Wall Street analyst Meredith Whitney has ventured into an area she should have avoided — political analysis. The results were not pretty.
Deprived of the hike in revenue they so desired from the recent debt-ceiling legislation, the nation's left-of-center political wing now is intent on getting their hands on more taxes from "the rich." Expect them to increasingly use class warfare rhetoric and degradation of the tea party as a means to reach their goal.
A long parade of Democrats hit the talk shows after the downgrade of the nation's debt by Standard & Poor's, calling the adjustment a "tea party downgrade" and calling for new revenue by taxing "wealthy Americans."
Then came comments from respected Wall Street analyst Meredith Whitney. In an interview, she reportedly described the tea party as primarily "freaked out white men who are unemployed." Wow, that's a new one. And with that comment, Whitney appeared about as in touch with reality as many of her fellow graduates of Brown University.
In the rarified air in which Whitney operates, it would be easy to dismiss the opinions of others who won't be spending time at Martha's Vineyard with President Obama. You know, the malcontented unwashed masses, a "fringe" element, as she put it.
But wait a minute. This same Meredith Whitney has been attacked by Democrats for being too critical of their policies. She is the same person who is married to a contributor to Fox Business News. And she's the same person who, after botching her description of the tea party, made a very tea party-esque statement in the same interview.
She said that "to push for the extension of unemployment benefits . . . should unleash absolute backlash against the [Obama] administration."
Perhaps Meredith should examine the relevant polling data. It suggests that a fairly large percent of both independents and Republicans identify with the tea party and its policies.
As I keep noting, the tea party is more a state of mind than it is something one officially signs up with. Maybe this well-heeled Wall Street analyst should consider which group is larger: those who agree with the general concept of smaller government, or those who live in the safe bubble of high finance on Wall Street.
Along with attacks on the "fringe" tea party, there is an equally strong movement to drive a wedge between "middle class" America and "the rich." Obama relentlessly pushes for new taxes on "wealthy" Americans and counts himself among this privileged class that should spread the wealth.
CNN recently touted a poll that did indeed show a majority of Americans wanting to see increased taxes on higher-income Americans and businesses.
But this rub remains for those who keep calling for a redistribution of wealth from those who have to those who have less: They can't seem to define precisely who is wealthy and who isn't, just as Whitney can't seem to tell us exactly who is aligned with the tea party.
As a result, there is no true benchmark for wealth other than the artificially and often-quoted magic amount of $250,000 of yearly income.
Ironically, many of those who have truly great wealth are also those most willing to say "tax the rich." Of course, as I and many others have pointed out, most of these folks have their finances so well-protected that any incremental increase in taxes would have no real impact on their daily lives or their personal wealth.
The real goal of class envy is to make all but a privileged few the true "wealthy" in this country and to shove families that might appear wealthy — those making $250,000 a year in income but who don't feel too wealthy — right on down into a growing middle class that is quickly becoming a growing "sinking class."
Whitney was way off base in her description of the size and makeup of the tea party (whose actual founders were women). And Democratic leaders are equally off base in continually wanting to balance their budgets on the backs of people they call rich, but who really don't meet the true modern-day definition of the term.
But those who agree with the tea party's core beliefs shouldn't be too upset with the somewhat insulated Whitney. She may think tea party types are "older white men," but her opposition to another round of extended unemployment benefits makes her a perfect candidate for membership in the selfsame tea party.
Come on, Whitney, your doublewide trailer, your pickup truck, your chewing tobacco and your two free tickets to the next Sarah Palin event are all waiting for you.
Matt Towery is author of the book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.
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