I took a class in college in African American Literature. An interesting “chicken or the egg” issue came up early on: America didn’t participate in slavery because it was a fundamentally racist society, America developed racism because it embraced slavery. It was in the 18th century, for example, that American seminaries started teaching future ministers that black people didn’t have souls.
Why did such odious ideas arise? Because of cognitive dissonance–people couldn’t stand enslaving others if they were equally human, so they had to start thinking of them as something less than normal to assuage their consciences.
Most of the things I’ve seen about the rich paying “their fair share” are so heavily loaded with harsh language against the rich, like the irrational racial prejudices of the past, that it can only be that we’ve decided to stigmatize their wealth the way we used to stigmatize skin color: so we can assuage our consciences about this virtual slavery.
Just yesterday alone, I read a few columns and political cartoons about the budget that were all soaked in tones of violent anger towards the rich. This isn’t about helping the poor, it’s about hating the rich.
Remember those Washington Mutual ads a few years ago which mockingly showed a couple of dozen older white men in suits acting spoiled, superior, and out of touch? Imagine an ad campaign that made fun of a negative stereotype about anybody other than rich white men. Outrageous.
Almost every time someone writes about raising taxes so that the rich will pay “their fair share” and the poor will be taken care of, any number of reasonable questions arise: What right do we really have to seize anyone else’s property, even for something that might be good? Who are we to determine what’s fair? How do we know that our definition of “fair” isn’t itself unfair? If it’s possible to take too much, how do we know we aren’t doing it? Have we considered the long term consequences of such a cavalier policy of convenient looting?
Isn’t making the rich pay a disproportionate share of their wealth to support the whims of the majority, while openly scorning them as awful people, tantamount to endorsing slavery?
By singling out the relatively small portion of the population that has earned a million dollars or more, and treating them by a harsher standard than is expected for the rest of us, aren’t people indulging in the same kind of narrow-minded double standards that they decry when the targets are racial or sexual minorities? Why is it OK to exploit anybody?
Aren’t the rich a minority, too? Why don’t they deserve the same protection and dignity as everyone else? Why are insults and stereotypes accepted when they’re directed at this group?
This is class warfare, entirely propagated by the middle and lower classes for fashion’s sake, and I worry that it will someday turn dangerous.