One of the things I’ve been noticing over the past few years is the “entitlement mentality” among the people who constitute “the 1%” or even more, the top 20% of all wage earners. It’s a sense of privilege, an attitude that they deserve what they have, and with it, a massive perceptual blind spot. There is a great article over on Cracked about the 6 things that rich people need to stop saying. Even though it’s a humor site, this particular article is not humorous, and strikes to exactly why the people in “the 1%” or even the top 20% of income earners are surprised that many people get seriously irritated with them. It’s excellent reading, and it lists a number of the “justifications” we’ve heard from them about why they’re rich – and deserve to be – and why they think “we shouldn’t be attacking them for that. ” Then it takes those justifications apart. But those are not the only things that tend to be clueless.
Recently, Mitt Romney waded in to the battles over college education and funding, and has been trying to persuade college students to support a Republican agenda. He’s trying to “relate” to the problems, and offer them advice based on what he thinks they should do. The problem? The sense of entitlement, the perceptual blind spot that he has, that comes from his experience and his social circle stands out:
At a “lecture” for students at Otterbein University in Ohio today, Mitt Romney told students that, his friend, Jimmy John, started a business by borrowing $20,000 from his parents at a low interest rate. Romney suggested anyone in the audience could do the same:
This kind of devisiveness, this attack of success, is very different than what we’ve seen in our country’s history. We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.
Um.. what? Yes, sure, all you need to do is borrow money from your parents to start a business, or to get your education. Only if you absolutely have to, obviously. Which is breathtakingly clueless. In Mitt’s circle, of course parent’s have 5 or 6 digit sums available to loan their offspring. That’s what he knows, because all his friends have told him that. Heck, he had to struggle along by selling the stock his father gave him.
Which is not what most parents can do. It’s not they wouldn’t be willing, it’s just that they don’t have thousands of dollars available to loan their offspring. They’re doing well if they have enough to live on, and some set aside. But in Mitt’s circle, a few grand given (or loaned) to your children is “no big deal.” They had parents who were well-off and could provide them with connections and a starting point ahead of others. In effect, many of them started off on the third or fourth leg of a relay race, and are wondering why the guy back at the starting line isn’t able to get to the finish line like they did. Even “failure” isn’t as harsh for them as it is for those who don’t have their advantage.
The problem for them is not that people are “jealous” of their good fortune, it’s the fact that they never feel an urge to step outside of their circle, and learn to understand how fortunate (and often lucky) they are. When they do try to “connect” their own experience to what everyone else experiences, they just demonstrate that they really don’t get it. Because if they did, they’d also realize just how insulting they are.