Monday, January 20, 2020

Do Not Forget the Greediest!

How Can Dems Reach Out to the Key
Demo of Whiny Billionaire Plutocrats?

By Samuel Insull
Financial Editor
with David Bloviator in Washington

We don't get out much any more, but when we do it always ends badly.  Recently we were invited to a dinner where the host told us he had been meeting with private equity types in New York.  Despite their eight-figure Park Avenue co-ops, Vineyard mansions, Aspen ranches, and grisly trophy wives, they told him their feelings were hurt.

Sanders and Warren are wiping the grin off his face
When we stopped crying we asked why. Apparently they are paying attention to the 2020 election and are very upset about progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Is it the specter of modestly higher taxes that might cause them to keep flying their Gulfstream IV for another year instead of upgrading to a new 650?

They claim not.  They claim they are willing to pay higher taxes (although they continue to spend hundreds of millions renting out the Congress to make sure that their outrageous unearned tax breaks not only survive but are extended into new scams, like tax-destroying “opportunity zones.”)

What's really chapping their saggy butts is their sense that they are being unfairly criticized for their cruel rapacious greed.  And they are so stung by what sounds to us like entirely justified and fact-based criticism that they would vote for a corrupt bigoted Russian-owned sex offender over Senators Warren or Sanders.

Once the plutocrat express left Whinesburg and pulled into Crazytown, we got off.  Or, more precisely, we pushed the self-pitying finaglers off the f**in' train and headed back to reality.

At a time when the Republic is hanging by a thread, or perhaps a comb-over, if you are such a delicate flower that you would vote for the destroyer of American democracy because his opponent said mean things about you, you have forfeited any claim to being taken seriously or really even listened to.

My host's report from the fast-flowing money rivers of New York is all too consistent with what they are telling their fawning bootlickers, um, financial news sources, like CNBC:

 Who are these Susan Sarandons of the monied class?  Surprisingly, lots of them are too shy to say:

In recent weeks, CNBC spoke to several high-dollar Democratic donors and fundraisers in the business community and found that this opinion was becoming widely shared as Warren, an outspoken critic of big banks and corporations, gains momentum against Joe Biden in the 2020 race.

“You’re in a box because you’re a Democrat and you’re thinking, ‘I want to help the party, but she’s going to hurt me, so I’m going to help President Trump,’” said a senior private equity executive,

That checks out – if you spout this dumb s**t under your real name, you could find yourself next summer in Chilmark reduced to dining with Alan Dershowitz.

Other whining anonymous fat cats admitted to New York magazine it's not just the money, it's the effrontery:

What agitates them instead is — in a replay of the alienation they felt during the Obama presidency thanks to a few stray “fat cats” comments — how Democratic rhetoric threatens their sense of status. 

Remember how real President Obama used to tee off on Wall Street fat-cats, subjecting them to a constant torrent of abuse?  Of course you don't because it never happened.

But it shows that Wall Street plutocrats, who are happily silent when a deranged President threatens to lock up political opponents, mocks physically disabled reporters, and insults elected Democrats as “crazy,” “corrupt” and “low-IQ,” decompensate when Democrats, unlike the coatholders they buy and pay for and the parade of schnorrers seeking pelf for good works, either charitable or political, do not swoon over their greatness, brilliance, and generosity.

We suspect that's the root of the problem: if you're a rich finagler, every day is schnorrer's day.  And any good schnorrer knows that the best way to get Richie Rich to open his wallet is to flatter his brilliance, judgment, kindness, vision, rugged good looks, taste in furniture, trophy wife, or whatever it takes to get the dough.

Combine that with the investment bankers, consultants, and other bottom-feeders trying to do business with these titans, not to mention a horde of underlings whose life is entirely dependent on the good will of their bosses, and you understand that these clowns are bathed daily in a warm tub of flattery and brown-nosing.  After a while, this environment is like water to a fish: it's not even recognized as a thing; it's just how life is.

And when you consider that these titans tend to be grandiose narcissists perpetually dissatisfied because all the billions they have extracted from workers and consumers do not in fact fill the ego hole left by mommy and daddy who didn't love them enough (and honestly can you blame their parents?), you find that these titans of greed and crapulence can be deflated by what they see as cruel attacks and what the rest of see as simple truth: in exchange for no societal benefit, we have directed all rewards of the American economy to a handful of self-serving leeches, with a few crumbs left over for those who minister to them.

Maybe this coffee-shop psychiatry is too elaborate. Maybe there's a simpler explanation:

In any case, the point is that Wall Street billionaires, even more than billionaires in general, seem to be snowflakes, emotionally unable to handle criticism.

I’m not sure why that should be the case, but it may be that in their hearts they suspect that the critics have a point.
What, after all, does modern finance actually do for the economy? Unlike the robber barons of yore, today’s Wall Street tycoons don’t build anything tangible. They don’t even direct money to the people who actually are building the industries of the future. The vast expansion of credit in America after around 1980 basically involved a surge in consumer debt rather than new money for business investment.
What irresponsible ignorant rabble-rousing Communist know-nothing dares question the economic case for private equity investing?  And how did he get his Nobel Prize for Economics anyway?  And who is he to tell the private-equity billionaires that leveraging, plundering, and then abandoning great American enterprises like the Chicago Tribune or Gannett while, in the case of manufacturing companies, closing down U.S. factories and shipping jobs to overseas sweatshops isn't doing anything for the American polity?

By the way, when they tell you they're not really opposed to higher taxes, they're telling compliant professional dispensers of conventional wisdom like Axios something different:

Private equity firms will rush the exits if they believe that a Democrat is likely to defeat President Trump, investors tell me.

The exits to what?  Will they flee the country, the political system, or any pretension of putting public good above their private gain?  Actually, it turns out they will liquidate their holdings in 2020 rather than pay higher Warren/Sanders tax rates in later years.  Well, wouldn't you?  Of course, if they would prematurely walk away from successful investments rather than pay higher taxes on their winnings, they might not be telling us the gospel truth when they say they will end their practice of nobbling Congress to carve out unjustified tax breaks for themselves.

At least he wasn't a whiner
It makes you nostalgic for the days of the Robber Barons.  Vanderbilt Junior said “the public be damned.” He didn't say the public should admire me for my wonderful railroads or I'll vote for a corrupt subversive stooge.  He didn't write pisspoor books in which he attempted to rehabilitate himself by passing himself off as a business sage or a historian.  He just made tons of money and dared the government he bought and paid for to stop him.

And he never whined.  Which puts him in our estimation miles ahead of today's too-sensitive plutocrats, who should remember the wise words of Max Bialystock.  When asked by Leo Blum what will people say when he flaunted his ill-gotten gains, Max replied, “They'll say wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha.”

Maybe the Democrats should listen less to their insufferable Wall Street moneybags and more to the voters who have paid the price for the vast transfer of wealth and power to a few thousand overpaid white men.  Those voters tend to live in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia.  In 2016 the Democrats ran a candidate who was, partly unfairly, perceived as too close to Wall Street (but not nearly as corrupt and venal as her opponent).  Our recollection was that it turned out to be, as they say on Wall Street, a bad trade.

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