The Rich Take the Truth to Be Hard

October 18, 2012


R-Money: Photoshopping Romney’s Message

Post by Joseph M –

President Obama finally did it: he ended Tuesday evening’s debate by calling out Governor Romney (to his face!) over the 47% comment.  Romney set himself up for it; he answered the last question by declaring that he cares about 100% of America.  This proved a temptation too great to for even Obama to resist, and Obama responded by referencing the behind-closed-doors 47% comment.

But on one point, Romney is correct: the Obama campaign has painted a picture of Romney as out of touch with the poor and the middle-class.  But Romney has also done a lot of this to himself; when he attempts to be candid, he invariable says too much, and this ultimately signals open season on the fields of (class?) warfare.  Romney’s wealth, elitism, and disconnect from ordinary Americans have become his most salient features, and therefore this image of privilege has supplanted the real man.

And it seems that conservatives are getting rather testy about all this negative talk of Governor Romney’s wealth – and also of rich people in general.  This also is the case with some members of the church as well, and I’m not sure when the shift began; it used to be that we were concerned about not speaking ill of the poor, but now the super-wealthy seem to be deserving of our charity and sympathetic glances.

Two examples: some months back, our Elder’s Quorum lesson devolved into the semi-annual discussion of how should we respond to “pan-handlers” on the street; one comment from the group asserted that we should be cautious because homeless people are often hyped-up on meth and might kill you.  And then the next Sunday, another good brother commented on how there’s such hostility towards wealthy individuals these days, and that he was surprised by the poor opinions that many people have of the rich.  (Yes, he used “poor” and “rich” in the same sentence as if to say, “those poor rich people.”)

In an extreme case of political-correctness-hijacking, the wealthy are no longer referred to as “the rich,” but now they are part of the protected class of  “job creators,” “entrepreneurs,” and “innovators.”  I’m guessing that congress might even enact laws shielding them from hate crimes.  This is necessary because all of them own small businesses and hire lots of people to do lots of things; money trickles down from these wealthy folks like water flowing towards a floor drain after a long shower at the gym.

In a recent column, David Brooks extolled the virtues of a wonderfully ambitious job creator, Elon Musk, one of the minds behind PayPal.  He writes, “Government can influence growth, but it’s people like Musk who create it…A few ridiculously ambitious people can change an economy more than any president.”  Romney reiterated this when he reverted to his high school cheerleading days and attempted to lead a chant towards the end of Tuesday’s debate, “Government does not create jobs! Government does not create jobs!

So if David Brooks is correct, we shouldn’t be looking to tear down Romney and his financial success – even if he did eliminate jobs in order to make companies profitable and more efficient.  The goal of a business is to make money; when a company makes money, its workers will benefit – the company can hire more workers. (Wait, is that what Romney meant when he said ‘corporations are people?’)

So this just begs the question: why all of this class warfare anyway?  and when did this feeling of animosity towards the wealthy begin? and who decided that it was okay to criticize someone just because of their riches?

Well, let’s start here:

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  (Matt. 19:23-24)”

Or Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.”

And here:

“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days (James 5:1-3).”

The Book of Mormon is also rife with admonitions as well; I’ll just give the first one I found:

“Wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world.  For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are set upon their treasures; wherefore , their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also (2 Nephi 9:30).”

So I guess when people ask where all this rich-bashing came from, I’ll just say, “well, it’s Biblical.”

Of course, being “rich” is relative; with the advent of the middle class, most people would not think of themselves as “rich,” but might feel like they’re somewhere in the middle.  However, I wonder what wealth looked like during the time of Christ, a time when money changers were cast from the temple?  And for the young man who received Jesus’ condemnation, what made him rich?  We are told that he had “great possessions,” (but so do many of us, and we are clearly in the middle class.)

These questions are particularly hard for many of the super rich, who tend to view their “great possessions” with a sense of pride.  Chrystia Freeland, the author of Plutocrat: the Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Downfall of Everyone Else, said on NPR on Monday that “in America we have equated personal business success with public virtue. And to a certain extent, your moral and civic virtue could be measured by the size of your bank account.”

Freeland goes on to say that the “super rich” are angry because President Obama is pushing the idea that “what is good for the guys at the very top is not necessarily good for the people in the middle.”  They see this as an “existential threat,”  because people don’t just want to be wealthy and successful, they want to be good.  Therefore, any suggestion from progressive thinkers, Obama, or Jesus to the contrary is met with disappointment: “Wow, I’m not as full of virtue and goodness as I thought I was?”

Freeland notes that the numbers of  plutocrats has increased, and the gap between them and everyone else is huge; ultimately, they can be expected to “rig the rules in their own favor,” while convincing themselves that what is good for them is in the interest of everybody else, (i.e., cut entitlements and shrink the national debt, while reducing taxes for the wealthy.)

However, I am not interested in pointing fingers at Romney – or to imply that any church members with several fancy cars and a horse are not going to heaven until they learn to thread a needle.  I guess I am more interested in understanding America’s relationship with money.  Capitalism has become our national pastime – and I am not sure what this says about us.  But alas, that is also another post.

I think our prophet Brigham Young’s fears for the Church and the Saints is of particular note:

“The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth.”

What did President Young see of our future when he said this?  The implications for America (or even for me and my own life) will make my head hurt if I think on it too long.  Clearly this is a truth that is hard for all of us (including the rich) to take in.  The pursuit of wealth is truly a moral conundrum; for what is so powerfully connected with self-worth in the American context is defined as a burden that drags one to hell in the scriptural sphere.

So I will end this for now.  I have the new episode of The Walking Dead saved on my DVR, and I am really excited to watch it on my 48-inch flat-screen LED TV with my Bose speakers!  (And my TV is a Samsung, because everyone knows that is the brand second to none when it comes to flat-screens!)

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18 Comments on “The Rich Take the Truth to Be Hard”

  1. Frank Stark Says:

    In a free market system, the more people that you serve, the more you get. If you can figure out a way to make life better for a million people, and make $1 profit from each, you are a millionaire. If you only serve 30 people, and make $1000 from each, that is only $30,000. So teachers don’t make as much as singers, football players, and yes, CEOs who know how to run a successful company. But that is in a free market system, where the government stays out, gives no subsidies, picks no winners or pumps money to the cousin of the brother of the secretary of whatever, and people choose to do business with someone because that is the best deal that they think that they can get. I never got a job poor person. Neither did you.
    You say that Romney cannot relate to the average person. Are you kidding? Ever watch your bishop? Your stake president? You know that they are out there helping the “average person” every day of the week. I had the priviledge of watching my bishop this last week. He put in over 20 hours, probably closer to 25, helping one family with a funeral. He helped another save their car from repossession, and spent time arranging counselling for a couple having marital problems. (That one promises to take a lot of time in the future) All in all, close to 40 hours of service. He also holds down a job, cared for a wife who is recovering from surgery, and dealt with the funeral for his step-father. Romney must have done this; we know he served honorably as bishop. The stories of Romney’s service to others are many.
    The scriptures warn us against envy and jealousy. The jealousy of the PHD who resents the fact that an uneducated plumber has his own company (albeit of 3 employees) and make more than he. The high school dropout who never did more than the bare minimum and wonders why he can’t have a boat like Jones down the street who holds down 2 jobs so that his wife can stay home. The government bureaucrat who wants to advance in his paper shuffling, regulating job and feels his efforts are unappreciated, because they are not appreciated by the people he attempts to force to his mold. They are the basis for the socialism of Obama. We have been warned against it by the prophets. We ignore their example at our peril.

    • Joseph Says:

      Hello Frank, you are ever with us. I do not deny Romney’s personal deeds of service. I am only pointing out the weird relationship America has with money and how it seems to contradict the Biblical warnings against focusing on riches.

      By the way, who is this high school drop out? Is this someone in your neighborhood or in your ward? Or is this a series of high school dropouts that lined up together in a row make up about 47% of our nation? Do you see the problem with this kind of thinking? Not helpful. And if you read the Bible, you’ll see that we’ve been warned by our Savior.

      • Convert for Obama Says:

        Joseph, don’t bother to try to use logic (or scripture, for that matter) with people who want to serve both God AND Mammon; it’s a waste of time and effort -so sad, too! People who claim to love the Savior will always find a way to justify not following His instructions/admonitions on the scriptures. They will even go as far as saying that people like us, who try to follow and emulate Jesus’ example, need to ‘repent’. Yup, that was a comment posted on this very blog.
        I am sure glad I joined the church before brother Romney was in the race. Why? Because, if the missionaries would have come to my door after the things I have heard the ex-governor say and do, I would have told the missionaries ‘no way’. I hope that my testimony will carry me through this disappointing time.

    • BDUB Says:

      Bro Stark – are you saying that a teacher only impacts the 30 or so in their class? You are forgetting that those 30 or so go on to live in our comminities, contribute to the workforce and raise the next generation. Yeah, $30,000 seems about right. Football players and singers are much more important. Free market doesn’t work, especially when the playing field is not level.

      • Frank Stark Says:

        BDUB, I didn’t say that football players and singers are more important. I said that they tend to touch more people’s lives, and more people are willing to pay a little bit each. That adds up. If you want to be rich, the old standby is to deliver something, a service or product, to a lot of people. Teachers, by and large, cannot improve productivity, that is, they can only teach a certain number effectively. BTW, my wife recently retired from teaching high school…200 students a day for over 20 years. Probably 4000 people or so. She got tired of fighting the bureacracy and especially that abomination of “No Child Left Behind”. But I digress. Another reason for teacher’s low pay? Because it is not as hard to find someone who can be trained to teach as it is to find someone with perfect pitch or the ability to play ball well or that inventive spark that someone like Steve Jobs had. Some of the best teachers I have seen are people who have become teachers after retiring from a lifetime of working at something else. I remember particularly a cop who became a social studies teacher. (You out there, Mr. Haight?)
        The free market does work, better than any other system. What you call a level playing field is your subjective opinion. Someone else would call it tilted when you call it level. There are laws of economics, just as there are laws of physics. The problem with socialism is that it ignores those laws, but makes a great cover for those who want to control their fellows. Check out Frederick Bastiat’s book, “The Law” (free on line) and the prophets like Pres. Benson who agree with it.

  2. Karen Comish Says:

    What about the parable of the talents….if you want to quote Have you checked the amount Bro. ROmney has donated as compared to President Obama? Then the other comment…did we make this much of a fuss when President Kennedy ran with all of his money. No they were classified as the Camelot of presidencies. I think this is a case of who is calling the kettle black.
    I have read some pretty judgemental remarks of Republicans and Romney on the blog….everyone has a right to choose who is the best… doesn’t make us bad or good members of the church. Everyone needs to stay neutral and just go to the voting booth and vote their conscience. I will truly be glad when this is over…but it needs me with fears of what are members really thinking of each other. Stop trying to make Romney as a dishonest member of the church ……. only God has that right.

    • Joseph Says:

      I like the parable of the talents; I’m just not sure how it fits in with this particular post. And In this post I don’t believe I called Romney dishonest or a kettle or black – in fact, I said I didn’t want to point fingers or judge those of means. However, I am more interested in thinking about what wealth in America means – and how we can better understand our relationship with money. Clearly we have inequities in this country. I just don’t believe that they can be explained away by calling one group of people lazy and irresponsible and calling another group of people virtuous just because they have wealth.

      • Karen Comish Says:

        Parable of the talents is about what we do with what is given to us…money, talents, everything else. Romney has done well with what he has earned and likewise has donated much to the church and other charities. Yes we who have less money have a hard time dealing with that. I think we need to stop bashing him for his wealth. Many other politicians who have run have been men of wealth and less focus on that has been demonstrated. My main point is we just need to go vote for who ever we deem is the person we want. Thanks!!

      • Frank Stark Says:

        May I recommend reading “Coming Apart”, by Charles Murray? Different behaviors get different results, Joseph.

  3. Sharon Says:

    Totally off subject, but I am curious. Really how reliable are the polls at this stage of the campaign? Given that probably over 40 million people have already voted early and that the does not count the hundreds of thousand voters that have voted over seas. By now the vast majority have already made up there mind as to who the will vote for, given how the questions are ask doesn’t this skew the polls?

    • BDUB Says:

      To quote Seth Meyers from tonight’s Weekend Update: “the polls only reflect the views of people who still use landlines.”

  4. zywie Says:

    To Frank, the high school drop outs I know of were that way because they had a slight mental disability, didn’t get enough to eat regularly, had no support at home because mom or dad were working 2 low paying jobs and were never around….this is why I am part socialist—I have seen this happen. Growing up, we fostered kids. And if these people don’t have support networks like churches, the govt has to be able to step in. Otherwise these kids just end up in jail, which costs us more money.

  5. honestyalwayswin Says:

    Just because Romney knows how to make a lot of money and donates a lot to his church does not make him a good choice for our president

    especially he maybe taking an advantage of tax loopholes to void paying taxes that does not help with balancing our national budget knowing this maybe our biggest challange for this supposedly a godly nation

    Do you really want someone who maybe a biggest tax cheater for our president
    or who does not want to prove that his nation’s majority citizens are wrong about him
    When it comes to his tax returns.

  6. Trish Says:

    When I listen to some cable programs, there is always disparaging talk about how Blacks vote for President Obama just because of race. The same isn’t said about all Mormons voting for Mr. Romney just because of religion. Just an observation.

  7. karen Says:

    We are not to judge another.Even though I don’t have much myself,i try to give to those in need.

  8. Chelsey Says:

    In regards to you comment Frank “The high school dropout who never did more than the bare minimum and wonders why he can’t have a boat like Jones down the street who holds down 2 jobs so that his wife can stay home.” That may describe “some” of the lower class but there is still the opposite example.
    I love my husband VERY much but to be honest he is lazy and entitled… He is a collage drop out who gets everything handed to him by daddy (who got everything handed to him from his daddy, who got everything handed to him by his daddy) I however grew up with a father, an orphan, who dropped out of middle school and worked 2 jobs if not more for my mom to stay home and we struggled…I was taught hard work and determination while my husband was taught that he could do whatever he wanted and daddy would bail him out whenever he needed. I am not meaning to bash my husband; he is sweet, nice, a good father and a wonderful husband. He is just not a hard worker…. In fact, he works part time while I work full time….Something my father would have felt ashamed for. Now I have a choice… for Romney, that will ensure we get more $$ from Matt’s dad without having to pay huge Taxes OR vote for Obama who I think will be the better choice for the country??? I am still on the fence as I was a Ron Paul supporter and am disappointed in Obama (Mostly for his military practices) but I seriously don’t think I can vote for Romney…

  9. Mary Says:

    America’s relationship with wealth, eh? I think we as a country certainly do worship, or something close to that, anything that we perceive as indicative of wealth. These are the people to whom the Lord was speaking when he told them it would be difficult to get into heaven with their riches.

    But he also said, through the prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon, “before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”

    On another occasion, the Lord told us that when we do good, we should let not our right hand know what the left hand doeth. I think it is that “blowing our own horn,” or letting our good deeds be seen too easily, that has caused this unhealthy attitude towards wealth. And capitalism makes it very easy to show our wealth — especially for those who own businesses or are otherwise engaged in causes that have a large scope and are trying to reach a large number of people.

    I love what Jacob said about obtaining a hope in Christ. When we are focused on the Savior, we no longer decide who deserves our sympathy based on how many resources they have available to them. We realize that everyone has their own challenges, and some people have **very** different challenges than the rest of us. And we have charity for all men, even when those men have huge amounts of wealth that could make us prone to jealousy. (I am not completely unfamiliar with these feelings of jealousy myself!)

    Here is an example from when I was in college. It certainly is not something to pull your heart strings, like most of the stories you hear about the, quote, have-nots in our country. But if you put yourself in this man’s shoes, could you do what he did?

    This is my story: For one semester, I had an institute class at a large institute. The teacher spoke about the challenges he faced by receiving so many royalties from a book he had written. He had already consulted with the Lord on the matter, and agreed that he would keep so much, and the rest he would donate (I don’t know that he said where he was donating it to). It was a big challenge for him to receive his royalties check, and then sign it all over to someone else.

    Of course, when we don’t have a lot of money, we know how great it would feel if someone gave us some. So it’s easy to say, “of course I would donate my excess!” And the test of what we would really do is in what we now give as fast offerings and other donations. For the widow who cast in her last two mites, it would not have mattered whether or not she was wealthy. She trusted in the Lord to return to her whatever He deemed necessary for her to have.

    And the story of my teacher? When he gave away all those royalties, what do you think happened? Did his financial status stay in the realm of the poor institute teacher, because he gave away his wealth? Of course not. The next royalty check he received was even bigger. And he knew he had to sign it all away. When the Lord tests someone and finds them willing to work for His good, He gives them more responsibility.

    But he also lets the wicked enjoy their riches for a time. And how do we know which among the wealthy are righteous and which have a deadline to their gluttony?


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