Mitt Romney and ‘the politics of envy’

Mitt Romney and ‘the politics of envy’ January 12, 2012

Mitt Romney on NBC’s Today show:

You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus one percent — and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent — you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.

So here, again, “The Politics of Envy

JB: Let the one who has two tunics share with the one who has none.

RWT: That’s what I’m talking about! That’s the politics of envy.

JB: I don’t see what envy has –

RWT: I’ve got two tunics and you’ve just got one and now you envy me!

JB: I used to have two tunics –

RWT: And you lost one and now you’re envious!

JB: No, actually I gave one to a man who had none.

RWT: Aha! Because he was envious!

JB: He wasn’t envious, he was shivering.

RWT: Shivering … with envy!

JB: He was shivering with cold.

RWT: But you weren’t cold.

JB: No, I was quite warm.

RWT: And this man shivering with the cold, don’t you think he wanted to be warm too?

JB: Yes, that’s why –

RWT: He wanted what you had. He was envious of your warmth!

JB: You keep using this word, but I’m not sure you know what it means.

RWT: You just can’t handle that I can prove you’re promoting the politics of envy.

JB: You think you can prove this?

RWT: Easily.

JB: Please, go ahead.

RWT: It’s the politics of envy. It’s the politics of envy. It’s the politics of envy.

JB: Um, that’s not proof. That’s just an assertion.

RWT: No, it’s not just an assertion — it’s a repetition. And that proves it.

JB: You think repeating a slogan over and over means you’ve proved it?

RWT: It’s not just me silly. There are thousands of us repeating this. And some of us are even repeating it on television. What more proof do you need?

JB: …

RWT: You’re speechless because you know I’m right.

JB: I’m just trying to understand why anyone would think that clothing the naked has anything to do with envy.

RWT: You said yourself that you can’t stand to see anyone with two tunics.

JB: Actually, what I said was I can’t stand to see anyone with no tunic.

RWT: Same difference. It all sounds like the politics of envy to me.

JB: I suppose to you it does, but that’s not how I think of it. I prefer my cousin’s term. He calls it “the kingdom of God.”

RWT: Who’s this cousin of yours?

JB: You don’t know him. You wouldn’t like him.

RWT: Why? Is he envious?

JB: Well, he can’t stand to see anyone left naked either. He takes it personally. He says that when you refuse to share with the person who has no tunic, it’s just like you’re refusing to share with him.

RWT: Envious bastard! He sounds dangerous.

JB: You have no idea. …

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  • “Most successful” my ass.

  • I just don’t understand how Conservatives can talk about how “the 99%” hate the rich in the wake of Steve Jobs’s death. He was practically worshiped by “the 99%”. Why? Maybe because when they gave him money for goods and/or services, he (well, his company) provided them at a pretty freaking high quality.

  • Anonymous

    You know, FDR and Teddy Roosevelt were also fantastically wealthy sons of privilege and nobody begrudged them that. Why? Because they managed to be fantastically wealthy songs of privilege who did not feel that gave them a mandate to make life a living hell for the poor and fuck over the middle class. Someone really needs to explain this to the Romney and Republican Party. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Successful = Rich bullshit again.

    My father lived in poverty and died with no material assets. He spent many of his nights sitting up with people experiencing acute psychotic episodes and the bleakest depression. There are people who would have killed themselves if not for him. I know because they told me. I think that counts as pretty bloody successful.

    Fuck off, Mitt Romney you rich arsehole. I don’t envy you. There’s a different word altogether that describes what I think of people like you.

  • FangsFirst

    JB: …
    RWT: You’re speechless because you know I’m right.

    This is really the only video I’ve uploaded to YouTube.¹

    ¹Other than a stupid video of images from Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark set to the Mountain Goats’ “Damn These Vampires” that I made. YT called it for both Merge and Lionsgate, so I let them take it down. Alas. But it wasn’t very well edited anyway.

  • Anonymous

    It gets even better with the follow-up question:

    Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy?

    Romney: Y’know, I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like but the president has made this a part of his campaign rally, everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires. It’s a very attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.

    So Romney thinks debates about the distribution of wealth should only be carried on in quiet, genteel tones. By quiet, genteel people. 


  • *le sigh*

  • Anonymous

    When I was in high school, we had this half-assed talent and gifted thing called Talent Pool.  One time we were discussing success (I don’t remember the details of the assignment that led up to this – it’s been twenty years) and the facilitator (or whatever he was called – he wasn’t a teacher) took issue with the kids who thought success was about doing something well or being a good person.

    To this day I can remember his sneering question: “So you can be a successful garbage man?”

    To which we answered various versions of “YES, YOU JACKASS!”

  • Thereisnorulesix

    these guys are not going to be happy until they are strung up on the corner streetlight. half of this country is at the poverty line. It won’t be long until an uprising happens.

  • ako

    You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare.

    It’s always considered class warfare when the poor fight back.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm… yes, envy.

    I’m sure that the revolutionaries during the French revolution were absolutely green with envy when they were wheeling out the guillotine. After all, just imagine – all that cake! And of course, there are those who agree with him – goodness, I’ve had this thrown in my face *so* many times, by people who were no better off than I am. Which is not better off at all, consider I don’t even live at the poverty line but well below it.

    First a quote:
    Socialism is a fraud, a comedy, a phantom, a blackmail.

    – Benito Mussolini… opps, wrong quote.


    One more time

    Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
    – John Steinbeck

    And a fitting song, just for this occasion:

    Also, OT – I have a response for the whole “if you’re so tolerant why aren’t you tolerant of my intolerance?” business, courtesy of Ayaan Hirisi Ali –

    “‘To be tolerant in the face of intolerance is cowardice’ – We don’t tolerant their intolerance because we’re not cowards.”

  • Mitt, if rich people didn’t want class warfare, they shouldn’t have started one.

  • Lori

    Because of course the 1% never do anything to separate themselves from the rest of us and the Republicans would never go negative at a campaign event. Lordy this guy is an asshole. 

    Between this and Mark Driscoll’s latest bit of d-bagery and other less than happy news developments I was starting to feel my misanthropy getting a little out of control. Fortunately I happened to see a story that made me feel better about my fellow humans. 

    Recently a man threw a 20 pound rock through the window of an Iraqi restaurant in Lowell, Massachusetts. The cops found the man, who claims that it wasn’t a hate crime, but the family of Iraqi who owns the restaurant were understandably afraid. In a show of support, the nearby chapter of Veterans for Peace held an eat-in.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Wow. I thought the done thing was to express platitudes about money not being the true measure of worth, while your every action betrays what you really value. I didn’t know there were many people who equate the two openly.

  • When I heard Romney’s assertion, I thought of that dialogue straight away. :)

    Yeah, folks loved Steve Jobs. And they like Warren Buffet, and they like any number of hugely successful actors or businessmen. The ones they don’t like are the ones who pervert the system, commit fraud, and lean on legislators to enrich themselves at others’ expense. Jobs became both widely admired and very wealthy by creating things of value. Some people achieve the latter by cheating other people, but it rarely wins them the former.

  • Cole

    “‘Tis only class envy!” he suddenly cried.(This man, that they used to call “Dunce.”)”As the Bellman would tell you,” he added with pride,”I have uttered that sentiment once.

    “‘Tis only class envy! Keep count, I entreat;You will find I have told it you twice.’Tis only class envy! The proof is complete,If only I’ve stated it thrice.”

  • Cole

    Hmm, the line breaks went away. Sorry about that.

  • Lori

    As has been pointed out many times now, Americans are not seething with envy of the rich (although the rich certainly seem to enjoy the fantasy that we are). Americans love rich people. Love ’em. What we’re not so crazy about is people who cheat and then rub our noses in it. 

  • vsm

    He was practically worshiped by “the 99%”.

    I doubt the lower portions of that 99% could afford his company’s products, really, and I’ve had too many iPods die soon after their warranty expired to get too excited about their high quality. The workers who actually make those products in what are essentially labor camps probably don’t like him too much either. On the domestic front, Jobs thought teachers’ unions should be broken.

    In short, Steve Jobs should be despised by the 99%.

  • esmerelda ogg

    ”     RWT: Envious bastard! He sounds dangerous.JB: You have no idea. …”

    I can’t begin to say what a lovely ending this is. Oh, yes, the man’s dangerous…give him half a chance and he’ll take you over, he will…

  • Anonymous

    Getting my philosophy from a cookbook…

    “Wherever the accumulation of wealth is enshrined, the resources of a society will always flow into the hands of the unscrupulous.”

    Laurel Robertson
    Laurel’s Kitchen

  • Anonymous

    But he really wasn’t, was he? I think the point wasn’t to say that Jobs was a great human being, but that he wasn’t despised by everyone poorer than him. If  people despised him because they disliked the products he made, the ideas he espoused, or the way he treated his workers, that’s completely different from envy, isn’t it? Romney’s argument is that the only reason people criticize rich people is because they want to be them, not because rich people ever do anything wrong.

  • Anonymous

    So, JB is John the Baptist, but who’s RWT?

  • Varunreg

    Warren Buffett said it perfectly. “we already had class warfare. And my class is winning. “

  • IIRC “Right-Wing Troll”.

  • Don Gisselbeck

    Once again; if Mitt works as hard as a Guatemalan rug maker, he should make as much.

  • Anonymous

    Fuck no. I’ve got some feelings towards you, Mittens, but none of them are envy.

    I don’t believe in the Christian God, but I’d probably start if he’d reach down and smack  some of the people who do so much horrible stuff in his name.

  • It’s not success that should be striven for. Or at least the kind of success that defines the most successful as the richest.

    It’s greatness. Greatness is the ideal – seek greatness in whatever your career is, seek greatness in holding to your ideals, seek greatness in being someone of character. Success as they understand it, is naught but a fleeting dream. You’re born in this world naked, that’s more less the same way you leave. Greatness leaves an impact on the world and the people who inhabit it.

    It’s greatness that separates the “Founding Fathers” or previous politicians who answered the call to aid their country for the country’s sake instead of their own personal gain and politicians like Rommey.

  • guest

     I had a lot of advantages growing up, but never built on them to make a lot of money–in the USA I was probably in the top 20% of incomes (though living in a very expensive region), when I worked really hard; in the UK what I do for a living is far less lucrative, so here I think I’m about in the middle income-wise.  But ever since I achieved a milestone in my profession, maybe 15 years ago, I’ve never had to worry about paying bills, never had to worry about being employed, always had enough money to buy what I wanted (my wants aren’t extravagant) as well as contribute to others, never been in debt (though I don’t really own anything, so no car loan or mortgage), and I’ve always been able to order my life pretty much as I pleased.  A friend of mine describes this as ‘prosperous’, in contrast to ‘successful’.

  • Anonymous

    “The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the
    bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That — with the squalid cash interpretation put
    on the word success — is our national disease.” – William James, 1906.

  • Wisefather

    Anyone who dismisses class conflict as mere envy doesn’t “get it,” and when they do it will be too late.  I also rebut Romney’s claim of a “politics of envy” in a recent post at  It is not envy but anxiety over the vastly disproportionate power the very rich can wield in our current political system, often to the detriment of the rest of us.

  • BC

    I took the “in quiet rooms” to mean backroom deals.  Romney thinks these are things the elite can talk about amongst themselves and not involve the riff raff.  Because they probably wouldn’t take kindly to what is being said about them.