The prospect of Trump in the White House is ratcheting up anxiety among the 2,500 business and political leaders gathered at the Swiss ski resort for the annual World Economic Forum. With less than two weeks before voting in primaries gets under way and Trump in the Republican Party lead, those who fear a rise in protectionism and economic mismanagement are speaking out against the billionaire property developer.Remember when rich people suddenly started telling us that they feared they'd be the targets of angry radical mobs if nothing was done about economic inequality? Folks like real estate billionaire Jeff Greene?
... Trump’s positions -- like a “temporary” ban on Muslims entering the country and the building of a wall on the Mexican border -- are earning him opprobrium in the mountain resort.
... A Trump administration would be a “disaster,” according to Beth Brooke-Marciniak, global vice chair of public policy at Ernst & Young LLP....
The presidential race shows that the U.S. is not immune to the wave of populism sweeping the globe. In the U.S. case, the economy has recovered faster than other developed nations from the global slump of 2008 and 2009, and yet wages haven’t kept pace with a rebound in corporate profits. That’s helping candidates like Trump....
“This is my fear, and it’s a real, legitimate fear,” Greene says, revving up the engine. “You have this huge, huge class of people who are impoverished. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we will build a class of poor people that will take over this country, and the country will not look like what it does today. It will be a different economy, rights, all that stuff will be different.”Or former Young & Rubicam chairman Peter Georgescu and his pals?
... “There are all these people in this country who are just not participating in the American Dream at all,” he says. This makes him uncomfortable, not least because they might try to take a piece of his. “Right now, for some bizarre reason, a lot of these people are supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy,” he says. “At some point, if we keep doing this, their numbers are going to keep swelling, it won’t be an Obama or a Romney. It will be a Hollande. A Chávez.”
I’M scared. The billionaire hedge funder Paul Tudor Jones is scared. My friend Ken Langone, a founder of the Home Depot, is scared. So are many other chief executives. Not of Al Qaeda, or the vicious Islamic State or some other evolving radical group from the Middle East, Africa or Asia. We are afraid where income inequality will lead.Or entrepreneur Nick Hanauer?
For the top 20 percent of Americans, life is pretty good.
But 40 percent are broke....
If inequality is not addressed, the income gap will most likely be resolved in one of two ways: by major social unrest or through oppressive taxes, such as the 80 percent tax rate on income over $500,000 suggested by Thomas Piketty, the French economist and author of the best-selling book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”
We are creating a caste system from which it’s almost impossible to escape....
You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries -- from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank.I'm sure you guys thought the mobs were coming from the direction of Zuccotti Park and headed straight for you with murder in their eyes. But the energy of that movement has dissipated, or been channeled into the Bernie Sanders campaign, where its most violent manifestation is condescending tweets aimed at Hillary supporters.
... the rest of the country -- the 99.99 percent -- is lagging far behind.
... inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
The real mob you guys feared -- the real mass movement -- is the Trump campaign. Trump fans are angry. Their anger is, as you predicted, class-based. But guess what? They're not coming to burn your Hamptons mansion to the ground. Their leader is a fellow billionaire. And if they start killing people, the victims will probably be carrying Qur'ans, or maybe Spanish-English dictionaries that got damaged in a middle-of-the-night border crossing.
Yes, revolt is brewing. But you guys -- as usual -- are going to be just fine.