How Tom Perkins Transgressed the Unwritten Law

“Well he did do that, yeah. He was a hard man. Vicious but fair.” –Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Tale Of The Piranha Brothers

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

This will be a very simple post. Most of the press blew the Tom Perkins story, whose moral can be summed up in one sentence:

The rich are different. They have class interests, they know it, and they act on them.

Tom Perkins, the expensively accessorized Silicon Valley venture capitalist, in the follow-up interview on his now famous but-for-all-the-wrong reasons letter, explains:

[PERKINS:] I don’t feel personally threatened, but I think a very important part of America, the creative 1 percent, are threatened. I think [the] rich as a class are threatened by higher taxes and higher regulation

So there you have it; Perkins transgressed the unwritten law: You never talk about class in America, because that would be “class warfare.” You especially don’t do it (for example, in the SOTU) if you’re a two-term “progressive” Democratic President who is as exquisitely attuned to the rules of what can and can’t be said as any shill living. From David Remnick’s recent piece:

Obama bruised some feelings once or twice with remarks about “fat-cat bankers” and “reckless behavior and unchecked excess,” but, in general, he dares not offend. In 2011, at an annual dinner he holds at the White House with American historians, he asked the group to help him find a language in which he could address the problem of growing inequality without being accused of class warfare.

Such genteeel pretensions aren’t limited only to Presidents. Journalists share them too! As The Baffler’s George Scialabba writes:

It’s as though the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, making use of both political parties, have engineered a brilliant, multifaceted, devastatingly successful campaign to roll back the New Deal.

Which, as [Alexander] Cockburn pointed out [in a A Colossal Wreck], is pretty much what happened. Indeed, so tirelessly did he persist in labeling the United States a class society that he was gently ushered to the margins of American political discussion, whose center is occupied by such intellectual titans as Thomas Friedman and George Will. Very Serious People do not make a fuss about class. It is not a Very Serious Subject.

Now it is true that Perkins has had, deservedly, his head nailed to the floor for comparing the mild mummery of the Democratic nomenkltura to Kristallnacht*, statements like “Let the rich do what the rich do, which is get richer,”, the wretched excess of his personal life — his Wikipedia entry has a special section for “Homes,” plural, and “Yachts,” plural — and that he’s “divorced from the reality that 99% of us live in.” But the central story — Perkins’s full-throated and explicit defense of his own class interests — goes unremarked.

And what might those interests be, and how do Perkins and the other members of his class go about defending them? As it happens, we have polling data! The Daily Beast (of all places) summarizes: “The rich really are as selfish as you think” [complete study (PDF)]:

According to [a new study by political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright]—which surveyed a sampling of the richest 1 percent of Americans—the wealthy are almost categorically opposed to efforts to reduce inequality and improve material conditions for working- and middle-class** people.

Among these Americans, just 40 percent support an increase to the minimum wage, just 13 percent support an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, just 8 percent support a government jobs program for the unemployed, just 32 percent support universal health insurance, and only 30 percent support expanded worker training programs. By contrast, the general public is more supportive of all of these positions.

What the rich do support, however, are policies that would shift burdens to individuals, or introduce some nebulous “competition” into public goods. That includes charter schools (90 percent support), vouchers (55 percent), Social Security privatization (55 percent), and merit pay for teachers (93 percent).

If this agenda looks familiar, it’s because it’s basically identical to the one pushed by “centrist” deficit hawks in Washington, who have devoted themselves to the consensus positions of business and other economic elites. For them, deficit reduction—through substantial cuts to the welfare state—is more vital than efforts to reduce unemployment or strengthen the social safety net.

So, I’m not seeing anything in the SOTU that goes against the class interests of Tom Perkins et al. Am I right? Yeah, $10.10 — why not, heck, round it up to the full quarter at $10.25? — minimum wage, but when labor’s asking for $15, that doesn’t seem like much. And Obama’s pathetic proposals on unemployment fall right in line, as we would expect, as does ObamaCare, which is in no sense universal, and ensures a rental stream, for the indefinite future to Tom Perkins et al., thank you very much.

Since we’re talking classes, here, we can represent the transgression of Tom Perkins in the form of a Venn Diagram:

Figure 1


NOTE Diagram not to scale.

It’s clear that “The Class of Tom Perkins et al.” asserts its class interests very effectively. Suppose that the “The Class of NOT Tom Perkins et al.” did so, as well? What would that take? What would that look like? Is is possible that “The Class of NOT Tom Perkins et al.” could assert the class interest of “The Class of All Humans,” as “The Class of Tom Perkins et al.” clearly does not?***

NOTE * Perkins, of course, chooses, as a moral agent, to be rich. Hitler’s Jews did not choose to be Jews; not even conversion could save them. The two classes of human are not comparable.

NOTE ** If you accept that formulation. Personally, I think the category “middle class” is pernicious, since I know so many university people hanging on by the skin of their teeth to this self-identification, even as the cultural markers they are less and less able to pay for degrade. Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift. If you’re lucky enough to get a shift for a full day, that is. Working class is what they are, even if it is not what they believe and perceive themselves to be.

NOTE *** To be fair, it’s not entirely clear that “The Class of Tom Perkins et al.” regards entities not in “The Class of Tom Perkins et al.” as human, but that is a topic for another day.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. mashedpo

    and if we’re going to finally talk about class, and bring it the fore – why not use a little Marx and critical theory- actually very useful descriptive and analytical tools (perhaps not on the normative side of things) – but any class discussion a la Marx has been made utterly verboten in polite discussion – including “progressive” blogs…

    1. Klassy

      We’ve ignored class until we couldn’t any more. Certainly, there is much more discussion of class now. I guess it is true that Americans will do the right thing after exhausting all possible options. (I paraphrase)
      I remember reading a review of a book in the NYT years and years ago– it stuck in my mind because it was such a rarity– a book about class ( this was end of history/identity politics time)
      The book came out in 1990 and didn’t cause any stir.

    2. mookie

      What may have once been good tools have been blunted by decades of misuse. Critical theory is in shambles, and all too often garbles what it intends to explain. The all-too-common aversion to clarity, addiction to jargon, and boundless pretension of its practitioners has relegated it to the margins even in the academy.
      /spent too much time around theory jocks, over it.

  2. Klassy

    just 8 percent support a government jobs program for the unemployed
    pretty telling that this measure has the lowest support of all the measures to reduce inequality listed. Translation– “We’re not giving up the driver’s seat!”
    Is there a link for the Scialabba piece?

  3. Vicky Else

    A modest proposal: Americans are too confused about “class” and whether we have it to make such marxist formulations useful as a platform for debate, even if they are accurate. We tend to confuse class with aristocracy, for example, so every so-called self-made man takes umbrage at the notion.

    So I want to propose a new formulation: the top X% (we can debate what that is) are *wasters*, who own and consume far, far more than they produce in terms of services, social benefit, or goods. People who actually contribute such things are *producers*. I think that Americans believe that productivity is good, and this formulation helps to clarify an essential factor in understanding why our country seems to be rotting from the inside.

    1. mashedpo

      Everyone a king. Those who live on wages (income) and those who live on capital gain income (wealth). I can’t think of a better distinction. But it probably ensnares a number of progressives who cashed out based on a latter and have the critical freedom (time).

      1. Vicky Else

        True! Such progressives can make up for their transition to wasters by striving to provide social benefits through political action, and services free of charge to those in need. They’ll have to do a lot of that, to make up the difference. But in that way they once again will be producers.

      2. Nathanael

        “Those who live on wages (income) and those who live on capital gain income (wealth).”

        That’s “worker” vs. “rentier”. Frankly, the existinence of small-scale rentiers is not a serious problem. The problem is the *extremely* rich rentiers, who are destroying democracy.

        1. mashedpo

          Capital/labor, whatever. The problem extends way down from the “extremely rich” through the culture. If you’re living *well* off investments your interests and outlook are likely to be different. The Galtian environment smiles on your aspirations. Eisenhower era top marginal rates would be a good place to start but you need an actual agenda and support for that. In the absense of nobless oblige that requres more political power and taking a side on the basic equation

    2. Knut

      A good and important distinction between aristocracy and being a member of the filthy rich. The long and short of it is that the American nouveau super rich have no class.

    3. Crazy Horse

      It is counterproductive to use terms like class that have been de-legitimized by the Overlords’ control over the means of propaganda and “education”. I do like the redefinition of the underclass as the “producers” though.

      In a modern capitalist society we “wasters” are anybody who can obtain enough debt to participate in the social values of the society. So labeling the .001% “wasters” only serves to obscure the fundamental and unsustainable wasteland of values at the societies’ core.

      I much prefer the term “Vampire” to describe the Overlords of capitalism.

      Producers and Vampires– the inevitable result of capitalist values in action.

      1. psychohistorian

        I would encourage yo to read Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism by David McNally.

        It speaks clearly to and supports your Vampire description.

      2. Montanamaven

        I also prefer vampires. But I often use “hoarders” since people around here are familiar with the TV show “Hoarders”. The lords loot and plunder just like they did a thousand years ago and then store their plunder in vaults or pits in the ground rather than share with the producers of their food and clothing. Ridiculous idea.

      3. Jack Parsons

        Ah, but they are not wasters. They hoard instead of spend. The higher the wealth (not income) the less money spent on consumer goods, above a certain point they stop spending. They then chase investments which are not useful to society.

        This means that the total amount of money in circulation slowly drops, whereas poor & middle class (aka high-end working poor) spend almost all of their money. If we want a subsidy to improve the economy, give it to homeless people. They are guaranteed to spend all of it (and not on drugs, boredom drives their drug use).

    1. diptherio

      Love that wry humor! If the chart were to scale, the “class of Tom Perkins, et al” would be a single pixel in an ocean of white.

      FWIW, I’d suggest adding a third outer class of “all sentient beings,” just for the sake of completeness and to avoid be accused of species-ism.

  4. McMike

    What is most striking to me is never in modern times have taxes on the rich been so low, subsidies so large, legal forbearance so complete, regulations so meaningless, the state so fully at its beck and call and service – the entire government is oriented around making the rich richer and protecting them from consequences for their actions.

    There has not been a better time to be rich in more than a century. If even then. Yet it is NOW the rich complain about taxes and regulation and a hostile business environment.

    Anyone paying attention can tell you that from a factual/historical/policy standpoint, the complaints of the rich couldn’t be more baseless.

    Yet based merely on the occasional platitude from Obama and the pathetic grumblings of the peasants outside the walls, the rich feel deeply persecuted.

    Is this a cynical self-aware ploy to press their advantage?

    Is it the faint glimpse of some innate human conscience, a glimmer of self-aware guilt that gets all twisted and garbled into self-pitying whining persecution as it tries to express itself.

    Or are we catching a glimpse of the narcissistic pathology that underlies much of the ultra-rich? Are they really just a bunch of emotionally crippled children, who despite having a house full of toys and their own nannies and servants, yet all they really want is daddy’s approval?

    1. mashedpo

      Good comment. On an optimistic note perhaps the [talkative] rich are getting shrill because they sense that feast may be about to end due to whatever reason (carcass all gone, diseases of overindulgence, lack of utensils and servants, all of the above). When the sh*it goes down what’s left of the state will look for where the money is…

      1. Sufferin'Succotash

        On a not-so-optimistic note the Perkinses are well aware that they helped to create this state of affairs by decades of moaning about taxes and regulations. All they have to do now is maintain the high-pitched whine about Getting Big Government Off Their Backs (when it fact it’s sitting in their laps getting scratched behind the ears) to keep The Big Barbecue* going.

        *courtesy of Mark Twain

      2. McMike

        Might be a good time to break out Kevin Phillips’ “Wealth and Democracy.”

        He documents the history of government’s role in enabling the creation of the wealthy elite du jour (privateers, war profiteers, railroad tycoons, etc).

        But also documents how every once in a while, events pull the tablecloth out from under the feast. Then the cycle repeats.

    2. Gregory Geddings

      …”yet all they really want is daddy’s approval?”
      or, perhaps Mommy’s milky boob?
      All kidding aside, your comment is one of the best I have read on the subject at hand.

    3. Nathanael

      “Or are we catching a glimpse of the narcissistic pathology that underlies much of the ultra-rich? ”

      Yes. Read _Theory of the Leisure Class_ for more on this topic.

      1. paul

        It has been estimated that up to 15% of the population is subclinically psychopathic (abnormal lack of empathy, absence of remorse after harming others, supremely narcissistic, manipulative, deceitful, exploitative, etc.). For an exploration of this psychology, I’d recommend James Silver’s book entitled Almost a Psychopath. It looks like the overlord class is breeding psychopaths.

    4. James Levy

      These are people who are used to getting everything they want. No shirt, no dinner, no limo, no private jet, no employee, no mistress, who does not meet their standards and approval is not immediately replaced by what they do want at this minute. They now imagine that this demented deference and power should extend to the wider world beyond their household and bank/corporation. Their hubris is that profound, I think. So any challenge to their egos or interests is seen as diabolical and offensive.

      These are people who want it all. They want all the power, all the perks, all the acclaim. They want to get what the want and everyone to applaud and concur in the rightness and justice of such arrangements. In short, they are off their fuckin’ trollies.

  5. Expat

    For an interesting take down of Obama’s failure to address class on behalf of his base and how he misplayed the race card, Ian Masters interviews Boalt law school Professor Ian Haney Lopez,

    Haney-López’s most recent book, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, lays bare how conservative politicians exploit racial pandering to convince many voters to support policies that ultimately favor the very rich and hurt everyone else. Haney-Lopez points out that Roosevelt was the last — perhaps the only — president who sided with the 99% and acknowledged the class divide. Now, when Democrats say “I welcome their hatred,” they are talking about their base, not the kleptocratic plutocrats who pay them for legislative, judicial and tax advantage.

  6. McKillop

    While attending university in ’66 a professor asked my group to signify to identify the class to which we belonged. Of 300 or so students of ‘sociology’ roughly 6 claimed to be part of the working class. The others, having been trained to believe in their superior talents, and having their acceptance at the university as proof, called dibs on “middle class”.
    Even now, or especially now, where I live in a strongly unionized and working class city many people object to being identified as working class. The many people who are facing penury insist that it is the middle class whose financial well-being is under attack.
    Work, the word, has itself been made degenerate and many of us have groaned for years at the idea that “we have to go to work”, Winning the lottery is advertised as the equivalent of gaining Paradise in that the winner(s) can loll about on sandy beaches, bungiejump from clifffaces, and so on.
    I started years ago to claim that I was Playing not working: it made my life enjoyable but caused many of my friends to scratch their heads in puzzlement.
    Work, another four letter word!

  7. Banger

    I think the Nazi comparison is deliberate. The oligarchs view the rest of us as a mindless mob swayed by cynical demagogues bent on looting the hard-earned wealth of the creative class. They believe that the rich are those who improve society and the rest of us lazy bums are just riding along for the ride to smell the flowers (God forbid anyone even think of such a thing).

    In a way the rich-paranoia thing is kind of touching. Those oligarchs have everything–political power is theirs, most of the mainstream media is in their control. They control all the major cultural and artistic institutions and the world is their oyster. But they care about what we think! They want us to like and appreciate the fact that they are the real moral leaders of society–their ethics and attitudes should be ours. They want us to be ruled entirely by them in some feudal fantasy of Downton Abbey where everyone knows their place. And those outside the protection of the feudal lords can suffer the fate of what old Scrooge suggested once upon a time.

    1. Klassy

      Yes, it is odd that the still have this deep need for public approbation. It is more than just being scared of the mob.

  8. Pat

    I also think we should talking about the middle class. Tom Perkins’ class has worked tirelessly to see it destroyed for almost a century, and have pretty much accomplished that.

    We have the poor, the working class and the investment class.

    The problem is that now that the middle class has been destroyed – there are less and less people to contribute to the government that provides massive support to the investment class. And they might have to take on the very burden that they shifted to the middle class almost four decades ago – and what would be the point of that. They might as well just invest in the companies directly. Of course that would leave the problem of where the bail outs would come from in the future, but they’ll figure that one out if it happens.

    So let the working class and the poor go hungry, the roads deteriorate and the schools fall to ruin. Just keep funding the military in case they get any ideas that this is unfair.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Why do you think “the middle class” is a useful analytical construct?

      Arthur Silber says “It’s called the ruling class because it rules.” “It’s called the middle class because it’s in the middle”… of what?

      1. Banger

        Worth looking into. Originally the middle-class was those who were neither peasants nor clerics nor aristocrats–today that term has lost its meaning. We may need some new way to look at social/economic classifications.

        1. Nathanael

          I usually say “the middle classes”. And I think it’s still useful, with the same meaning as before — neither peasants nor aristocrats.

          Now, who are the modern aristocrats? Well, THAT’S obvious — the million-dollar-a-year crowd, the CEOs in the 0.1% who simply write their own incomes using other people’s money.

          Who are the modern peasants? Anyone who has to beg for a job, submit to urine tests, be monitored by their overseers, etc. in order to live. This includes most people.

          There are still middle classes — small businesspeople, independent professionals, employees in high enough demand to play one employer against another. They’re shrinking.

          1. McMike

            The middle class – an evolution of the guilds and merchant class I would think. A default classification: not rich, not poor.

            What happened was the middle class got too big, and had to be plundered, and put back in their place – which is as dependents, courtiers, to the rich.

  9. bruce

    Nothing to add. Only to comment that this is collectively the best set of comments to an on-line piece I have ever read. And thank you Yves, so much, for the genuine treasure that is NC.

  10. Peter L.

    This post immediately made me think of Noam Chomsky’s regular comments on the one-sided class war. For example, searching for “class war” on yields about 40 results. Responding to a question about a Matt Taibbi article, Chomsky says, “Well, there’s always a class war going on. The United States, to an unusual extent, is a business-run society, more so than others. The business classes are very class-conscious — they’re constantly fighting a bitter class war to improve their power and diminish opposition. Occasionally this is recognized. … [There follows a discussion of unions’ position toward health care in Canada vs. the U.S. as an example.] … It’s a war that is conducted by a highly class-conscious business leadership, and it’s one of the reasons for the unusual history of the U.S. labor movement. In the U.S., organized labor has been repeatedly and extensively crushed, and has endured a very violent history as compared with other countries.”

    Speaking of Ben Page. It is worth reading his (with L. Jacobs) 2010 book, Class War. It’s quite brief, and has excellent discussion of extensive surveys of American attitudes toward the economy. It contains many results that contradict conventional wisdom about American attitudes.

    1. Waking Up

      The Chomsky acolytes will come out after the comment I am about to make. However, this is my opinion on Noam Chomsky. He is obviously a well-versed scholar on “manufactured consent” as it relates to U.S. history and the world for that matter. By mid-2009, it became very obvious that Barack Obama would sell-out the majority of people in this country in order to favor the banks, MIC and powerful. Did Noam Chomsky tell the people of the United States to vote for someone other than those in the legacy parties for President in 2012? NO. In fact, he told people to vote FOR Barack Obama in 2012. So, while I believe Mr. Chomsky understands the political system, I don’t trust his word that he actually wants to CHANGE that system. Can’t we find writings by intelligent people who follow up their words with solutions for change?

      1. James Levy

        I’ll shamelessly guess at what Chomsky is thinking, based on reading him and hearing him talk. He thinks America is pretty rotten but better and more open than most other places (he’s likely not wrong there). He sees the Republicans as what they are: outriders of neo-feudalism. His sense is probably that the Dems allow a bit more space for creative and positive things to happen, not because they will do good, but because they are slightly less likely to silence and destroy anyone who would open their mouths. He may be wrong in this, but I think that’s what he thinks. And he knows enough history to know that letting the Right have their day in hope of disillusioning the masses so they turn to the Left never happens and is a pipe-dream (but one that I hear often on the Left). So vote for Obama and work within the space he allows us to operate in, because Mitt et al. will simply close that space down and privatize it.

        1. Waking Up

          “His sense is probably that the Dems allow a bit more space for creative and positive things to happen, not because they will do good, but because they are slightly less likely to silence and destroy anyone who would open their mouths.”

          Oh really…why don’t you ask the record number of whistleblowers and especially Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden whether Obama and the Democrats are “slightly less likely to silence” them.

        2. Waking Up

          And…someone who actually wants to see the system change, would not be an advocate of “the lesser of two evils” which maintains the status quo…exactly what Mr. Chomsky did.

          If Mr. Chomsky is concerned about privatization, how does he justify telling people to vote for Obama after Obama repeatedly promoted cuts in Social Security and Medicare (even prior to the 2012 election) AND whose administration is involved in the privatization of U.S. Postal Service assets and services. The U.S. Postal services is one of the few federal agencies actually mentioned in the Constitution. But hey, leave it to Obama and the Democrats to join the Republicans in destroying one of the few public services needed by so many citizens. That’s the “lesser of two evils” Chomsky promoted.

          So, once again, can’t we find other intelligent writers and academics who actually want a better system and have real solutions?

          1. Wayne Reynolds

            David Harvey, Richard Wolff, Michael Perelman, Naomi Klein, Slavoj Zizek, Albert Camus, Samir Amin…those just off the top of my head

        3. Calgacus

          Well, an answer to the lesser of 2 evils argument is that it is a hard case to make that Obama is to the Left, is the lesser of the 2 evils. How many US citizens did Romney openly assert the right to murder, and then carry out this ultimate despotic crime?

          With all respect to Chomsky, his idea that things were much worse under JFK is fantasy. As someone wrote in the Warsaw Ghetto, the time to get afraid, the time she did get really afraid is when they stopped dragging people away, stopped even pretending to legality – and just killed them in the street.

          Anyways, the best disposition I’ve seen of these arguments was on a bumper sticker:

          “Vote C’thulhu! Why settle for the Lesser Evil?”

  11. craazyman

    I don’t mind if some people are rich. Peyton Manning, for example, deserves to be rich. So does Tom Brady. So does somebody like Venus Williams or the skier Lindsey Vonn. I don’t know if she’s rich but anybody who flies downhill on skis at 90 mph probably deserves to be rich. I wouldn’t do that if you paid me.

    Adele very definitely deserves to be rich. No doubt about that. So do all the dudes from Led Zepplin. They deserve it. Even Barry Manilow deserves to be rich. Don’t fool yourselfs on that one. Neil Diamond deserves it too.

    Some guys who start businesses deserve to be rich. I once knew a guy who sold car window glass. Then he bought the small local business he worked for. Then he sold more glass and bought another business. In 10 years he was running one of the 5 biggest glass manufacturing companies in the U.S. He deserved to be rich.

    Even some guys who work on Wall Street can get rich, legitimately. If I, for example, put all my money into some penny stock and it went up 100 times I might be rich. Would I deserve it? You bet I would! hahahah. Unless of course it was a stock scam. Then I’d just be unlucky, since I missed the chance for a 100-bagger in something that was legal.

    But rich don’t deserve to be so rich that the rest of us are poor. That’s the problem.

    1. Nathanael

      Yeah. Rich is fine up to a point, AFAIC, but there comes a point when it’s just greed and it ends up sabotaging everyone. More than a million a year? Is well beyond that point. It’s a bit different for sports stars because they burn their bodies out and can’t make the money after a certain age — but for CEOs, a million a year is just wrong.

      1. Carla

        The CEO of United Healthcare was compensated to the tune of $49 million last year. United Healthcare has the exclusive AARP contract to offer supplemental insurance, part D prescription drug plans and so-called Advantage plans to Medicare recipients (everybody 65 and over). Medicare pays 80 percent of hospital and doctors’ bills; the supplemental pays the remaining 20 percent (or rather as much of that as it stipulates). Yet premiums for supplemental insurance cost significantly more than Medicare premiums themselves. All this, so that we won’t have the dreaded single-payer health insurance.

        It would be a considerable improvement if CEO pay were capped at only a million a year.

    2. McMike

      Well, it starts out okay.

      Then you start thinking about how much of Manning’s wealth is derived from stadium subsidies and tax breaks, league monopoly waivers, telecom deregulation, even ticket price tax deductibility. Not to mention the college athletics system that serves as a publicly financed and tax exempt farm league.

      Or we go over to Led Zepellin, or modern music artists anyway, and we find a copyright system tilted heavily to favor rights owners long after the work is created, using the government as its enforcers, across the globe even.

      And you realize that Balzac was right, even in those cases.

      I can think of many entrepreneurs who deserve to be wealthy. Yes. But somehow it has spun out of control, and proportion.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Art is not about the painting on the wall.

      As the elite athletes go faster and faster beyond 90MPH, more and more are becoming couch potatoes.

      Anyways, more and more shower Carusoes are good for humanity’s mental health.

      You’re the best singer in the world…everyone of you. Don’t ever stop singing.

      And no one deserves to be rich depriving you of your soul, that is, stifling your creativity…which you yourself do with your idol-worshipping.

    4. Cynthia

      The financial system is incredibly creative. How else do you explain inventing trillions, blowing it all up, getting bailed out by poor people and going right back to inventing trillions. The most creative magic trick ever!

  12. Synopticist

    I know this might sound strange, but i wonder whether Obama actually understands how US politics works.
    A while back during one of Obama’s fights with the hostage taking republicans I wondered into a pub in my small English country town, and had a brief conversation about politics with a guy I chat to occasionally, who has very little interest in these things generally. Within a minute or so, he said, in effect ( i don’t remember his exact words) “Obama keeps trying to compromise, but there’s no way they’ll ever agree to anything he’d agree to”. It struck me then that this bloke understood the base reality of US party politics better than the president.

    Now this…”In 2011, at an annual dinner he holds at the White House with American historians, he asked the group to help him find a language in which he could address the problem of growing inequality without being accused of class warfare. “.
    I mean, WTF?
    As if the oligarchs are ever going to let anyone with an audience talk about inequality without screaming about class warfare. In what country and era does this man think he lives ? He’s so weirdly naive.

    1. Nathanael

      Yeah. I noticed this years back.

      Obama seems to have an Aristotlean fatal flaw which drives this seeming naivete — a *compulsive* desire to be liked, perhaps.

      1. Synopticist

        That’s it I reckon. He’s ended up being liked everyone he’s ever met, and and is determined to get his opponents now to like him as well. Because he’s charming and clever and non-threatenning once you get to know him, he never really had to try too hard to win that being liked thing. He’s sailed through his life and career relying on his likeability to disarm anyone who gets in his way, rather than facing any serious political challenges and adversity. Hence his lack of true political understanding.

        He’s already been liked by the “left”, and now he’s obsessed by having the right like him.

    2. Ptolemy Philopator

      Naive? Please! He is a front man pure and simple, there to talk populist plaititudes and soak up the progressive vote so that it does not threaten his clients, the .01%. And his reward, believe me he will never have to work again and neither will his descendants. It is not naivete it is deceit, pure and simple.

      1. Synopticist

        Well, in a way i agree with you, that’s certainly been the effect he’s had and is having.

        But I’m not necessarily sure that’s what he intended from the beginning. All these arguments about his long planned and unwavering deceit seem to me like the mirror image of the Obamabot claims about the unprecedented genius playing 7 dimensional chess.
        I prefer the simpler explanation- that he’s a centre-right corporatist with a socially liberal sheen, highly electable, yet completely over-promoted and out of his depth.

      2. Cynthia

        The President decries the 1% while having done more to help them than any other president before him. QE has been the biggest gift to the rich ever conceived. Unfortunately for him, this only works for so long. Fortunately for him, it usually works until you are into your second term.

        1. James Levy

          Obama has ego requirements. He wants the rich to be grateful for his pulling their fat out of the fire and he wants the Republicans to acknowledge that they haven’t got a clue as to how to govern so they should accept his guidance and meet him half way. This is what seems to have been driving him since the first six months of his first term ended. He thinks if he can get himself elected president, he can get this. And he’s going to try until they drag him down Pennsylvania Avenue to swear in his successor.

  13. Nathanael

    FWIW, I’d bet that the skew in opinions as you get to richer and richer monsters is even more extreme than that.

    40% of the sample of 1%ers support raising the minimum wage? Well, try sampling the *0.1%ers* and I’ll bet its even fewer.

  14. steelhead23

    Lambert, Pardon me, but I think your math is off. Your Venn diagram displays “the rich” as a subset of humanity after you presented polling data that indicates that by-and-large they despise humanity and seek to exclude themselves from it. Hence, the rich (I would define as those with an annual income or net gain in excess of $10 million) are not a separate class of humans, they are aliens with anti-human tendencies. That is, they have declared themselves to be our enemies.

  15. JTFaraday

    When I read Perkins’ letter to the WSJ, what I thought was interesting and still do think is interesting, is the way that what he said is actually the truth, only rather than seeing himself as being amongst the class of perpetrators, he sees himself as being amongst the victims.

    The truth is that, if anything, the 1%– and the captured government it rode in on– are using “Nazi methods” against the majority of the population. I’m reminded of the philosopher Cornell West’s articulation of the problem in the wake of 9/11—and let’s recall here that the Nazis were huge fans of the Jim Crow South of the day, even though the Jim Crow South of the day declined to take the credit– as the “n*ggerization of America”:

    With Snowden’s revelations about the universal spying techniques of the NSA not to mention everything that preceded it, including the ritual disbandment of Occupy Wall Street, West’s somewhat controversial articulation is looking more prescient all the time.

    What I think is particularly toxic about our current moment in history is the way in which all of these things: the intensification of the class war against a racially stratified population and the demonization of the poor and unemployed — in the wake of an entirely avoidable financial crisis, that still goes unaddressed, with the perpetrators in control of the government—is occurring alongside an intensification of the police state domestically, justified by a war on terror without end against yet another racially identified target abroad.

    Idiot savant Perkins really did put his finger on the truth. He just can’t keep his victims and his perpetrators straight.

    1. Wayne Reynolds

      Yup, Cornell West. He and Chris Hedges together in the courthouse at Chelsea Manning’s sentencing. These guys are walking the talk. More leaders like these, please.

  16. PopeRatzo

    I think class warfare is just what the doctor ordered. The last time we had full class warfare, in the early part of the 20th century, it led to labor unions and the New Deal and decades of growth and widely distributed prosperity. And a robust middle class.

    I don’t like Communism, but it appears that the threat of Communism is the only thing that’s guaranteed to make the oligarchs and plutocrats behave.

    Yeah, I believe it’s time to put a serious scare into the top 1%.

  17. Ken Ward

    Perkins’s performance was so easy to criticise that Krugman, the great theorist of inequality, devoted a column to it. Dimon’s outrageous ‘compensation’, announced a day or two before Perkins’s Oscar-deserving act, required a little more courage to criticise. Hence Krugman, the great scourge of inequality, had nothing to say about it.

    1. Wayne Reynolds

      Yeah Krugman, the guy always ready to stand on the toilet paper stuck to the shoe dragging behind any plutocrat.

  18. An example

    In the conservative German newspaper “Die Welt”, there was an article followed by lots of comments about Perkins’ remark. Most are very clear about “class” (the rich would not be so rich if they had to earn their money), middle class (everyone knows academics that work for a pittance) and class warfare (most people are being exploited, working for 7 Euro an hour makes someone else rich).

    There are still many people here who received their education in former East Germany and I often find it amazing how popular Marx’ terms still are. Many understand the current economic crisis as “Endstadium des Kapitalismus” in which e.g. the rentiers need to profit from every commodity possible, even water and air.

  19. Rob Lewis

    The insecurity of America’s lower classes is a feature, not a bug. No job security, no income security, no educational security, no health security. As Robert Reich has pointed out, this pervasive insecurity makes people less likely to agitate for better conditions.

    For a brief time in the 50’s and 60’s, we had something approaching a just society. Then the rich regrouped after the shock of the New Deal and the interruption of WW II, forged their unholy alliance with social conservatives, and launched the dishonest, relentless propaganda campaign that brought us first the “Southern Strategy” and eventually the reign of St. Reagan. You know the rest.

    1. Wayne Reynolds

      I think that a person stuck with paying off a 30 year mortgage on a home is a much better way to ensure stability in a capitalistic society. The other advantage is that it gives the homeowner a sense of participating in the wealth of the society. They have taken that opportunity away from a vast number of people. Being stuck for a lifetime paying off student debt without any prospect of hope will not be a good substitute. I believe the plutocrats are awakening to the fact that the monsters they have created are beginning to have thoughts of their own. They are scared.

  20. psychohistorian

    Tom Perkins can kiss my ass. His comment about the creative class is as sick as the “invisible hand” of economics myth covering plutocratic control of capital.

    As a creative person with a utility patent in my name and now innovating a breath exercise to heal PTSD and NOT being rich (except in spirit), I am more than offended by those of his ilk.

    Lets end ongoing accumulation of capital by these assholes and build a better world.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Well said, psychohistorian (and good job on your ideas).

      They want you (or us) to think that only they are ‘creative’…because some are creative 1% and some are only creative 99% (snicker).

      The moment we stop worshipping idols (or at least stop doing it excessively) like worshipping this gal or that guy as a messiah or that entity (e.g. the government) as the savior, that’s when we start freeing and empowering ourselves.

  21. Accrued Disinterest

    Class warfare is most likely a fantasy, and we are mistaken to misuse the concept. The term “warfare” suggests at least two factions in some way equipped properly, locked in battle. Class genocide seems a more practical descriptor. And too, the apparent socio/psychopathic tendencies of of the perpetrators fits more snugly.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Facing with genocide, if speaking up for sharing is warfare, so be it.

      We came from sharing* and we can’t separate ourselves from sharing. To procreate, which the rich do (a lot of them), you have to share (your share of DNA).

      *Sharing most of the DNA is how we came into this world.

  22. Timothy Gawne

    Well said as usual. But.

    What the rich REALLY want is too-rapid population growth, because nobody beats the law of supply and demand.

    In India today there are about half a billion people who are chronically malnourished – their standard of living is below that of late Medieval Europe! And yet some cheap-labor IT Indian billionaire gets on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and rhapsodizes about how there cannot be ‘too many people’ because ‘people are the ultimate resource.’ Yeah, if you think of people like cattle, and your vast fortune depends on a limitless supply of workers competing for jobs and driving wages ever lower.

    Sure there are other issues that impact the supply and demand for labor, but as John Maynard Keynes kept pointing out, demographics is the 800 pound gorilla of labor market economics. It’s why the rich want too-rapid population growth more than anything, and why there is a virtual blackout on discussing this.

    Immigration ‘reform’ anyone? Here’s to limitless indentured servants (‘guest workers’, a.k.a. slaves). Cheap labor uber alles!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There is a reason by the 0.01% keep us around – they need us to produce and purchase their products/services.

      One day, when robots can both manufacture and consume, to keep the cycle going, we will be of no use.

      Until then, it’s economic waterboarding – torture without killing the golden egg laying goose is the name of the game.

      Expect tiny breaks once in a while…MyRA, Postal Bank, min wage increase, etc.

      That’s straight from the economic waterboarding manual…Dummies Guide to Sustainable Economic Waterboarding.

  23. Jim A

    “…creative 1 percent…” I see what he did there, the unchallenged assumption that richest 1% are rich because they are “creative” rather than lucky or rapacious. I suspect that he is trying to imply that in the sense that they have “created” their wealth, rather than that they are artistic, but that is still an assertion I would dispute. To a large degree, they have captured rather than created their wealth.

  24. John

    Tommy’s remarks were no accident. Tommy was sent out to bleat like a lamb about the scary, scary masses who supposedly are “demonizing” the 1%.
    Why? Because the zeitgeist is burning hatred of their criminal stealing ways.
    Je’accus won’t work this time Tommy’s buddies.

    1. psychohistorian

      I would encourage yo to read Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism by David McNally….and then get others to read it.

      We need to build a global army of awakened zombies of global capitalism.

  25. TheMomCat

    The most inane part of Perkins’ rant was that it was precipitated by the San Francisco Chronicles criticism of the hedge that blocks the view of the historical mansion occupied by his ex-wife, bodice ripper novelist Danielle Steele. Richard (RJ) Eskow said that part of Perkins letter was curiously focused on the Chronicle

    Did That Billionaire’s ‘Nazi’ Rant Begin With a Dispute … Over Landscaping?

    There were several curious things about the Perkins editorial (besides, that is, the delusional comparison of political speech with the mass murder of innocent people solely on the basis of religion). The first was the special effort Perkins took to attack the San Francisco Chronicle, which, while a fine newspaper, is hardly the People’s World. The second was the mention of romance author Danielle Steel, who Perkins describes as “our number-one celebrity.” Perkins says that Steel was subject to “libelous and cruel attacks” in the Chronicle — presumably on orders received from the Occupy movement’s high command. [..]

    But over what? What sort of “leftist” attacks were made on the romance author in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle? Here’s what we discovered: It criticized a hedge. Specifically, it criticized this hedge, in an entirely nonpolitical one-paragraph item in the paper’s “Cityscape” feature. That piece describes Steel’s landscaping flourish as “comically off-putting” and bemoans its harmful effect on the ideal of “friendly streets.”

    According the Eskow, Perkins has admitted this is what fueled his extreme rhetoric.
    BTW It is one humongous hedge×471.jpg

  26. dave bowen

    People like Perkins compare the President to Hitler. Truth is,Hitler collaborated with Germanys rich industrialists,to create a marriage of big business and politics. The very definition of Facism. Also,let us not forget. The majority of the income of people like Perkins and Romney,is passive. UNEARNED. Gotten off the hard work of others.

Comments are closed.