Money is kind of a worthless thing when it comes to happiness. There was a study a few years ago that found people of median income (the middle 40 percent or so) were the happiest with life, while those at the opposite ends of the spectrum were the least happy. There’s kind of a bell curve when it comes to balancing needs and means. Those with excess means resent the needy, because thier means have purchased misery. The needy resent those of excess means, because misery is all they can afford. As Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake!” And as the peasants responded, “What cake?”
The results of an October 2014 survey by Pew research have once again popped back into the public consciousness, owing largely to yesterday’s CNN Money report “Wealthiest Americans say the poor have it easy.” Why now? Who’s to say? But there’s no doubt that this report seems to have touched a bit of a nerve among CNN Money’s target audience. We’ll let the Pew research speak for itself; these are the results of the questions asked, filtered by income level. “Most Secure” is generally the $100K-and-up crowd, down to about $75K:
For the most part, these results are about what you’d expect; people who don’t have money and live in poverty think the government can and should do more to help the needy. People who have stuff think that the poor already have it too easy, and the government does too much as it is.
But what’s really interesting is that at the top end of the scale, the results kind of turn the old Marie Antoinette stereotype on its (rolling) head. Oddly enough, very wealthy people are more likely to agree with The Poors than upper-middle-class people who the government should do more to help the poor, and that the poor have hard lives. But a lot of them also think that the poor have it pretty easy, because they don’t have to do anything to get government benefits.
That seems like kind of a weird contradiction at first; but it does betray an odd kind of magnanimity on the part of some of the very wealthy. Some. But 51 percent say we can’t afford to do anything for the Poors, and 45 percent say they have it too easy as it is. But it’s the upper-middle class who truly hate the poor. And that shows in thier voting habits. There’s a whole world of insight in these two charts:
As you can see, the very rich are about evenly split between Democratic and Republican, with few undecided. Democratic Party participation stays pretty much consistent throughout the income levels (except for the upper-middle class)…but Republican votes take a dive linearly with income level. Proportionately, the poorer you are, the less likely you are to vote Republican. And those bottom three categories comprise about 90 percent of America.
So, how do Republicans get in office at all?
Because poor people don’t vote, and Republicans are very efficient at disenfranchising those who try. Especially if they happen to have a particularly ‘ethnic’ look about them. Voter participation drops like a rock with income level, particularly among Democrats. And the vast majority of the remaining poor don’t side with either party because (from another chart in the Pew poll) they’re too poor to have time to be political. They’re too busy scratching by in life to get involved with politics, and they’re not especially enchanted with either party.
Apathy among the poor, it seems, is very good for Republicans.
It’s also very good for corporate profits. In this chart we see the same kind of pattern, with the very wealthy (a small percentage of voters) tending to agree with the very poor on corporate profits, and the role and efficiency of government:
Again, we see that proportionately, it’s the upper-middle-class that worships most at the corporate altar, and hates the government more than anyone. But why?
The first: Because this class of people is comprised almost entirely of corporate ladder-climbers. They’re the yuppies, the middle-management aspirational types who own a Mercedes just off-warranty. They’ve got nice little places in the suburbs, sprinkler systems, and they clock in every day to their middle management positions at BankCo or Silicon Valley Inc. They have a 14-minute commute, kids in the pee wee soccer league, and come home every night to yell back at Bill O’Reilly’s head, blaring at them from their moderately-sized plasma screen TVs. They’re one mistake away from poverty, and they know it.
As to the second: This group of people hate the government more than anyone in part because they pay the highest taxes of anyone. Thanks to our grossly disproportionate taxation system, these upper-middle-class types get hammered coming and going on income taxes, while the very rich, thier corporate bosses, and the very poor pay practically nothing. Or far less, proportionately. In a way, you can almost feel sorry for them; it’s not unusual for this class to give up close to half its income to taxes, while millionaires, billionaires and corporations do well to pay 15 percent.
Thanks, mainly, to the Republicans they vote for. Consistently, and in droves.
So, for certain, there is a pretty large chunk of the very wealthy who subscribe to the “Let them eat cake!” position on the poor. And those are the people we call “d*uchebags.” But, while they do vote a lot, they’re actually pretty small in number. They’re not the ones putting Republicans in office. No, the people who vote in the corporate profiteers who specialize in gutting the middle class aren’t the very rich. They’re the middle class. Somehow consistently voting against their own best interests, it’s this group who says
“Let them eat cake…because they’re already getting half of mine.”
And nobody, apart from Republicans, is happy about that.