The Wealth Effect: Poor Me, Poor Me

Josh has an excellent post up at TPM, dealing with the outburst of Tom Perkins which could only be printed in a Murdock outlet,

If you’ve been in the media slipstream today you know the outrage and mockery directed at Tom Perkins, one of the world’s wealthiest and most successful Silicon Valley venture capitalists, for an oped he wrote in the Wall Street Journal comparing the rising critique of income inequality and “the 1%” to Kristallnacht. Just so we’re all on the same page, Kristallnacht (“the night of shattered glass”) was essentially the opening act of Hitler’s Final Solution. It took place on November 9th and 10th, 1938. This claim manages simultaneously to be so logically ridiculous and morally hideous that Perkins deserves every bit of abuse he’s already receiving.

But I think we’re missing the point if we see this as the gaffe of one aging, coddled jerk. Because it’s only a more extreme and preposterous version of beliefs that have become increasingly widespread in the wealthiest sectors of American society, especially since 2008 and the twin events of the global financial crisis and the election of Barack Obama.

Theoretically, if I were wealthy I would have taken a lot more of Mr. Marshall’s post,

PAUL SOLMAN: So, experimental evidence that rich people are more likely to break the law while driving, help themselves to candy meant for children, cheat in a game of chance, also to lie during negotiations and endorse unethical behavior, including stealing at work.

The academic paper that resulted made headlines everywhere, the Wall Street Journal article leading with the question, “Ready the Pitchforks?”

Including this article from the New York Times in 2006

Unchecked inequality may also tend to create still more inequality. Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard, argues that as the rich become richer and acquire greater political influence, they may support policies that make themselves even wealthier at the expense of others. In a paper published last July, he said, “If the rich can influence political outcomes through lobbying activities or membership in special interest groups, then more inequality could lead to less redistribution rather than more.”

It’s not my duty to educate the wealthy, it’s their duty to educate themselves, which Mr. Perkins has failed to do, and so he has his feeling hurt unnecessarily because of failing to ‘know thyself.’ In so doing he also fails to know and understand the progressive movement, which is not to destroy the wealthy, or reduce the income and wealth disparity to zero, but to allow the majority of citizens to obtain to a better standard of living, through the dignity of work.

If you cannot know yourself, then you should know your enemy, and in this case that is one and the same thing.

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