Wednesday, March 19, 2014

the rich strike back


politico | In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans — who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago — also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

Langone’s comments — sure to draw ire from those who find such comparisons to Nazi Germany insensitive — echo previous remarks from venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who likened the actions of some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Kristallnacht attacks on Jews in 1938. Perkins gave several interviews after the ensuing uproar, but he never really backed away from the comparison. And Langone showed no hesitancy in invoking the Nazis when describing current populist rhetoric.

The Democratic power elite now believe that appeals to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment insurance are not enough to overcome Obama’s deep unpopularity and frustration with the president’s signature health care law. They fear that unless Democrats shift footing to a more hopeful, growth-based message, the party could lose the Senate and drop double-digit seats in the House.

“Reducing inequality is good, but it’s 50 times better to do it by lifting those up who are low than by tearing those down who are high,” said Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary whose bid to become Fed chair got derailed by the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. “The politics of envy are the wrong politics in America. The better politics are the politics of inclusion where everyone shares in economic growth.”