Obama's Politics of Hate and Envy: Pitting Us Against Each Other --- Walter E. Williams
Pitting Us Against Each Other
By Walter E. Williams
President Barack Obama and the Democratic
Party have led increasingly successful efforts to pit Americans against
one another through the politics of hate and envy. Attacking CEO
salaries, the president -- last year during his Midwest tour -- said, "I
do think at a certain point you've made enough money."
Let's look at CEO salaries, but before doing so, let's look at
other salary disparities between those at the bottom and those at the
top. According to Forbes' Celebrity 100 list for 2010, Oprah Winfrey
earned $290 million. Even if her makeup person or cameraman earned
$100,000, she earned thousands of times more than that. Is that fair?
Among other celebrities earning hundreds or thousands of times more than
the people who work with them are Tyler Perry ($130 million), Jerry
Bruckheimer ($113 million), Lady Gaga ($90 million) and Howard Stern
($76 million). According to Forbes, the top 10 celebrities, excluding
athletes, earned an average salary of a little more than $100 million in
According to The Wall Street Journal Survey of CEO Compensation
(November 2010), Gregory Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, earned $87
million, Oracle's Lawrence Ellison ($68 million) and rounding out the
top 10 CEOs was McKesson's John Hammergren, earning $24 million. It
turns out that the top 10 CEOs have an average salary of $43 million,
which pales in comparison with America's top 10 celebrities, who earn an
average salary of $100 million.
When you recognize that celebrities earn salaries that are some
multiples of CEO salaries, you have to ask: Why is it that rich CEOs are
demonized and not celebrities? A clue might be found if you asked:
Who's doing the demonizing? It turns out that the demonizing is led by
politicians and leftists with the help of the news media, and like
sheep, the public often goes along. Why demonize CEOs? My colleague Dr.
Thomas Sowell explained it in his brand-new book, "The Thomas Sowell
Reader." One of his readings, titled "Ivan and Boris -- and Us," starts
off with a fable of two poor Russian peasants. Ivan finds a magic lamp
and rubs it, and the jinni grants him one wish. As it turns out, Boris
has a goat, but Ivan doesn't. Ivan's wish is for Boris' goat to die.
That vision reflects the feelings of too many Americans. If all CEOs
worked for nothing, it would mean absolutely little or nothing to the
average American's bottom line.
For politicians, it's another story: Demonize people whose power
you want to usurp. That's the typical way totalitarians gain power.
They give the masses someone to hate. In 18th-century France, it was
Maximilien Robespierre's promoting hatred of the aristocracy that was
the key to his acquiring more dictatorial power than the aristocracy had
ever had. In the 20th century, the communists gained power by promoting
public hatred of the czars and capitalists. In Germany, Adolf Hitler
gained power by promoting hatred of Jews and Bolsheviks. In each case,
the power gained led to greater misery and bloodshed than anything the
old regime could have done.
Let me be clear: I'm not equating America's liberals with
Robespierre, Josef Stalin and Hitler. I am saying that promoting
jealousy, fear and hate is an effective strategy for politicians and
their liberal followers to control and micromanage businesses. It's not
about the amount of money people earn. If it were, politicians and
leftists would be promoting jealousy, fear and hate toward
multimillionaire Hollywood and celebrities and sports stars, such as
LeBron James ($48 million), Tiger Woods ($75 million) and Peyton Manning
($38 million). But there is no way that politicians could take over the
roles of Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and LeBron James. That means
celebrities can make any amount of money they want and it matters not
one iota politically.
The Occupy Wall Street crowd shouldn't focus its anger at
wealthy CEOs. A far more appropriate target would be the U.S. Congress.
Walter E. Williams
Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason
University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is
the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on
Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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