Elisabeth Meinecke
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Demonizing the rich may be politically correct, but it’s not who we are as Americans.

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From S.E. Cupp's Closing Argument column in the March 2012 issue of Townhall Magazine:

This election cycle, with homeowners facing record foreclosures and joblessness still the problem that won’t go away, it’s to no one’s real surprise that the economy is at the top of most voters’ minds.

But hasn’t this always been the case? Two decades ago, in 1992, when President George H. W. Bush was counting on an easy win for his success in the Persian Gulf, James Carville hung a sign up in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock campaign office that read “The economy, stupid,” forever coining a reminder to all would-be presidents that whatever else is going on, Americans care most about their bottom lines.

Even in 2004, when everyone assumed the election between George W. Bush and John Kerry was going to be about Bush’s unpopular war in Iraq, exit polls proved that voters were still focused primarily on the economy.

And then, as it is now, John Kerry had to deal with questions of wealth, means, entitlement and elitism, thanks to windsurfing and skiing vacations and his well-heeled wife.

Well, to quote another Clinton-era aphorism, Mitt Romney feels your pain, Sen. Kerry.

The issue of wealth is center stage once again, but this time it’s even more visceral. The Occupy Wall Street movement takes occasional breaks from vandalizing government buildings to demonize the so-called 1 percent, and the Obama administration stokes the fire, pitting the haves against the have-nots.

Romney has had to defend his own wealth, his success as a businessman—even capitalism itself!—from attacks not just from the Left, but even more frighteningly from the Right. Who would have predicted that the self-proclaimed author of the conservative revolution, Newt Gingrich, would have such a problem with prosperity?

When did the rich become the enemy, the go-to villains of the political establishment, the target of ire from every corner of American society?

It used to be that championing prosperity, promising a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage was a winning campaign slogan; that being successful was a mark of character; that the American dream—owning a home and raising children to live a life that was better than yours—was a good thing and not a source of shame or a cause for apology.

Yet if you listen to his detractors, Mitt Romney should be excluded from an opportunity to serve in the highest office in the land for being wealthy, smart and successful.

In January, Forbes magazine was kind enough to point out that our first and best president was in fact the richest we’ve ever had, even if Romney were elected today. And why? He paid minimal taxes, worked hard, inherited some money and married well. The scoundrel!

“For our money, George Washington wins hands down. In the largely tax-free environment that characterized colonial America, the Father of His Country was considered one of its richest residents, a product of his shrewd business sense, a marriage to a wealthy widow and several inheritances. He benefited from an older brother’s marriage into a powerful family, while early work as a surveyor helped give him a keen understanding of land.”

By today’s standards, this evil, greedy, elitist, entitled, capitalist pig wouldn’t have a chance at the White House. Imagine what the country would look like if Washington were never president.

The truth is, the “evil rich” are in large part responsible for building this great nation. Whether it was through their investment in public service, like Washington, when our country was just being forged, their philanthropic endeavors like building hospitals and museums and colleges, giving billions to science and medical research, or running the manufacturing plants, banks and private enterprises that put most of our non-government employees to work, we all owe the rich a small debt of gratitude.

And don’t we all aspire to be rich one day? If not, then why am I working so hard? Why did my parents, and their parents, work so hard?

Demonizing the rich may be politically useful right now. But it’s not who we are. And long after this election is over, America will remain a country that strives for prosperity. Washington never envisioned a country that was hostile to wealth or dependent on the government. And we shouldn’t either.

Read S.E. Cupp's monthly column in Townhall Magazine by ordering today!
 

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Elisabeth Meinecke

Elisabeth Meinecke is TOWNHALL MAGAZINE Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter @lismeinecke.