Victor Davis Hanson

Is George Soros a "corporate jet owner"? He nearly broke the Bank of England by shorting the British pound and was convicted in France of insider training. Rather than comply with new federal financial-disclosure regulations, he told some of his outside investors just to keep their money. Is Obama's former director of the budget, Peter Orszag, a "fat-cat banker"? He left the administration to enter the "revolving door" of Wall Street, where he is now a rich banker for Citigroup.

So do we really want to go down this them/us road? Using a new financial redline crudely to divide us is a tricky business. Those most likely to fly corporate jets are precisely the elite who show up at the president's mega-fundraisers and play golf with him on the world's most exclusive courses -- or visit Martha's Vineyard and Vail, where the first family sometimes vacations. They don't all wear pinstripes and Guccis, but can hang out at Occupy Wall Street rallies as actors, rappers and filmmakers in jeans and baseball caps.

In a larger sense, we should remember a few things about the new orchestrated envy of, and animosity toward, the better-off. Most Americans each day depend on our medical care, our retirement packages, our food, our gas and our computers from exactly these "few at the top" who seem to enrich rather than prey on society.

The BMWs or Porsches of the one-percenters aren't that much faster, quieter or safer than our Chevys and Hondas. Damning the wealthy nonstop is often an embarrassing symptom of one's own longing, even obsession, for the perks and attention that wealth brings. And if we really want more tax revenue, there is far more to be had from the nearly 50 percent of American households that pay no federal income tax than from the one percent that now pays 37 percent of all the collected revenue.

In short, a confident, successful society neither idolizes nor demonizes its rich, but instead believes that wealth can be created rather than taken from others. And it simply judges the better-off by the content of their characters, not the size of their wallets.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.