Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 8:19 AM
The Obama presidency is as replete with historical firsts as it is with historical ironies. Nothing demonstrates the latter quite like those who have benefitted most under his leadership being the ones who are complaining most about it.
Mind you, it would be one thing if, like billionaire Warren Buffet, they were complaining about Obama not doing enough to redistribute their unconscionable accumulation of wealth – to redress the growing gap between America’s rich and poor. But far too many of these rich folks are actually complaining about Obama persecuting them the way Hitler persecuted the Jews.
With respect to the latter, venture capitalist Thomas Perkins incited national outrage with a January 24, 2014 open letter to the Wall Street Journal titled, “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming.” Because in it he literally analogized criticism of rich people in America today to persecution of Jews in Germany during Nazi rule:
I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich’…
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.
Again, it’s important to bear in mind that Perkins is just a Johnny-come-lately to this kind of ironic, amoral, and utterly incomprehensible super-rich whining. Perhaps they’re all smoking a plutocratic form of crystal meth that triggers this peculiar strain of paranoid delusions. Whatever the case, the New Yorker chronicled, in its October 2012 issue, other billionaires expressing similar concerns in “Super-Rich Irony: Why Do Billionaires Feel Victimized By Obama?”
This mystifying “thick-wallet, thin-skin” whining was exposed in infamous fashion just weeks ago when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was caught on tape inciting (reverse) class warfare by telling the super-rich (at a political fundraiser) that the poor (aka the 47 percenters) are just parasites living off the taxes paid by the super-rich like them…
No doubt many of you were shocked to read about these super-rich, and presumably intelligent, Americans invoking Hitler to condemn Obama.
Well, it’s axiomatic that nothing makes intelligent people say ignorant things quite like trying to rationalize their racism. In this respect, the whining among the super-rich about Obama being bad for business is damning enough. But nothing betrays their ignorance quite like their Tea Party-like accusations about Obama being the second coming of Adolf Hitler hell-bent not just on helping the Iranians exterminate the Jews, but also on turning the United States into a socialist paradise.
(“Super-Rich Irony…,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 5, 2012)
But, in “Delusions of Despair Undermining Obama’s Presidency,” June 21, 2012, I actually presaged much of what the New Yorker chronicled:
What is delusional … is that chief among those lamenting this despair are people who have benefited most during his presidency. Most notable are Wall Street bankers whose firms he bailed out and who raked in record profits as the DOW rose an unprecedented 56 percent. But they are joined at the hip by corporate CEOs whose companies are sitting on trillions in profits and who earned so much in compensation that the cause of their despair must be some perverse form of thriver’s guilt.
In other words, the reason Perkins’s complaint makes no sense is that it has nothing to do with any fear of persecution of the kind ethnic minorities suffer every day, let alone of the kind Jews suffered in “fascist Nazi Germany.” Instead his complaint is a manifestation of the Obama derangement syndrome that afflicts a surprising number of rich folks.
Granted, Perkins and his ilk would rather see millions of their fellow Americans struggling to live on minimum wage (and tens of millions more living without basic healthcare) than pay one cent more in taxes. This clearly indicates that their moral afflictions go far deeper than Obama’s progressive policies … and skin color. In which case their demonizing the poor in response to what they see as the poor demonizing them might just be the defensive pleadings of their guilty consciences.
My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody… I think when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody.
(Barak Obama, ABC News, October 14, 2008)
In any event, that he timed publication of his letter to preempt Obama’s State of the Union Address tonight indicates that his motivation was more political than existential. Like others, Perkins must’ve resented the White House telegraphing Obama’s intent to reinforce his 2008 campaign message about spreading the wealth around to redress economic/income inequality, which he has repeatedly said is “the defining issue of our time.”
Another irony, of course, is that Obama has done precious little since 2008 to spread the nation’s wealth around. Which is why I was so heartened when he finally began talking late last year about taking “executive action” to deal with this defining issue. I duly commented in “Obama Addresses Growing Gap Between Rich and Poor … Finally!” December 13, 2013.
The point is that this ratio of CEO-to-worker pay merely compounds a profound normative shift in America. For we have gone from the 1950s when CEOs had vested interests not only in the welfare of their workers but that of the communities in which they lived as well, to today when they have vested interests only in the bottom line and share value … because these provide the economic pretext for their exorbitant pay.
This let-them-eat-cake mindset has misled Walmart to pay its CEO, Michael Duke, over 1000 times more than the average worker and still insist, with nary a pang of guilt or hypocrisy, that it makes no business sense to pay its workers a fair minimum wage.
(“CEO Pay Just a Reflection of America’s Economic Apartheid,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 18, 2013)
Indeed, Perkins complaining about poor people demanding more equitable pay for their work is about as credible and sympathetic as Marie Antoinette complaining about peasants demanding more butter for their bread. Not that he deserves a similar fate, I hasten to clarify. But, come to think of it, having the entire world mock their cringeworthy persecution complex, while marveling that people smart enough to amass super-rich fortunes can still be super stupid, might prove a worse fate for him and other unreformed masters of the universe.