The latest Nazi remark by the latest billionaire troll isn't even the most dispiriting thing about Ben White and Maggie Haberman's new "driving the day" Politico article "The Rich Strike Back." In case you've missed the remark, here goes:
In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans -- who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago -- also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.What I can't figure out is: Do the billionaires really believe they're under this kind of threat? Or are they like spoiled rock stars who see some tiny slight -- the red M&M's haven't been carefully removed from the bowl or the bendy straws for the champagne aren't pointing toward magnetic north -- and believe that they're as oppressed and brutalized as Solomon Northup or the six million?
"I hope it's not working," Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. "Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don't survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy."
I think it's mostly the latter -- but I don't want to rule out the former. After all, it's generally agreed within the Northeast Corridor that pitchfork populism actually is on the march, or at least that it has been of late. You may find this hard to imagine, being an ordinary person who's still getting kicked in the teeth by the political and economic establishment with no apparent recourse, but White and Heberman want to assure you that we were recently thisclose to revolution:
Just a few months ago, it looked like 2014 would be the year of the populist, with Democrats running on economic inequality, tea party Republicans bashing banks and newly minted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledging to soak the rich with higher taxes.It seems to me that the grip of the rich on power never really loosened at all, but I'm just a schmuck blogger and White and Haberman are pros. If they saw tumbrels, there must have been some -- and if they saw them, I guess I understand why the richies fear them.
That was so January. The terrain is now shifting fast as the 1 percent fights back hard and the effectiveness of the populist approach comes into question.
Fresh off a bruising loss in Florida, the Democratic playbook for the midterms appears in need of a major rewrite -- and the pro-business wing of the party is ready to draw up new plans. President Barack Obama in his budget once again floated a plan to raise taxes on Wall Street, but no one took it seriously. And just days later, the president was raising money at the home of one of the wealthiest private equity executives in New York. Mayor de Blasio's hopes to increase taxes on the wealthiest got blown out by Wall Street's newest hero, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And de Blasio is facing major heat from the rich over his opposition to charter schools.
I shouldn't mock Politico or the rich if they actually believed that one election, even of a progressive-talking New York mayor, means the revolution's here -- maybe you also thought that that was such a portent. Maybe you felt the same way after Elizabeth Warren won.
But elections aren't a substitute for a large, angry, mobilized movement, however much progressives may hope they are. (How many people thought Obama's election in '08 meant we could all lower our guard and just watch things get a lot better?)
Only a tiny sliver of the U.S. population is truly angry at the rich, and at plutocrat-coddling politicians of both parties; it's not enough to make a difference. It's not even enough to make a difference in New York City -- do you see hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets in Manhattan or Albany demanding a tax on the wealthy in order to fund universal pre-K?
And don't get me started about White and Haberman's ridiculous reference to "the rise of populists" in the GOP -- I'm sorry, but there's no movement in the GOP to curb the plutocracy, and there's zero chance that even the teabaggiest future Republican president would let the banks suffer after the next financial crash. The plutocrats will twist enough arms to make sure that never happens, and most Republicans (and Democrats) won't need to have their arms twisted.
We're losing, but the least we can do is to try to make an issue of Langone's language and demand that politicians return the donations he's made. That wouldn't just be an angry appeal to Republicans:
Langone, for his part, is now head of a group called Republicans for Cuomo.Yup -- Governor Andrew Cuomo, who rebuffed de Blasio's call for a millionaire's tax and who curb-stomped de Blasio on the charter schools issue, is Langone's kind of Democrat. Langone says we're potentially as powerful as Hitler; in reality, do we even have the juice to force Cuomo to return Langone's checks?