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This is a response to an excerpt from Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, published in October by Penguin Press. Nick Hanauer is a successful entrepreneur and the author of Gardens Of Democracy: A New American Story Of Citizenship, the Economy, and The Role Of Government.
It’s great to be what you people are now calling a plutocrat. I know. I am one.
We plutocrats live incredible lives, surrounded by luxury and insulated from risk and discomfort. Things have gone very well for us over the last several years. Since George Bush left office, the stock market has doubled, we got a (sweet!) $700 billion rescue of the financial system, and corporate profits are at a 50-year high. BOOYA!
The growing economic distance between people like me and the little people like you hasn’t been this great in a long, long time. You may call that inequality. We call it freedom. But if things are going to continue to go this well, you people need to get with the program. Here, I’d like to have a frank discussion about that.
It is something of a puzzle to many of you little people why we plutocrats, who have benefitted most from these trends, view President Obama with such intense disdain. Why, you might ask, given how good the economy has been to you plutocrats, are you so maniacally angry?
“Maybe,” you say to yourself, “I just don’t understand economics.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. You understand economics just fine. What you don’t understand is that this fight isn’t about economics. It’s about status, privileges and power.
People like me don’t hate Obama because he’s going to raise our taxes, although we hate that plenty. We hate him because his views about the importance and primacy of the middle class diminish our status. The threat he represents isn’t economic; it’s existential. It’s not just our pocket books that are threatened, but, more importantly, our prestige and our influence on this country. Our manhood is at stake.
Facts are for little people.
We plutocrats have a long and proud history of controlling human societies, and the belief systems that we create about how the world works enable us to do that. “Earth is the centre of the solar system” was a useful one for us in the past. “Lowering taxes on the rich produces growth” is one of our current favourites. You show me an orthodox belief, and I’ll show you plutocrats who benefit from it.
Photo: Ocean Independence
We understand human nature well enough to know that people believe and accept ideas for all sorts of reasons, but rarely because of facts or evidence. Mostly, people believe what suits them, what makes them feel good. And what makes us feel good is a set of beliefs that reinforce our status, privileges and power.So it’s both annoying and hilarious that you people think you’re going to be able to talk us out of being plutocrats with “evidence” or “facts”. Our current position and power is the only fact we care about. And we viscerally hate anyone who has the temerity to challenge it.
When Jack or Mitt or I call ourselves “Job Creators”, it isn’t because it’s true or that there is any evidence for it. It’s because being a job creator puts us right at the centre of the economic universe – where we deserve to be. This belief system isn’t just convenient to us, although it is. It’s essential in order to justify our status and power.
We used to call this divine right. Today we call it “economics”.
You say democracy. We say plutocracy.
You need to understand that as job creators, at the centre of the economic universe, the better we do, the better it must be for you. In particular, the richer we get and the less constrained by law and regulation we are, the more jobs will trickle downward. Basically, the less we plutocrats contribute to society in tax, and the less constrained we are, the better it is for you and everyone else. And you thought we didn’t care!
Photo: Courtesy Gulfstream
You need to accept as fact the idea that all prosperity trickles down from the top. That means that, economically speaking, we plutocrats matter. It also means that you don’t matter. Tax cuts for the rich create growth and jobs. Investments in the middle class and the poor balloon the deficit and will bankrupt this great country. National budget priorities that reflect this will be great for you and your family. Really.A bard once said that plutocrats hate regulation for the same reason that robbers hate cops. That’s a cheap shot, and underappreciates the sophistication of our argument. Since we are the “job creators”, any restraint on us necessarily decreases the jobs that trickle down to you. That’s why we deserve a free hand to run the country in whatever way suits us best. You show me a country with limited government and regulation, and I’ll show you some happy plutocrats busily “job-creating”.
Get With The Program!
So what’s puzzling you about why we hate Obama? He’s in our way. And that’s a much bigger threat to us than higher tax rates. Our incredible sway over politics, the economy and culture is being challenged.
Repeat after me. You sir, are a job creator and the richer you get, the better off my family will be. Regulation is bad, and the less of it we have, the better off my family will be. Never forget these things. And never forget that the rising inequality you see all around isn’t a sign of decay. It’s a sign of prosperity. Get with the program. Now. Or we will fire you.
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