The Blog

What's the Matter with the Wealthy?

10:42 AM, Nov 11, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Thomas Frank got a lot of attention a few years ago for his book What's the Matter With Kansas, in which he wondered why lower-income voters would back candidates who offered them little in the way of expanded government services. Frank and a host of liberal analysts found it astounding that so many Americans would vote against their perceived economic interests, and instead vote their cultural sensibilities. As far as they could tell, these bitter voters were clinging to guns, religion, and antipathy toward foreigners (to borrow a phrase).

But today Mark Penn--writing in the Politico--reports that the middle-income voters of Kansas may not be the only ones voting against their economic interests. Apparently affluent voters backed Barack Obama--despite the fact that he promises to raise their taxes:

Barack Obama promised he would lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans and presumably raise them for the 5 percent who benefited most under President Bush's tax policies. But, remarkably, the most affluent 5 percent supported Obama and that was perhaps the key to his victory last week.

This group - and the rise of a new elite class of voters - is at the heart of the fast-paced changes in demographics affecting the political, sociological and economic landscape of the country. While there has been some inflation over the past 12 years, the exit poll demographics show that the fastest growing group of voters in America has been those making over $100,000 a year in income. In 1996, only 9 percent of the electorate said their family income was that high. Last week it had grown to 26 percent - more than one in four voters. And those making over $75,000 are up to 15 percent from 9 percent. Put another way, more than 40 percent of those voting earned over $75,000, making this the highest-income electorate in history.

Don't hold your breath waiting for What's the Matter With the Top 5%. It's apparently understandable that educated and cosmopolitan voters regard other issues as more important than the personal bottom line. It's only the working voters of middle America whose votes ought to be predetermined.