The Magazine

They Hate Poor People

The liberals’ dirty little secret.

Jan 30, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 19 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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Why do elites hate the poor? It’s xenophobia. They don’t know any poor people—except their off-the-books Brazilian nanny and illegal immigrant cleaning lady from Upper Revolta who don’t speak English. Modern elites live in bubbles of liberal affluence like Ann Arbor, Brookline, the Upper West Side, Palo Alto, or Chevy Chase. These places used to have impoverished neighborhoods nearby, but the poor people got chased out by young singles living in group homes, hipsters, and urban homesteading gay couples. When elites see a homeless person in the gutter, they assume he’s saving a parking place. And the elites have never been poor themselves. Although there was that time in graduate school, between research grants, when they had to go without sushi for a week.

Elites are irked at the charity they have to give to the poor. Not that elites, personally, give charity to the poor. They get the IRS to do it for them. Which is the way elites like it and why they’re in favor of higher taxes. It’s worth the price not to come into any actual contact and risk getting poverty cooties. But elites are human like the rest of us, and paying higher taxes irks them.

The elite resent the poor because, although poor people have few pleasures and many troubles, they also have a lot of fun. You can see it in their music videos. The elites whine and mope. You can hear it on NPR.

America is a meritocracy. Elites think those poor people should earn their fun, the way Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky. And, being that America is a meritocracy, poor people obviously have no merit or they’d be rich and could afford to join the progressive elite.

But the real reason progressive elites hate poor people is fear. What if the poor quit believing in the progressive elite, quit supporting the progressive elite, quit voting for the progressive elite? The elite would be out on its ear—impeached, recalled, defeated on the ballots, dismissed from the universities, fired at newspapers and television networks, booted out of nonprofit foundations, and chased away from church pulpits.

The high-minded, right-thinking progressive elite would then be poor people, working crap jobs. And what a mess they’d make of it! Imagine elites manning the drive-through window at Burger King, giving customers all-lettuce, all-pickle Whoppers without buns, cheese, or burger patties to combat obesity. Or at the 7-11 making change for a twenty the way the Federal Reserve does. “Wait a minute, I’ve got to go in the back and print some fives.” Or convening a yard care seminar and producing a 200-page white paper on sustainable grass maintenance instead of mowing your lawn. Or panhandling in the manner of the U.S. government, “Hey, Buddy, can you spare $787 billion so’s a guy can get a stimulus package?”

Life would be hell if the high-minded, right-thinking progressive elite wasn’t elite anymore. We’d better quit smoking.

P. J. O’Rourke is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

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