The Rich Get Meaner

| 3/7/2011 3:46:46 PM

Tags: labor, unions, public workers, class, Wisconsin, politics, Keith Goetzman,

'The Poor Bail Out the Rich' graffiti 

It was reassuring, in the midst of Wisconsin’s labor strife, to see a New York Times/CBS News poll showing that many Americans sympathized with the workers. A majority of the people surveyed opposed weakening collective bargaining rights or cutting the pay or benefits of state workers to reduce state budget deficits.

It was very telling, however, to see where that sympathy dropped off. The richest Americans, it turns out, are the ones who are most eager to slash away:

Although cutting the pay or benefits of public workers was opposed by people in all income groups, it had the most support from people earning over $100,000 a year. In that income group, 45 percent said they favored cutting pay or benefits, while 49 percent opposed it. In every other income group, a majority opposed cutting pay or benefits: Among those making between $15,000 and $30,000, for instance, 35 percent said they favored cutting pay or benefits, while 60 percent opposed it.

That’s right, a solid majority of people making only $15,000 to $30,000 a year—that’s near or below the poverty line for many households—still mustered compassion for the public workers’ cause, while the biggest earners were much more eager to roll over the workers because times are tight.

The poll hearkens back to other surveys that have shown lower-income people give a greater proportion of their income to charity, and to a study done last summer by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California in Berkeley, showing that poor people are in general more altruistic than rich people.

Could it be that the rich, unsatisfied with simply always getting richer, are now getting meaner?

4/20/2011 3:37:22 PM

If a majority of the people surveyed opposed weakening collective bargaining rights or cutting the pay or benefits of state workers to reduce state budget deficits, then why are they not doing something about it other than talking their walk and sitting on their hands? Maybe it is simpler just to talk, talk, talk and do not nothing...

3/16/2011 5:29:37 PM

I'm hearing opinions on several related topics here. Maybe we should examine them individually and how they inter-relate rather than repeat what we have been conditioned to believe. What is the history of unions and why do they exsist? How many unions are there and do they all have the same charters, strengths or weaknesses? What has been the course of business to highten the feeling of need for unions or make workers feel secure in not having them? Do all public employees make 30k plus a year and have free pensions and benefits. Is it likely that people that have more M&M's than they could eat in a lifetime (see my previous post) are predisposed to gathering more or is that just a myth? If this is, indeed, class warfare propaganda who is benefiting from it. Let's shake this tree and see what falls out.

3/16/2011 1:16:26 PM

It has been a while since I have scene such an amusing article around here. This is the oldest arguement in the book. Classic class warfare propaganda. I live in the midwest and believe me $100,000 does not make you wealthy but it does mean you pay taxes unlike most of the people who dont want to slash spending. Why would they? They are not the ones paying for it. Woops I forgot compassion is the reason. It is so convenient when your common interest and righteousness intersect. Nobel worthy journalism here folks.

bill cook
3/12/2011 9:49:49 PM

Where in the new bill does it say a person will take a cut? In checking I can find no public employee making less then the 30,000. Why is there no mention of the perks that the employee,s get. Free health care. free pension . Please lets get all the facts correct.

solar wind
3/11/2011 9:18:25 AM

The richer people wouldn't be rich if they couldn't live off the backs of poor people. That is why they don't oppose the cuts. When you listen to the news, it would appear that everyone is jealous of government workers pay and benefits and want to cut those benefits. Everyone's pay and benefits should be upgraded so that we can all live.

tom cannon_2
3/11/2011 8:54:22 AM

I grew up in Alabama during the 50s and 60s. Alabama is a poor state, and even more so then. My dad had died when I was 7, and my mother ended up teaching in an elementary school in Selma (before it became SELMA.) In many ways it was stifling and awful, but the saving grace was that the poor, both white and black, showed a compassion and generosity towards others (at least within their own racial communities) that leavened, if only a little, the fears and racism that unlay daily life. The role of the churches was crucial, and one phrase resonated with all (even the rich and powerful,) "There but for the Grace of God go I." The polling results are not surprising, reflecting societal changes that frighten those who have focused on the material. But even as the upper classes acquire and control more and more wealth, I believe we are seeing in the right wing's current frantic efforts, the last gasps of a dwindling tribe.

3/10/2011 4:30:49 PM

Mean? Hmmm. When I was a kid my mom had birthday parties for each of us and a dish of ice cream was set next to a bowl of M&M's. One of my brothers always snuck in and counted the M&M's to make sure he had more. In retrospect, I never considered him mean but insecure. He still has that tendency but life has mellowed it rather than hightened it. It could easily have gone the other way. I find this lyric by the Pretenders (Chrissie Hinds in particular) very telling of what happens to people and her insight passively understanding. I was born with my hand in a fist And my eyes shut tight Any wonder I can't resist Punching Blindly in a fight Think about the people involved in these stories. Could this be them?