Per my BofA colleague AZBlueMeanie in a recent post:
One of the right-wing talking points I see pop up with more frequency is the use of “liberal envy” of the wealthy elite Plutocrats who rule over us as the reason for issues like income and wealth inequality.
Liberals are just “envious” of the über-rich top one-percent and that is why they want to tax the rich more, so we are told.
This talking point only makes sense if one is a member of the privileged one percent. It’s a safe bet that most, if not all of you, are not.
Meanie cites a series of sources, that are worth the read, debunking that assumption but I’d like to take on the general idea that wealth qua wealth is what drives liberals (and others) into a sputtering fury of envious rage.
I’m a fairly mediocre person (as are most people) and the list of people I envy and/or admire is endless. They include, in no particular order of importance: Olympic athletes, professional musicians and singers, gifted writers, stand-up comics who can make the crowd bust a spleen for 90 minutes, scientists, people with easy fashion and decorating sense, people who have the patience to garden or organize their closets, women with the ankles of Angie Dickinson, people who know several languages, candidates who kept at it until they won that election, doctors and nurses, bloggers who get 10,000 times the hits that I do, etc. etc. Some of those things are pure luck of birth (ankles) while others (most) require a combination of native gifts and hard work. Still, I’m in envious awe of all of them.
But rich people? That’s a lot more complicated. I certainly envy the money they have and the freedom it gives them, but do I envy them as a group? Do I aspire to be more like rich people, even in my wildest fantasies where I imagine myself having the money they have? Well, no. That’s because there’s no characteristic that stands out about them, as a group, as something worth coveting outside of their being rich. Are all rich people smart? No. Are they all creative? No. Hard working? No. Good-looking? No (though money goes a long way toward ameliorating any shortcomings they have in that area). Granted, there are far fewer paths to wealth than there are to poverty but there is certainly a large enough sample size of wealthy people in the world, along with my own many social encounters with rich people, for me to safely conclude that wealth corresponds more with dumb luck and a willingness to fuck other people over (and great ankles don’t hurt) than it does with any of the qualities I truly envy and admire.
To put all this another way, I can carry a tune at a karaoke bar but I will never match what Renee Fleming can do with a song.
Link, since videos won’t embed here for some reason.)
Fleming is a virtuoso. I envy her. She might be rich, and that’s fine with me. But some other rich people don’t entertain and inspire people. Instead they are assholes who have dedicated themselves to amassing wealth and power while hurting people below them. I don’t aspire to be like them at all. Don’t confuse my anger at them with envy. I envy people who bring good things to the world, not assholes. Assholes, rich or not, are a dime a dozen.