divided after all."
Then, yesterday's New York Times Travel section featured a half-page photo with vantage from the bow of an expensive, vintage boat on Lake Winnipesaukee, "where Mitt Romney has a house." The reporter, seeking to "vacation like Mitt Romney," tried boating on the lake, renting a jet ski, and dining at Mis en Place: "I smiled deeply," Henry Alford writes, "Romney-impersonating can be so broadening." Snicker, snicker.
|Romneys at their vacation house|
And of course anti-Romneyites love vilifying Bain Capital, as if turning around companies from debt to profit is greedy rather than helpful. So far, I've seen lots of ink about how conniving Bain attracted and disbursed funds, and heartlessly laid off workers while restructuring. But no one suggests Bain acted illegally, and even critics concede its efforts resulted in a net gain in jobs.
Why is Bain Capital so despised? Because its partners earned what every American wants--wealth. And what do they do with that wealth? Well, Mitt Romney, for one, gives a whole lot of it to charity. Yes, he gives the largest chunk of his donations to his church--as any religious person would--and its university. But the Romneys also give to a range of other causes, many of them devoted to children.
Stirring up voters' envy encourages anger directed to others, rather than gratitude for the many privileges our citizens share. And how does that feel? Envy adds to stress and feelings of incompetence and frustration. Not good for personal psyches.
Envy relies on the notion that wealth is a zero-sum game, where rich people steal from a limited pot, thereby depriving everyone else of that amount. The issue caused a fuss four years ago with then-candidate Obama's suggestion to Joe the Plumber that wealth, a static, finite bunch of money, ought be "spread around" out of fairness.
The fact of Romney's success, however, speaks to an uplifting and inspiring possibility--that wealth can be expanded by industrious entrepreneurs, and, being unlimited, is available to all. No need to snatch away a well-off person's profit when you can amass your own. You can give the 1% a tax break with the rest of the nation if you believe you can become one of them.
It might be a convenient distraction for Obama's campaign to criticize the Romneys for their lifestyle expenditures, but in so doing the strategy disheartens constituents and suppresses economic recovery. The message that "the rich" are selfish, greedy and uncaring makes normal folk want to distance from them, rather than emulate them.
And I'm tired of reading about it. Since when is the president supposed to be "the little guy" or struggle financially? I'd rather have a leader who's demonstrated competencies, and received rewards for his efforts. I want an emblem of success, a brilliant thinker whose educational accomplishments demonstrate that. I want the president to be better than me; better than the general populace; I want him (or her) to have emerged as the best and the brightest, ideally an exemplar of the finest behavior, which includes humility and fidelity.
I want a president to model the opposite of envy. Sometimes I wonder why the last of the Ten Commandments tells adherents to repress an emotion. I can understand the other commandments--God would want to establish His authority to give orders, and then express rules for civil behavior. But coveting? Why should a thought, or even an urge, be a problem? No harm, no foul if, as former President Carter confessed, you "lust in your heart," right?
True, once you permit internal lust, then it's easier to to justify enacting your fantasies.
But beyond that, coveting--envy--is the segue to every negative emotion, and ultimately, continuing unhappiness. "Who is rich?" asks Ben Zoma in the Jewish "Ethics of the Fathers."
The answer: "He who is content with his lot, as it is said, 'When you eat of the toil of your hands, happy shall you be, and it shall be well with you." Similarly, later in the "Ethics," Rabbi Elazar ha-Kappar says, "Envy, lust and vainglory take a person out of this world (shorten a person's life)."
That's the issue--"the politics of envy" causes emotional distress and makes a less-than-perfect situation infinitely worse. If Mitt Romney has lots of cash, great; there's still enough for the rest of us, especially if we engage "the toil of our hands" and create our own wealth.
I don't share political views with Zappos' CEO Tony Hsieh, but he named his autobiography "Delivering Happiness" because expanding his workers' pleasure increased benefits to his customers, which in turn paid off in greater profits. In other words, the opposite of envy--giving with an open hand and celebrating others' success--increases our own well-being.
I hope the Romneys--and the Obamas--enjoy all they've earned, and that this jealous wealth-bashing stops. Please. Let's talk about the condition of the nation, and proposals for the future. Focus like a laser beam on the economy and foreign affairs. Everyone wants to be rich; and our nation will fare better if citizens feel they just might get there.