Political privilege galls more than wealth
Bending over backward to avow that they’re not rich, celebrity politicians are missing the point. It’s not wealth ownership that turns off voters. It’s the political privilege granted in today’s culture of cronyism.
Thanks to that privilege, beneficiaries can, and do, access outsized power, influence and exclusive opportunities for ambition and advancement — whether you wear $2,500 shoes or, like Bill Clinton, $250 shoes.
We might laugh instinctively when Hillary Clinton insists she was “dead broke” after leaving the White House and still isn’t “truly well off.” But it really is true that politics isn’t the best way to make the most money. Relative to ambitious and talented people in the private sector, the Clintons aren’t plutocrats.
Unfortunately, the reality is even worse. It’s embarrassing to see so many politicians eager to deflect populist attacks against them misunderstand how to do it. As Hillary Clinton argued to the Guardian, populists “don’t see (her) as part of the problem” because the Clintons “pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through dint of hard work.”
Left unspoken are the plum speaking fees both Clintons command solely because of their partisan celebrity status; the influential positions in corporate America obtained solely because of their power position; or the gilded road opened for Chelsea Clinton, whose top-shelf academic credentials cannot account for her cushy job with NBC news, where she was paid over half a million dollars for sporadic work.
Americans can disagree over whether those kinds of windfalls are inherently wrong. We should all agree, however, that there’s something especially corrupting about a political culture that uses the trappings of power and fame as a cash cow — the better to fund even further grabs for power, and even greater celebrity.
It’s a lesson lost on Vice President Joe Biden, too. It’s true that he’s not swimming in cash. Yet he really believes he must tell people not to “hold it against” him that he doesn’t own stock and only wears “mildly expensive” suits. Meanwhile, his son R. Hunter Biden has been appointed to the board of directors of a Ukrainian natural gas company.
Liberals are doing intellectual somersaults trying to simultaneously excuse and condemn this pattern of conduct at the top of the Democratic Party. Of course, Republicans aren’t immune, either. But Democrats’ efforts to capitalize on class envy and the rhetoric of “income inequality” have focused so much on wealth that Republicans can now swoop in to make the obvious point: Rich, poor or middle class, if you use political office to secure a life of unparalleled privilege for yourself and your posterity, you’re worsening America’s corruption problem.
— From the Orange County Register
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