The backlash against "the rich"

By and large, Americans regard the rich the way they do the poor. There are the “deserving” and the “undeserving.” The deserving pioneer technologies, manage vibrant businesses or excel at something (law, entertainment, sports). Few resent the wealth of Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. By contrast, the “undeserving” rich succeed through self-dealing or activities lacking broad social value.

What’s happening now is that more rich are being disparaged as “undeserving.” Blamed for the financial crisis, Wall Street types top the list. During the 1990s stock market boom, about half of Americans agreed that “people on Wall Street are as honest and moral as other people,” reports the Harris Poll. This year, only 26 percent think so. Two-thirds believe Wall Street’s most successful people are overpaid…

The trouble is that the wealthy don’t fit the stereotypes: They aren’t all pampered CEOs, hotshot investment bankers, pop stars and athletes. Many own small and medium-sized companies. Half the wealth of the richest 1 percent consists of stakes in these firms. That’s double their holdings of stocks, bonds and mutual funds, according to figures compiled by economist Edward Wolff of New York University. Reid would pay for Obama’s jobs plan by taxing the people who are supposed to create jobs. Does that make sense?

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