Press release: Most Classist Comment of 2014

For immediate release: December 30, 2014
Contact information:  Betsy Leondar-Wright, Class Action, 781-648-0630, info@classism.org

Billionaires win Most Classist Comment award for Nazi comparison

The results are in for the fifth annual vote for the Most Classist Comment by a public figure over the past year, sponsored by the national nonprofit Class Action. More than 30% of the several hundred votes cast went to venture capital pioneer Tom Perkins and his defender Sam Zell.

Perkins smirkingPerkins wrote in a letter to The Wall Street Journal about resentment of the rich:

“In the Nazi area it was racial demonization, now it is class demonization… a progressive war on the American one percent… a very dangerous drift in our American thinking.”

After Perkins got negative publicity, billionaire Sam Zell said he was “right” because “the one percent are being pummeled” and “the one percent work harder.” 

“There are so many myths and offensive parallels in there, it’s hard to know where to start,” said Betsy Leondar-Wright, Program Director of Class Action. “First, proposing a wealth tax is not equivalent to racist genocide. It’s just sad to see billionaires so personally identified with their obscene wealth that they can’t see the difference between accountability and being ‘pummelled’ or ‘demonized’.”

In saying that “the 1% work harder,” Zell got the facts backwards. In fact, most of the wealth of the super-rich comes from capital gains, investment income and inheritances, not from jobs. In recent decades, the bottom three-fifths increased their annual work hours by 9% to 10%, while those in the top 5% added much less to their workload, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (Source: http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-income-table-2-16-contribution-hours/)

The runner-up classist comment was NJ Governor Chris Christie’s answer to a question about rectifying the income gap:

“You want income equality? That’s mediocrity. Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary… Or do you want the opportunity for greatness?… I grew up in an America that said life isn’t fair.” 

 The other eight contenders for the Most Classist Comment of 2014 can be found online at http://www.classism.org/winner-classist-comment-2014/.

Each December since 2010, Class Action supporters have nominated comments by public figures and voted on which is the most demeaning to working-class and poor people or which most perpetuates myths that justify the economic divide. The ballots have been circulated to subscribers to Class Action’s blog (http://www.classism.org/blog/) and via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ClassActionNow).

In 2011, the ‘winner’ was Newt Gingrich, for calling child labor laws “stupid,” and advocating firing school janitors and having poor students clean the schools.

In 2012, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s notorious 47% comment so obviously would have won that Class Action took it out of the running:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what …who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims… These are people who pay no income tax. … and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Instead, the 2012 competition was for the Second Most Classist Comment, which was won by Alan Dlugash, an accounting firm partner whose 6-figure pay dropped during the Great Recession, who said,

“Could you imagine what it’s like to say, ‘I’ve got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out?’ How do you do that? People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress.” 

 In 2013, the winner was Silicon Valley CEO Greg Gopman, who wrote on Facebook:

“There is nothing more grotesque than walking down Market St in San Francisco. Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue…The difference is in other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests…In downtown SF the degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the  center of the city… It’s a burden and a liability having them so close to us. Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I’d consider thinking different, but the crazy toothless lady who kicks everyone that gets too close to her cardboard box hasn’t made anyone’s life better in a while.”

Class Action’s mission is to increase awareness of the widening chasm of social class inequality and the damage it does.

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 JenSorensonCredited