The Successful.

Andrew Sullivan briefly lays out his ideal balance for deficit reduction:

I think the ideal balance is roughly $2 of spending cuts for $1 of tax hikes. Most of the tax hike is going to come from people like me; and I don't like it, and do think it adds a disincentive to work harder. But I also realize that spending cuts in entitlements will hurt many and we're all in this together (or should be). If we don't do something serious soon, the US will default, and these worries will seem puny. And there's no one's income left to tax but the successful's - and a gas tax or VAT (the better options) seem totally unacceptable to most Americans.

I don't want to get into the details of deficit reduction (though it suffices to say that I disagree with Sullivan), but I did want to note Sullivan's habit of referring to the rich as "the successful." Whether he realizes it or not, in conflating the two, Sullivan is disparaging the good majority of people who like their lives but never had the privilege and good fortune to make it to the world of top earners.

And really, that's what distinguishes the rich from the rest of us, privilege and good fortune. Miley Cyrus has had a pretty lucrative recording career, but ultimately, her success is a product of her good birth; who's to say she would be anything if she weren't the daughter of a pop star? Paris Hilton has done absolutely nothing of value, but since she is rich, does Sullivan count her among "the successful?"

Simply put, wealth simply doesn't enjoy a 1:1 relationship with success. Some people work hard for their wealth, but some are lucky, some have it handed to them, and others are ultimately capitalizing on advantages they gained at birth. Money is money, not moral worth, and Sullivan is smart enough to know the difference.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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