Why the hyper-rich turn into crybabies when "one percent" is invoked

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter by Tom Perkins (the "Perkins" in the venture capital firm "Kleiner Perkins") in which he compared rhetoric about the unjust riches of the "1 percent" to the events of Kristallnacht, the overture to the Holocaust. In a terrific editorial, Josh Marshall explains why the hyper-rich turn into such crybabies when it's pointed out that they've gamed the system so that they grow richer and richer while everyone else gets poorer:

One is the simple but massive run up in the concentration of wealth itself over the past two generations. There's a slice of the population, whether it's the top 1% or .01% or whatever, that doesn't just have more stuff and money. The sheer scale of the difference means they live what is simply a qualitatively different kind of existence. That gulf creates estrangement and alienation, and one of a particular sort in a democracy where such a minuscule sliver of the population can't hope to protect itself alone at the ballot box.

Let's call this socioeconomic acrophobia.

A second is tied specifically to the 2008 financial crisis. The last 35 years or so have seen a period in which the celebration of wealth and the wealthy has been near the extreme end of the pendulum swing that has moved back and forth over the course of American history. Let's not distract ourselves, for the moment, with whether this view is right or wrong. It's a pendulum swing as old as America. In this view, the super rich, the founders and most successful entrepreneurs, not only wow us by their genius and success but are also seen as the people driving forward the society and economy and prosperity for everyone. That's a nice climate to be wealthy in.

That all changed very abruptly at the end of 2008.

Suddenly, there was vast public animus at "Wall Street" and the Big Banks, exacerbated massively by the politics of the bailout. And not just from the left but from the right too, though in a different form. Pretty deserved on many levels: the financial sector, the figurative "Wall Street", had come close to crashing the global economic system by a mix of irresponsible risk taking and gaming the political system to permit this high-risk, wealth-juicing leverage. But if we're to understand the psychology of the individuals involved we must appreciate the whipsaw nature of that experience.

The Brittle Grip, Part 2 [Josh Marshall/TPM] (via MeFi)

Notable Replies

  1. There are a couple quotes around to effect that "Fascism comes disguised as anti-Fascism," and this guy is making classic Fascist statements. Also there seems to be a corollary to Godwins Law that when a conservative invokes Hitler, he will then start spewing stuff plagiarized from Mein Kampf.

    In this case, he's pretty much in full agreement with Hitler: The liberals are the real racists, the liberals are going to enslave us, the liberals are the real genocidal maniacs, the liberals are the real Fascists.

    See how easy it is to embrace Hitler? Just dust off Adolphs old scripts, rinse, lather, and repeat. and there you are, presenting Fascism as anti-Fascism. Killing liberals is justfiable and practically a moral imperative.

  2. Because they dodged and hid their money offshore and on (remember Enron and Worldcom's fancy bookkeeping?), and then Bush repealed those tax increases and allowed even more tax havens.

    The capital gains tax is, frankly, far too low, and loopholed to the max. It should be calculated from unadjusted revenue minus unadjusted gross expenses for real goods and services, and those goods and services transactions audited as far down the dollar chain as it's possible to go, so that false or shady transactions can't reduce the tax burden. And that's the rate. It can be a low rate or a flat rate or a progressive rate or whatever rate you want, but it should apply evenly across all corporations and people without exceptions. Should even apply to churches, nonprofits and charities. No exceptions to the capital gains tax. Then we'd have a system that isn't gamed and subjective.

    And then, of course, address seriously all the disparities and lopsided shit like drones and stealth bombers that we buy with all that tax money, because if we had a fair tax system, we should have a non-insane spending system too.

    And while I'm at it, My Little Ponies for all the children, beer for the dads and girls' night out for the mommies. And unicorns and rainbows coming out of my butt, with a pink cupcake and Greek Gods serving us free Starbucks from little push-carts that roam the neighborhood, and stacks of money thrown on our doorsteps by conga lines of happy Oompa Loompas who don't feel oppressed.

    That world.

    Or revolution and just take back what the 1% stole from us and frog march them to the guillotine...

    I'm good either way.

  3. jjsaul says:

    Also, recall the details of the surplus that Clinton left.

    The simple facts are these: it was a surplus in the Social Security Trust, not in the general fund. They were kept separate for a reason - the demographic bulge of the baby boomers meant that a temporary surplus had to be built into the system in order to pay for their retirement. It was working precisely as planned.

    The Bush tax cuts were argued for on the basis of this surplus, by conflating it with the state of the general fund.

    The tax cuts were not to the payroll taxes that had created the system, they were to the income and capital gains of the wealthy.

    It was done to starve out the public programs for which the money had been saved as part of the Social Security surplus. It wasn't a secret - it had been trumpeted by the Grover Norquist wing of the GOP for two decades.

    All this was only 12 years ago. How is it possible that we have public arguments about the debt ceiling and deficit spending that don't start from these indisputable facts?

  4. it IS possible to "create wealth" while at the same time not take it away from others.

    Um, what?

    Nowhere have I said that's not possible. I suggest you go back and read my posts and steer away from fallacious arguments with me in the future if you want me to take you seriously.

    This is the premise behind Google's "don't be evil."

    I don't think you could have found a more laughable example considering all the evil Google has done.

    Perkins' wealth creation did good for a lot of people

    Once again, nowhere have I said that didn't happen for some people.

    What you're missing is that in order for him to become so vastly wealthy and the others he enabled to become billionaires, they had to shove the externalities they created onto the rest of society in order to garner such ridiculous amounts of money.

    There's no way in hell one can acquire that much ridiculous wealth without externalities being shoved aside for the rest of society to pick up. I'm sure you'd like examples and I don't blame you (although you could look this up yourself if you're so inclined), so here's a sampling:

    • Perkins partnered with Eugene Kleiner who started Fairchild Semiconductor which has created massive amounts of pollution issues that they thrust upon the rest of society.

    Fairchild Semiconductor has leaked tens of thousands of gallons of toxic solvents into the ground which residents and even state officials strongly suspect caused a high rate of birth defects in the area.

    Let me know when Perkins and his good buddy Eugene Kleiner are going to dip into their vast wealth to take care of all those people growing up with birth defects. Nah, just let the rest of society deal with it. Also, why put in pollution controls and cut into vast profits to do that when you can just be a bum who has others suffer the consequences?

    Oh, and they've got a fucking superfund pollution site:


    Guess who mostly pays for superfund sites? For the most part, everyone except the billionaires. Yep, society does in many more ways than one. The vast wealthy sure as hell never live anywhere near superfund sites, that's for sure. That's for the "others" to do.

    Just pay some fines down the road and keep being a megalomaniac, right?

    • Perkins seeded Genentech. Once again, they sure don't want to cut into those profits they "earned" by not cutting corners.

    Genentech overlooked 80,000 adverse reaction complaints including 15,000 tied to deaths.

    Read the Reuters story.

    There's many more examples if you bother to look...

    Unlike these filthy billionaires, I've got real work to do because I work hard for a living so you're going to have to look up the many more examples yourself. I guess my work would be much slacker and more profitable if I lacked morals and ethics, but life's a bitch for those of us who work for a living that doesn't suck off society.

    Perkins may live "the good life" with his 130 million dollar yacht and the whores that sail with him, but I'd rather "live a good life" where I give more to society than I take and be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day.

    Tom Perkins and all his megalomaniacal buddies can rot in hell. They are bums who suck off society for their own gain and then want us to line up to kiss their asses. You can pucker up all you want, but the rest of us with more awareness and dignity will line up to give them a swift kick in their ass instead.

  5. I read somewhere a while ago ...

    I read somewhere a while ago that Iraq had WMDs and we'd be greeted as "liberators" after invading Iraq. It didn't quite work out that way.

    How about providing your source? Let me guess, you don't have one...? That's ok, I have some sources below...

    Though nobody pays for their externalities (rich or poor).

    That's an absolutely untrue statement based entirely on fiction.

    Check this post (for starters) and educate yourself on who pays the costs:


    Average American taxpayers and the poor (dearly) pay for externalities:

    Fast food, poverty wages: The public cost of low-wage jobs in the fast-food industry:

    Airlines get $2.7 billion in taxpayer-backed loans while using poorly paid workers:

    Taxpayers foot bill for cleanup of polluted site in south St. Louis:

    Disparities in the Impact of Pollution on the Poor:

    Pollution disproportionately affects the poor:

    Low-Income, Minority Communities Disproportionately Exposed To Toxic Air Pollutants, Study Finds:

    (This all just barely scratches the surface, by the way)

    The poor (especially the poor) pay for externalities not just with their limited money, but with their time, suffering and even with their very own lives. Let me know when the billionaires start living next to the superfund sites they create (and start paying for them in earnest along with all the damage to the poor that live there).

    For you to dismiss this is incredible.

    I don't now what libertarian think tank crack you've been smoking, but that's so far from reality that it'd be laughable if it wasn't so heartless and delusional to say such things.

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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