Posts Tagged ‘The new elite’

How do you define the elite?

November 10, 2010

Charles Murray wrote an op-ed article in the Washington Post a couple of weeks back about how our political discourse is dominated by an elite cut off from the experience of ordinary Americans.  He defined this elite in cultural terms.  They are likely to watch “Mad Men” rather than “The Price Is Right” on TV, and go backpacking rather than drive a recreational vehicle.

I think he is right to say an elite exists, but he doesn’t quite get around to mentioning its defining characteristic.  The list below provides a hint as to what the characteristic is.

Annual hauls by selected talkers:

Rush Limbaugh $58.7 million

Glenn Beck $33 million

Sean Hannity $22 million

Bill O’Reilly $20 million

Jon Stewart $15 million

Don Imus $11 million

Keith Olbermann $7.5 million

Laura Ingraham $7 million

Stephen Colbert $5 million

Arianna Huffington $5 million

Chris Matthews $4.5 million

Rachel Maddow $2 million

Jon Meacham $2 million

via Daily Howler.

Pretty soon President Obama’s deficit commission will make its report.  Its membership is stacked with critics of Social Security  It is expected to recommend changing the formula for calculating Social Security benefits and raising the age for maximum benefits.

I expect the majority of self-identified conservatives in Washington to respond with a renewed all-out assault on Social Security. I expect the majority of self-identified liberals in Washington to express minor caveats but add that some sacrifice is necessary for fiscal austerity.  I doubt if many who talk like this have in mind 80-year-old widows whose Social Security is their sole income, or unemployed 55-year-olds who will never hold another full-time job in their lives, or 60-year-olds who are marking time until they no longer have to come home from work with aching feet and backs.  The sacrifice is the sacrifice of their own mild feelings of compassion.

It is common to speak, as Charles Murray does, of a liberal elite, but the word “liberal” has changed its meaning over time.  “Liberal” no longer means someone who supports the interests of working people.  I know more self-identified liberals who march in Gay Pride parades (which is fine) than in Labor Day parades.

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