24
Jan
12

It’s not envy

Let’s revisit the concept of envy, and look at another part of the NBC interview, which preceded the “quiet rooms” section:

Matt Lauer: When you said that we already have a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy, I’m curious about the word envy. Did you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious? Is it about jealousy, or fairness?

    ROMNEY: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God. The American people, I believe in the final analysis, will reject it.

An astute comment to “quiet rooms” above puts it succinctly: It’s not about envy, it’s about equity. Worth repeating – It’s not about envy, it’s about equity.  That’s what Romney simply fails to understand.  A majority of people (many of whom vote, by the way) believe that the system is rigged heavily in favor of the very wealthy. 1   They are not wrong.  And that is the crux of the displeasure.  People do not begrudge Romney his success or his wealth; what’s annoying is the inequity of the situation.

Again I wonder whether he’s actually been paying attention.  Does he not get that Occupy Wall Street focuses on the inequity of the difference as opposed to the existence of the difference.2  That’s not envy – it’s an observation.  The 1% -or top 10% – would still have a huge amount of wealth if the average CEO pay were 30 times that of the average worker, instead of 243 times that of the average worker.3  This is what has people upset.  It’s not about envy; it’s about inequity.  They are not the same thing.  Indeed Mother Jones provided an excellent set of charts and commentary in the March/April 2011 issue.4  More on this topic when the released tax information (what little there will be) is analyzed.

1 Many – probably most – people get this intuitively this without a full understanding of the precise mechanisms of the complex systems by which it occurs.  I certainly can’t articulate the intricacies of them myself.  But the inequity is obvious nevertheless, and the inability to describe the mechanics of the inequity doesn’t negate its existence.  People know this.

2 Worth noting is that when surveyed, people underestimated the amount of inequality: see a chart here.

3 Economic Policy Institute, November 9, 2011 CEOs distance themselves from the average worker: text and graph here

4 It’s the Inequality, Stupid

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