News Column

EDITORIAL: A war on the rich? Or a race to the bottom?

January 31, 2014

The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Jan. 31 --The few, the oppressed, the rich. Or, in keeping with Tom Perkins' overheated prose, the "rich." In case you missed it, Perkins, who built an $8 billion fortune in venture capital, wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal about the perils of the wealthy. "Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco , I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'" He cited protests targeting chartered buses that carry workers from San Francisco to Silicon Valley and a rude comment about his ex-wife, novelist Danielle Steel , before returning to his fear of a new Holocaust. "This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking," he wrote. "Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?" In a word, yes. Yes, Mr. Perkins , you can sleep soundly tonight and every night. Even in an America increasingly focused on income inequality, we're certain that you will never be forced to stitch a dollar sign on your clothes or be herded into a concentration camp because you were enormously successful in your chosen occupation -- providing startup funding for businesses. However, you can rightfully count on the sort of public scorn that greeted Mitt Romney's denunciation of the shiftless 47 percent and hedge fund manager Stephen Schwarzman's comparison of a proposed tax increase with "Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939." Instead of portraying yourself as a victim, you might focus on the corrosive economic effects of millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans, of families living paycheck to paycheck, tapping rather than building their retirement savings. The buying power of the middle class drives economic growth, and the present recovery is sluggish because it hasn't reached a broad middle class. One big reason why is that the median middle-class household income in the United States is effectively unchanged since 1989. Since the recession ended in 2009, almost all of the income growth has been concentrated among the top 1 percent. Still, setting aside the foolish analogy, Perkins made a valid, if somewhat twisted, point. The people on those Silicon Valley -bound buses aren't the "one percent." They aren't rich. They are workers, earning a living in a thriving industry and contributing to prosperity in the Bay Area . Some of these workers qualify as affluent, but many are solidly middle class -- the shrinking segment of the population that needs to bolstered, not vilified by plutocrats or populists. Extending prosperity to more people, to more businesses and to struggling neighborhoods is the challenge. A growing concentration of wealth is antithetical to meeting that challenge. Simply cutting pay at the top of the ladder doesn't guarantee more pay on lower rungs. But watching the middle class shrink, while claiming economic oppression of the most fortunate, only pushes us closer to being a nation of haves and have-nots with little hope their children will do better. No one wins that race to the bottom. ___ (c)2014 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Visit The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.) at www.pressdemocrat.com Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)


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