Contrary to George Mankiw's opinions, the super wealthy, like Donald Trump, are more likely to be super-villains
According to conservatives, the super rich are here to help all Americans. That’s why the failed “trickle-down” economic policies came about, even though it’s painfully obvious now that those policies do not work at all. Examples? Sure! Citizen’s United. Tax cuts for the super rich. SuperPACS.
Meanwhile, who are the perfect examples of a super rich conservative? Donald Trump. Mitt Romney. Dick Cheney. Not so much on the heroic end, these guys.
And so, careers are available to those spin doctors who are willing to forward such failed ideas. One needs folks to help spread one’s agenda, especially when one’s agenda has been proven ludicrous so regularly.
There are spin-doctors and then there are those who make ludicrous claims. Some political pundits adhere to the principle of “the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.”
George Mankiw, former Mitt Romney adviser and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush, makes these ridiculous assertions. Mankiw has long defended the super rich and he gets regularly challenged for his nonsense.
His usual routine suggests that it’s totally cool to be obscenely wealthy because it helps everyone else. He’s even argued that if you doubt his words, well, Robert Downey Jr. is rich, and nobody is angry with him about that, because he is Iron Man!
Mankiw goes on to talk about all the good that super rich people do, and how much they pay in taxes, clearly implying that the super rich are superheroes.
Mankiw conveniently forgets to mention how much wealth inequality harms this nation and all the myriad ways the rich can hide their money in off-shore accounts to avoid those taxes. But the crux of his point is to further allude that the super rich are superheroes. Let’s say that again, the ultra-rich are superheroes.
Putting aside the fact that Mankiw says nobody should be mad at rich people because actors are rich, a fundamentally flawed argument in itself, his superhero comparison fails on a number of levels.
Look at Robert Downey Jr.’s superhero role, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Clearly, Stark is an insanely rich character. But similarities between him and, say, the Koch brothers ends there.
The story arc of the first Iron Man movie follows the awakening of Stark’s social consciousness. Tony begins as a self-indulgent military industrialist who changes his ways after suffering severe injuries from weapons he has produced. At the same time, he gets a first hand look at how much suffering and pain his company has caused.
So he halts production of all weaponry and instead focuses on producing alternative energy sources and advancing the entire world through science and technology. Not to mention the fact that Stark spends his spare time fighting super-villains, terrorists, and alien invasions, saving the planet more than once. All for free, at that.
Who opposes Iron Man? In the first movie, it was the CEO of his own company, who wants to continue making money for himself and his investors no matter who gets hurt. Indeed, Obadiah Stane has people killed, even threatening the lives of his girlfriend and Stark himself.
The formula of a tycoon super-villain was so successful in the first Iron Man that it was used in both sequels. Each time Iron Man faces off against someone in one of his movies, it’s a corrupt rich guy, using his corporation to harm the world in some way. Nothing new there. Iron Man has been fighting these types of villains in the comics for generations now.
And tycoon super-villains are hardly specific to Iron Man. They populate comics and pop culture heavily. Lex Luthor is the most infamous of all of them. He opposes the pinnacle of heroics, Superman. All comic book companies have super rich bad guys. Dr. Doom. Dr. Sivana. Blight. Justin Hammer.
Not to mention how many evil rich people appear in The Bible, if you want to go that far back.
Yes, there are super-rich heroes as well. Everyone knows Batman’s story. But Bruce Wayne could hardly be compared to venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who believes that rich people deserve more votes than the poor. That is as opposite to the motivation of Batman as one can possibly be. Perkins is no superhero.
The essence of a superhero is not how rich they are. Villains are more commonly rich than heroes because power needs money. Money is the root of all evil [Timothy 6:10] and what does absolute power do? It corrupts, absolutely.
Instead, superheroes look out for those who cannot look out for themselves. They use their powers and abilities to forward virtues of peace and justice. To help their fellow man. To save the planet. Cetainly not to sway elctions in their favor.
None of these good qualities apply to very many of the obscenely wealthy. There are a chosen few of course, but they are exceptional because they are so rare compared with their peers. George Mankiw is making a ludicrous statement in a blatant attempt to polish the image of a cadre of bad guys. It’s beyond a stretch for him to imply the Koch Brothers are superheroes.
The ultra-rich are more likely to convince you that elections should go their way, like Tom Perkins. They are likely to poison your water. They will destroy your environment and whatever lives are in the way, as long as there is money to be made. Beneficial to society? Ridiculous.
Are there rich folks who are nice people? Absolutely. Bill Gates has certainly been a philanthropist. But billionaires like Gates are the exception to the rule. Once you reach the top of the mountain, you have to be assured of your permanent position there before you start helping out the little people.
When you get right down to it, the incredibly rich person who gives their all to better society, who uses all of their wealth to combat inequality and forward justice, does have one thing in common with a superhero:
Neither of them really exist.
An appropriately heroic economic policy would be “a rising tide lifts all boats.” But these days, according to Republicans, that policy has become, “Be really nice to the guy in the yacht, and maybe he’ll let you come aboard.”
And there’s absolutely nothing heroic about that.