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Are the rich justified in freaking out?

The website Politico is a mixture of news and gossip based on anonymous sources that seems to have access to well-connected members of the oligarchy and to the government-media establishment, so its most useful function is to serve as a window into the thinking of that group of people. Hence it was with some interest that I read the piece titled Why the rich are freaking out that says that some of the very rich see writing on the wall that disturbs them.

Economists, advisers to the wealthy and the wealthy themselves describe a deep-seated anxiety that the national — and even global — mood is turning against the super-rich in ways that ultimately could prove dangerous and hard to control.

President Barack Obama and the Democrats have pivoted to income inequality ahead of the midterm elections. Pope Francis has strongly warned against the dangers of wealth concentration. And all of this follows the rise of the Occupy movement in 2011 and a bout of bank-bashing populism in the tea party.

The collective result, according to one member of the 1 percent, is a fear that the rich are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe not today but soon.

“You have a bunch of people who see conspiracies everywhere and believe that this inequality issue will quickly turn into serious class warfare,” said this person, who asked not to be identified by name so as not to anger any wealthy friends. “They don’t believe inequality is bad and believe the only way to deal with it is to allow entrepreneurs to have even fewer shackles.”

And so the rich are lashing out.

In the latest example, Thomas Perkins, co-founder of legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal over the weekend comparing Nazi Germany’s persecution and mass murder of Jews to “the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.'”

As commenters in the previous posts have pointed out, in reality the poor, the working class, and the middle classes that have been brutally treated in the quest for greater riches for the super-wealthy have as yet nowhere near the numbers of activists and cohesion of action that would be necessary to overcome the massive power of the state that would be unleashed on them in the event of any serious uprising.

But I think the rich are right to be worried and a large amount of the credit has to go to the Occupy Wall Street movement. It may have been disorganized, even chaotic, but it its major achievement was to give the villains a name (the One-Percent) and a specific target (Wall Street and the financial sector) that were easily remembered and recognizable. That the Occupy movement was seen as a serious threat to the oligarchy can be seen by the way they set in motion a concerted effort across the nation to break it up.

But it has not gone away.

The phrases ‘one-percenters’, ‘income inequality’, and ‘living wages’ are everywhere. Even the phrase ‘class warfare’, which used to be seen as a pejorative, is no longer taboo.

So the rich are right to be freaking out. And I am glad that people like Tom Perkins are angrily lashing out. The more they do so, the more their true face is revealed. So I hope the Wall street Journal editorial pages and Fox News give plenty of space for such people to vent.

Comments

  1. doublereed says

    Yep, people are even more saying things like “Class warfare? No no, the rich has been waging class warfare for decades. You just don’t want us to fight back.” I think Rick Santorum’s laughable attempt to claim that “talking about class” was Marxist talk was actually a reasonable strategic move even if it failed miserably.

    And you don’t just see this on the left. The right wing, whether conservative or libertarian or whatever, also has a large focus on the vicious corruption and takeover by the one percent. It rings true for them as well.

  2. Chiroptera says

    That the Occupy movement was seen as a serious threat to the oligarchy can be seen by the way they set in motion a concerted effort across the nation to break it up.

    lol

    And keep in mind what the “threat” actually is:

    The threat that the rich may have to give up a small fraction of their immense wealth, or may not be earning amounts of money that even they can’t manage to spend, and

    the threat that they may end up slightly less influential than they are as ordinary people are somewhat successful in reforming the political process so that average people has a little more control over the forces that affect their lives.

  3. jonP says

    the numbers of activists and cohesion of action that would be necessary to overcome the massive power of the state that would be unleashed on them in the event of any serious uprising.

    I’m curious about this. How many people would it take to make it apparent that the massive state power, directed against activists, was actually directed against the citizens that the government is supposed to be protecting?

    I am really glad that attention is being paid to this. My job and livelihood are threatened because of problems with the National Institutes of Health funding. If I lose my career with years of education and training, which I got to help people and not to make money, I may get angry enough to join.

    I’m not the only one threatened by policy decisions in obvious ways. People’s food is threatened by SNAP cuts. The solution seems obvious. More government spending on things that benefit people and create lots of jobs. Things like healthcare, science research, education.

    They don’t even need to raise taxes on rich people to pay for it. They can deficit spend. This would grow the economy, which would further enrich the rich. Everyone wins. Furthermore, this allows people like me to not have to stand in a crowd to be murdered by the government for political change.

  4. Glenn says

    TPP, NAFTA, CAFTA, etc., is trade with Slave States that will result in the lowering of American living standards to that of slaves.

    Most white people never fought to free slaves in the American Civil War; most Northerners hated blacks more than Southerners did; the Civil War was fought to end the lowering of wages consequential to trade with Slave States.

    White people wanted to earn living wages that were not suppressed by competition with slaves and hated slave owners as much as their slaves. The smallest minority of whites would ever think of laying down their lives for black slaves.

    All else is trying to put a gloss on a turd.

  5. Chiroptera says

    One sign that you have a very unhealthy obsession is when you use a topic that has, at best, an extremely tenuous connection to your own bugbear as an excuse to launch into a rant about your peculiar issue.

  6. says

    I only wish they had as much to worry about as they think they do.

    I’ve seen the word “tumbrils” more in the last six months than I had in the previous twenty years, and the Revolutionary/Napoleonic period is my favourite hobby-reading nonfiction subject.

  7. funknjunk says

    @ #6 > I only wish they had as much to worry about as they think they do.<

    I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. I do not understand the effectiveness of the propaganda shoveled to the masses over the last 40 years…people need to realize that we can CREATE a society that is more just and equal if we want to. They need to put down the remote and get it done. It is completely and utterly possible. And the super rich NEED to be afraid. Just as the government should be afraid of the peole, not the other way around. That's the only thing that produced Social Security and like programs in the first place… fear. There is nothing wrong with acknowlegding that fact. The plutocrats put themselves in this position. They saw the destruction of the social safety net, labor unions, etc, etc. as a game they needed to win. Congratulations to them, they've won. Now, per Chris Hedges, they have gutted the mechanism of the "liberal safety valve" , and the people have few options left… do they think people will continue to sit there with their remotes and watch their lives crumble into the toilet?? No. The mass of people should be proud to make them afraid and afraid they should be until they give up some of their ill-gotten money. I just don't get it…. if Perkins were worth half of what he is worth, he would STILL be able to fly his underwater airplane. And more people would have healthcare and education. But, no, they don't want that. Ego tells them that their little bank balance competitions with other super rich folk is worth blood in the streets. I find it fascinating and sad at the same time.

  8. says

    Are the rich justified in freaking out?

    No.

    But there is a reason for why they are freaking out. They are setting a natural rhetorical tone that pretty well mirrors what people do when they perceive their lower level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs being under threat.

    When anyone perceives that their resources for taking care of themselves and/or “their people” are under threat they do not tend to react in a measured fashion. They will rhetorically start from a more exaggerated position relative to the reality that actually exists between them and the “other groups”, sometimes as exaggerated as possible making it all hyperbole. They are responding in verbal “fight/flight” mode and it is not at all obvious that they understand the arguments that the “other groups” are making.

    Their power gives them a better place to shout their message and the ear of other powerful people. Their power also gives them the advantage of established lines of communication in powerful places that don’t change unless acted on by another force. So of course the government is doing what they want until people are suffering enough to rise up and eat them (hopefully only metaphorically). We love our routines as humans and hate to break them unless we have to. The routines just happen to be most responsive to the powerful. There is a natural empathy problem on the top and I have no faith that either party will effectively do anything about it.

    So unless somehow the US government starts using all the wonderful things that we have been learning about how group psychology works in order to craft better structures that subvert our human flaws (without interference from people happy with the status quo), we are screwed in that it will take a lot of suffering and paranoid people in power. Though the last sever cycles like this have been decreasing in intensity.
    http://aeon.co/magazine/living-together/peter-turchin-wealth-poverty/

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    doublereed @1:

    Yep, people are even more saying things like “Class warfare? No no, the rich has been waging class warfare for decades. You just don’t want us to fight back.”

    People should be saying ‘millenia’ rather than ‘decades’.

  10. lanir says

    Brony @ #8 said it more eloquently but I think this is just a big front. It’s just them upping the ante early while they still have all the cards and it’s entirely to their benefit. Without intending any disrespect to unions or occupy movements or minimum wage increase movements we aren’t united on this yet. That will take more agreement from normal people who are not in movements or unions I think.

    The side benefit of all the ruckus is that the more the super rich cry about how persecuted they are the more likely normal people are to notice just EXACTLY what they’re complaining about… And notice there is a problem. There’s no way in hell they can keep the majority from siding against them. Their only winning tactic was to keep the whole battle from being noticed until it was over. Today’s economic reality is a coup d’etat, not the result of a struggle. When a struggle begins they’ll lose very swiftly. Republican style propaganda and misinformation isn’t going to cut it.

  11. says

    lanir @ 10

    It’s just them upping the ante early while they still have all the cards and it’s entirely to their benefit.

    The thing is, I doubt that any of it is intentional, especially from situations like single billionaires getting to say what they want in a big media source. This is all “just what people do”. They will also strategize with others in their class to get these messages out because they really believe it. It’s a de facto conspiracy because they are just shitty monkeys doing what shitty monkeys do. I only hope that there is a way to work around it before things get bad. But I’m a shitty monkey too and part of me just wants to get a fight over with.

    Otherwise I agree that they are going to just draw attention to things that they want characterize in their way. But most people are not like them so they lose the in-group advantage. Then they will get even more paranoid when people don’t start listening to them like they are used to. I really believe them when they say that they believe the things they do. It’s all human bullshit on down and I just keep hoping that there is some psychological trick that can be pulled to get people on the same page faster.

  12. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    You have a bunch of people who see conspiracies everywhere

    …because they take part in a conspiracy themselves.
    After all, wealthy, closely-connected individuals are much better-placed to conspire against their opponents, which are everyone else. The fact that they don’t even think they’re conspiring but upholding civilisation makes them even more effective.

  13. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    It maybe interesting in this context to note that apparently Karl Marx originally expected a communist revolution to occur in the richer and more developed capitalist nations like The united States of America and his own Germany rather than more agrarian, less developed second world nations like (then Tsarist) Russia.

    Of course we know now that Marx was wrong about plenty of things and Communism doesn’t work but still.

    There are really huge inequalities and injustices happening in the USA and, yes, I think this will cause a backlash.

    If the super-rich are freaking out then maybe its time they acted to make things better for everybody and created the situation suggested by #2Chiroptera – giving up a little so the tensions were eased. They’ll still be rich and powerful but the blatant unfairness and worst of the gap and worst of the extremes could be eased.

    Indeed aren’t some of the super-rich – e.g. Warren Buffet, George Soros and Bill Gates advising as much and trying to get this to happen themselves?

    @ 6.CaitieCat (& #7 funknjunk) :

    I only wish they had as much to worry about as they think they do.

    You want a bloody-thirsty revolution like the French had? You do know how that, ended up right?

    Hint : Not well for anyone really.

    There was the whole Reign of Terror, guillotines and all that and likewise when there was the Russian Bolshevik one with gulags and Stalinism and a worse situation than before. Such revolutiosn are bets avoided if possible surely?

    Very rarely do such revolutions make things better – usually its the opposite – although a few milder revolutionary exceptions such as the original US revolution do exist.

    PS. I though the whole Occupy movement had fizzled out ages ago? Certainly from what I’ve seen in the news it hasn’t made that much real difference and was always going to be too disunited and unfocused to work?

  14. Robert, not Bob says

    StevoR, exactly. And we all know who waits in the wings to take advantage of any revolution in this country, don’t we? The ones who’ve been colonizing our nuclear-armed military from the inside, and actively want to destroy the world?

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