Slate's liberal economics blogger Matt Yglesias bought a $1.2 million three-bedroom condo in Washington, D.C., and a bunch of conservatives are pretty appalled that a liberal would have the gall to be rich. Rich people shouldn't be liberal because liberals hate rich people. Or maybe it's that liberals shouldn't be rich. It's kind of hard to tell with all this class envy swirling around.
Is Yglesias a hypocrite? His critics seem to feel like he is. "Nothing says wealth redistribution like purchasing a $1.2 million condo in the heart of Washington D.C.," Breitbart News' Ben Shapiro writes. We don't have all the details yet, but thus far, there's no record that the moment Yglesias signed his mortgage, he also signed a pledge advocating a new position on taxes -- that he should not pay very much taxes at all.
Although in polite political discourse these days it is common to think liberals are socialists, and socialists are communists, and communists are murderous Bolsheviks, it's important to note those words don't actually all mean the same thing. When liberals advocate higher marginal tax rates, they are not also advocating kicking rich people out of their homes and eating their babies. So when Yglesias buys a house, he's not a hypocrite. He'd be a hypocrite if he opened a P.O. box in Florida to avoid paying some income taxes.
In fact, some of our favorite conservative bloggers seem to be playing the baby-eating game themselves. Yglesias's real estate sale is rank hypocrisy, Shapiro writes, because "Yglesias is the same fellow who wrote back in 2012 that high-cost government entitlements were necessary in order to rectify income inequality." Shapiro pulls up this damning Yglesias quote from 2011:
"We have a lot of things that we could do that would be very conducive to growth. You know, for the poorest, I think the example historically shows that you sometimes just need to tax people more and give them more money, and give them more social services."
Again, we have no evidence that Yglesias's new home has changed his position on social services and taxes. On Friday, Yglesias wrote about how few high-achieving-but-low-income students apply to elite schools. Word-of-mouth can help once a few kids are admitted to top colleges. But, "A more centralized system in which everyone takes the Official College Entrance Test and then receives a letter from the government informing them of their score-based options and income-based financial aid would have some problems, but could be a boon to working class kids," Yglesias writes. He doesn't sound like a libertarian yet.
No, it seems less a policy critique than a chance to scoff at a blogger with money. "So, party at Matty's this weekend? I mean, I'm sure he won't mind if we crash the joint, what with that myth of owning private property and all," Andy writes at the conservative blog Ace of Spades. "Sounds like just the place to relax and unwind after a busy day of dismantling capitalism... Remember: Money is bad unless it’s in the hands of leftists," The Daily Caller's Jim Treacher writes. Noting that Yglesias has said that doctors and executives are overpaid, Shapiro writes:
How much is Yglesias being paid to write for Slate? If this report from the Washingtonian is correct (and it appears to be right), an awful lot. That's the beauty of capitalism. But is it really fair that he be paid more than doctors, or high level executives? Where’s the justice in that?
I can usually trust my favorite conservative blogs to be steadfast in their opposition to cheap class envy. Why, here's Ace of Spades praising Adam Carolla a year ago for condemning it. "[I]t's envy that has turned into resentment that has turned into anger and essentially shame. It's pretty simple psycho dynamic which is, 'I wish I had that guy's expensive car, good looking wife, big house, whatever it is,'" Carolla said, "Obvious but worth saying," Ace wrote.
And here's Shapiro, writing of Obama's 2013 State of the Union, "Obama’s answer is not to help those who hire and create. It’s to confiscate their wealth in the name of fairness..." Here's Breitbart News' Larry Kudlow, writing in January 2012, said he was very disappointed with "some Republicans on the campaign trail" who were "Keeping class envy alive." Here's Ron Futrell saying the story of Mitt Romney's tax returns "fits right in [the media's] wheelhouse of deception and class envy." But Futrell wasn't happy either when Jon Stewart made fun of Romney's money, and then someone on Yahoo News said that was hypocritical, because the comedian is rich. Futrell scoffed, "The hypocritical media is always the first and the loudest at pointing out supposed hypocrisy."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.