The Widdershins

Archive for February 4th, 2014

Good afternoon Widdershins.  I hope this day is a fine Tuesday for you.  After Sunday’s Super Bowl lesson of “the best offense is a great defense,” I thought it appropriate to enlarge on that sentiment.

The watch and its human...

The watch and its human…

Last week, Tom Perkins wrote a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal — not a momentous event by any stretch of the imagination.  What was nose-bleedingly stupid was the lack of self-awareness and self-reflection contained in the letter and Perkins’s subsequent non-apology apology.  His lack of self-awareness is not unique.

For the benefit of further examination some housekeeping is in order to bring everyone to the same “jumping off” place.  Tom Perkins was one of the founding members of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, a venture capital concern in Silicon Valley.  If you use any technology beyond a can opener, you would recognize the names of the companies Kleiner, Perkins has had a hand, everything from Netscape to AOL to Google.  If it has anything to do with trained electrons, Kleiner, Perkins has played a part.

Needless to say, Perkins is a billionaire — a none-to-shy billionaire.  He has bragged about owning “an airplane that flies underwater” and a wristwatch that “could buy a six-pack of Rolexes.”  (For the curious, the wristwatch seems to be a Richard Mille clocking in at $300,000.00.)

While interesting, none of this really bears upon the kerfuffle caused by Mr. Perkins’s letter and continues unabated in the WSJ.  His letter compared the current attention being paid to income disparity with the Kristallnacht.  If you are like me, you had heard the phrase, but its true meaning was vague.  The Kristallnacht is the “Night of the Broken Glass.”  It was the first wide-scale salvo of the Holocaust.  Kristallnacht was the night 91 Jews were killed and 30,000 were arrest and sent to concentration camps and 1,000 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish businesses were burned or destroyed.

As with most debates, when you appropriate the horrific to bolster a self-serving point in a cavalier way, you have lost the debate.  Mr. Perkins is no exception.  He quickly scurried to Bloomberg TV to sorta apologize and then sorta unapologize.  Whatever — it isn’t important to what I believe is the more important lesson.

Perkins said this during this unapology apology:

Any time the majority starts to demonize the minority, no matter what it is, it’s wrong and dangerous and no good comes from it.

Of course Mr. Perkins was talking about the rarefied world in which he rides in his submarine airplane or upon his mega-yacht along with his fellow plutocrats.  And I say, bully for him and his friends.  I’m happy he has made a fortune.  I’m happy his friends have made fortunes.  I’m happy he’s done it in America.  I’m happy he’s found a way to monetize and benefit from the ideas of others while giving wing to those ideas.

Tom Perkins Yacht...

Tom Perkins Yacht…

What I find most egregious and off-putting is the lack of a scintilla of self-reflection he exhibits.  When he speaks about the demonization of a minority, he must have missed the denigration of the 47% during the last election cycle.  He has missed the “welfare queens” and the “young bucks” comments of the last thirty years.  He has missed the villianization of those on food stamps or those who need heating assistance or those whose children have been given a leg-up in pre-K.  He must have missed drug screening for food stamps or voter suppression masquerading as voter id laws.

Perkins isn’t unique in draping himself in victim-hood.  Last week Fredster pointed us toward an article in The Atlantic about Frank Luntz and his current state of depression.  It is convenient for Mr. Luntz that he has mansions in Los Angeles and Virginia and apartments in New York and on the Vegas Strip in which to feel blue — you never know when an unexpected case of the millionaire vapors will strike.

Luntz talked about the fragility of the electorate and that entitlements are poisoning the system creating a sense of dependency.  He said, “You should not expect a handout.  You should not even expect a safety net.”  I wonder what his banking clients and his insurance clients paying him millions in fees have to say about such a laissez-faire attitude.

Luntz brags about talking to at least one Fortune 500 CEO everyday.  In those conversations do you think they Frank Luntz at the Milken Instituteever discuss the corporate entitlements of tax breaks?  Do you think they speak of the guaranteed rate of returns like the guaranteed 14% rate of return for insurance companies in the new Farm Bill?  Do you think while criticizing the Affordable Care Act, he criticizes the guaranteed rate of return to the insurance companies to buy their silence?

I’ve said this before in this space, “Why is it an entitlement if helps the poor, but free enterprise stimulus if it helps corporations?”

When the six remaining Walton heirs have as much wealth as almost one-half of the country, if the trend continues, who will have the resources to shop at Wal-Mart?

Another example of the plutocracy victimhood are the Brothers Koch.  They have the megaphones of the Cato Institute, FreedomWorks, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation to emphasize their victimhood.  Here is a link to a simple graph that explains the nature of the shrinking middle class.  In 1966, the income of the bottom 90% represented 66.3% of the total national income.  In 2011, that same 90th percentile represents just 51.8%.

The graph depicts the bottom 90% of Americans have gained just $59 in overall purchasing power in the last 45 years.  If you plot that $59 as an inch, the personal riches of the Koch empire represent almost 5 miles.  Put another way, either Koch brother made $3 Million an hour last year, but they, like Tom Perkins and Frank Luntz, see themselves as victims while they cajole and lambast the poor.

Income disparity is real.  It has been the normal course of our domestic economic policy since Reagan introduced the voodoo of “trickle down economics” thirty years ago.  Income disparity is strangling the economy and this is my simple way to understand it:

In Monopoly the game is fun and can continue as long as everyone has money and can buy properties.  When all the Monopoly money and property is consolidated to one player, the game is over.

This is the ultimate outcome in the income inequality equation — hopefully we will wake up before the game is over.

This is an open thread.


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