The past two years have seen a tremendous shift in the public perception of capitalism and socialism, the character of philanthropy as reputation-laundry rather than generosity, and the nature of wealth as an indicator of sociopathy, not virtue or cleverness.
The "Overton Window" — the slate of policies that politicians are willing to discuss and propose in public — has shifted quickly and profoundly to the left, with the likes of Bernie Sanders anchoring a new outer bound as to what can be said in polite society, reinforced by other Democratic Socialists like AOC — opening the political space for the likes of Elizabeth Warren to sounds like a relative moderate when she insists that capitalism is good, but needs extensive reform.
How did Overton Window come to shift? Writing in Time, Anand Giridharadas (previously) persuasively argues that capitalism discredited itself, starting with the 2008 crisis. More recently, it was Trump insisting that he was capitalism's flagbearer and explicitly linking capitalism to corruption, ignorance, belligerence, greed, cruelty, xenophobia, racism, sexism and homophobia; Jeff Bezos pulling out of his plan to build a second HQ in NYC because "in a city where a significant number of people struggle to keep up with rising costs and stagnant pay, many weren't excited by the idea of the state and city giving his company a few billion dollars in tax breaks that wouldn't be available to a regular Joe starting a business."
Then there was the college bribery scandal in which the inventor of "impact investing" (using capitalism to make the world a better place) stands accused of bribing college officials to get his mediocre loin-fruit into an elite university at the expense of the kind of person whom "impact investing" was supposed to benefit.
Or Facebook being fined $5b for just one of its privacy catastrophes, and then experiencing a massive rise in its share price as investors realized that the FTC wasn't going to fine FB so much that it actually hurt.
The Sacklers' depraved, wanton encouragement of the opioid epidemic made them richer than the Rockefellers.
And then there's Jeffrey Epstein, the ultimate symbol of capitalism's elevation of sociopaths to positions of impunity, who taught America that rich people can literally steal your children by the dozen and repeatedly rape them, with no consequences.
The plutocrats — Giridharadas calls them "plutes" — spent 40 years telling us that anything that doesn't embrace the above is "socialism," with the inevitable and totally foreseeable outcome that Americans now embrace socialism at rates not seen since the New Deal. As Giridharadas writes: "History is the story of conditions that long seem reasonable until they begin to seem ridiculous."
So now the plutes are panicking: the Business Roundtable is promising a new form of capitalism (but refusing to even consider kicking out or even censuring members who violate that promise). Michael Bloomberg is buying his way into the Democratic race because he's worried that the frontrunners "aren't plutophilic enough," leading to peak plute: "a billionaire deciding to possibly attempt to purchase a party nomination because of his fear that some candidates in the race aren't plutophilic enough—and then running against a maybe–billionaire who promised that being a billionaire would make him specially incorruptible and now is in impeachment proceedings over his alleged corruption."
As the chances have increased that a candidate outside the neoliberal consensus will win the nomination, we have begun to see the Great Plute Freakout of 2019. A wave of plutes have weighed in about the dangers of a Sanders or Warren presidency. Although their obvious motivation is clear—not wanting to lose their money to the federal government—that's seldom how they argue it. Instead, they engage in economic concern trolling—framing their self–preservational worries as being, in fact, worries about you and yours. Zuckerberg of Facebook warned us that taxing wealth would limit the diversity of philanthropic efforts in medical research. Leon Cooperman, a hedge-fund billionaire, warned us that taxing wealth would curb the good works that he and his friends do. And then, in the cherry on top, Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and media billionaire, made moves to launch his own bid for the Democratic nomination. Peak billionaire may be a billionaire deciding to possibly attempt to purchase a party nomination because of his fear that some candidates in the race aren't plutophilic enough—and then running against a maybe–billionaire who promised that being a billionaire would make him specially incorruptible and now is in impeachment proceedings over his alleged corruption.
How America's Elites Lost Their Grip [Anand Giridharadas/Time]
(via Naked Capitalism)