Political Animal


January 12, 2012 8:55 AM The new Gilded Age gets noticed

By Steve Benen

We’re apparently not supposed to talk about this outside of “quiet rooms,” but more and more Americans are taking note of the tensions between the haves and the have nots.

About two-thirds of the public now believes there are strong conflicts between the rich and poor in America, making class a likelier source of tension than traditional flash points of race or nationality, a study from the Pew Research Center found.

The nonprofit think tank in Washington released a study Wednesday that reported a growing number of Americans say there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor — a number that has risen by 9 percent since July 2009.

“It is kind of amazing,” said Richard Morin, a senior editor at Pew who authored the study. “This is people not only sensing conflict, but people sensing an intensity of these conflicts — that’s what makes it striking and politically important.”

The beliefs are widespread — a majority of Americans in every income group and all political parties agree that there are growing conflicts between the wealthy and everyone else.

Republicans reviewing these numbers may pause to consider the data in the context of the 2012 presidential race. Exactly how wise is it to nominate a callous multi-millionaire who was born into a wealthy family, only to get much richer by laying off thousands of American workers?

The question is whether the times match the candidate.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Anonymous on January 12, 2012 9:02 AM:

    And yet millions of Americans will vote for him, in spite of the fact that they are struggling.

    It reminds me in an oblique way of the comments I read at the Washington Post where people routinely react to the writer personally, not the words or facts of the story.

    This may be the ultimate victory of the Republican agenda and Fox News -- to so dumb down the American electorate that they no longer think about what they are doing. I hate to say this about my fellow Americans, particularly out here in the West, but they no longer seem to have the ability to analyze what they are seeing/hearing. They simply react given a few visual cues (e.g., "R" or "D".

  • Danp on January 12, 2012 9:04 AM:

    I don't dislike the wealthy. I hate people who support policies that make it harder to escape poverty. And I really hate people who think 1% "deserve" 50%.

  • walt on January 12, 2012 9:12 AM:

    The Republican class warfare gambit always hinged on deflection and scapegoating. If something is wrong, blame the black guy.

    We can pray that enough people wake up (or that enough old geezers die) that this nation finally breaks the hypnotic induction paralyzing it. We'll see. But the process is painful and slow so by the time it finally arrives we may have squandered a couple of decades making the rich richer and everyone else poorer for the sake of a revenge fantasy.

  • lou on January 12, 2012 9:14 AM:

    Since the days of the tidewater aristocracy, the elites have blunted opposition from the commoners by creating common enemies.

    Dividing lines are drawn. The script is written. This is gonna be one ugly campaign.

  • T2 on January 12, 2012 9:18 AM:

    I think the more important point for the GOP to consider (and only because its politics rather than policy) is how their constant push to keep/create Tax Cuts for the Rich is playing right into the hands of their adversaries. The further outraged the US Citizen is over the wealth disparity, the blatant Republican push to tax the 99% and not tax the 1% is going to be a tightening noose.

  • DAY on January 12, 2012 9:19 AM:

    Sadly, the Republican "base" (what an appropriate word!) see the problem, and also see the solution. Get the Black Marxist out of their White House.

  • paul on January 12, 2012 9:20 AM:

    Romney is a terrible face for the GOP to put ontheir policies, but it's their policies that are the problem. None of the other candidates has anything but coddle-the-rich up their sleeves either.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on January 12, 2012 9:22 AM:

    I was thinking about Mitt's comments that it was "Envy " driving the 99%ers.
    Well yes Mitt is fucking well is.
    Unlike you we have to worry about :
    Getting laid off
    Losing our health insurance
    Surviving retirement now our 401k's have collapsed
    Making .05% return on our savings.
    Paying 25-30% tax instead of the 10-15% you pay
    (where are those tax returns?)
    I could go on but you all are welcome to add to the list of envy

    You started life wealthy due to birth and will die wealthy.
    The rest of us , not so much

  • marty on January 12, 2012 9:23 AM:

    Although SOME see a different class divide- I watched the deficit fetishist DeMint on this morning, somberly warning about the horror that "50 percent are on the dole, while 40 percent pay for it" and wondering where we'll be when "60 percent are on the dole, while 40 percent pay for it".

  • Montana on January 12, 2012 9:27 AM:

    One other point about job destroyer should be noted.

    The Department of Agriculture just announced the shut down of 259 offices, labs and facilities nationwide to respond to huge budget cuts from the GOP Congress.

    Granted, some of these facilities can be consolidated and/or eliminated, but many of these offices help Americans with applying for food assistance. Others employ scientists and foresters who look after public lands and national forests.

    If this is indeed the America the public wants -- limited public services, sell the public lands to the highest bidder -- who better than a Bain capitalist to implement it?

  • T2 on January 12, 2012 9:34 AM:

    one clear result of the GOP budget/deficit driven cuts across many national Government programs is to drive people out of work, thus making the job numbers look worse, thus making Obama look worse. The same thing trickles down to the State level.
    Cut off the head and the feet will die.....it's Grover Norquist textbook Republican Politics.

  • SW on January 12, 2012 10:18 AM:

    Republicans are at heart tribal and authoritarian. So after this thing gets rolling, it doesn't matter who it is, when Rush, and Drudge and Hannity and wack jobs in Congress all get behind one guy they will all fall in line. That is what they do. They obey. The good news is that they are only about 28% of the population. The same fraction that were dead enders for Bush. And to the rest of the country, they look ridiculous.

  • Shelly on January 12, 2012 10:48 AM:

    What do they mean by "conflict"?

  • tomb on January 12, 2012 10:49 AM:

    The "free market" system adored by conservatives is a system that relies on lawyers, lobbyists and loopholes. Lawyers to convince a handful of very conservative Supreme Court justices to treat corporations like people and let them spend without limits in order to get their friends elected. Lobbyists who help their friendly congressmen and women to create billion dollar subsidies for billion dollar corporations paid for by middle class American workers. And tax loopholes so that the corporations and their wealthy owners - the so-called "job creators" - do not need to pay their fare share while they ship jobs overseas. This is the system that Romney represents.

  • c u n d gulag on January 12, 2012 10:49 AM:

    With that 27-28% in their pockets, that means we have to fight to get 50%, plus one vote, and all they need is 22-23%.

    That may not be the optimistic way to look at it, but it is the real way to look at it. Especially when people who identify themselves as Liberals/Progressives only account for 10-18%.

    Sure, there are leaner's in the "Independents." But, there are also people who are too stupid and ignorant to vote, but feel obligated to. And they listen to people close to them, who are no brighter than they are, but who listnen to talk radio, watch FOX, or read rightie Op-ed pieces.

  • Jilli on January 12, 2012 10:59 AM:

    Willard is the picture perfect caricature of a "callous multi-millionaire who was born into a wealthy family, only to get much richer by laying off thousands of American workers?"

    Problem is, it's not a caricature - it appears that's really who/what he is.

  • charlie don't surf on January 12, 2012 12:37 PM:

    >..making class a likelier source of tension than traditional
    >flash points of race or nationality..


    "Rich people have always stayed on top by dividing white people from colored people, but white people got more in common with colored people then they do with rich people."

  • Anonymous on January 12, 2012 3:21 PM:

    "The question is whether the times match the candidate."

    On the GOP side? Perfectly, I'd say. Who better than Romney to speak for the Party Of The 1%?

    Now let's see if our guy is willing to become the ideal candidate to represent the 99%.