The “I’ve Got Mine, You Don’t Deserve Yours” Crowd.

According to a recent article by Brian Alexander, lower class people are more likely to have empathy and compassion while the rich are more likely to think of themselves.  

The article confirmed my own observations. 

As an advertising executive, I’ve often listened to wealthy and powerful clients talk about how their success is the result of their own hard work, determination and risk-taking. They rarely give credit to the many other factors that have played a role in their success. 

They tend to forget that their educations were subsidized by local, state and federal governments. They forget the scholarships and low interest government loans that helped them pay for college. They forget about the Small Business Administration loans that provided the seed money for their companies.  They forget about the Tax Increment Financing that resulted in a no-interest, no-property tax loan for their company headquarters.  They forget about the contributions of their employees and suppliers. And they tend to forget about the contributions of their family, teachers, coaches and mentors who helped shape their lives.

One of my former clients, who received more than $50 million/year in compensation, once demanded that his managers fire 10 percent of their workforce after a year of record profits and then hire new replacements.  His reasoning?  He wanted to make certain that his employees would not “rest on their laurels” so he could make even more money the next year.

Fortunately, he was an exception. But an uncomfortable number of people are similarly driven. And because they are so firm in their belief that they “made it on their own,” they are often unwilling to help others reach for success.

It is this mindset that is at the very heart of the Tea Party movement. Their anti-tax, anti-deficit, anti-government, anti-Obama rants are driven by a philosophy best expressed by a quote from their hero, Ayn Rand, “It is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”

That philosophy clearly explains their opposition to social safety nets such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It explains their opposition to the extension of unemployment benefits and any government spending to stimulate our moribund economy.  It explains why are they so opposed to the very government institutions that made their success possible.

But according to the article, “Rich people may not be selfish as much as willfully clueless.  Research at Duke and Harvard universities showed that regardless of political affiliation or income, Americans tended to think wealth distribution ought to be more equal. The problem? Rich people wrongly believed it already was.”