Wealth Identity Politics: Billionaires Acting Like a Persecuted Minority

Believing that it makes sense to have an elite class which controls this much wealth and power is as stupid as believing in an absolute monarchy, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

 By Caitlin Johnstone

“I guess maybe Bernie Sanders shouldn’t exist,” said billionaire Steve Schwarzman while seated in a library building named after billionaire Steve Schwarzman and promoting a book with billionaire Steve Schwarzman’s face on it.

According to Bloomberg this humble response from the always modest billionaire Steve Schwarzman came in response to a question posed by an audience member about a Sanders tweet in which the Vermont senator said that billionaires should not exist. The comment was reportedly met with enthusiastic applause.

Blackstone CEO Schwarzman, who has previously compared tax increases on the wealthy to the Nazi invasion of Poland, is an oligarch by any reasonable definition. As one of America’s top individual campaign donors he is immensely influential; his plutocratic power is so deeply interwoven with the highest levels of government that his book’s 14 pages of acknowledgements describe cuddly relationships with a who’s-who of top U.S. officials, including the last five presidents. According to a recent report by The Intercept, two Brazilian firms owned by Schwarzman “are significantly responsible for the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, carnage that has developed into raging fires that have captivated global attention.”

It is very telling that this oligarch sees an equivalence between (A) saying that an elite class should not control such vast amounts of wealth and (B) saying actual people should not exist. What this tells us is that Schwarzman sees being a billionaire as a fundamental part of his identity, making the idea that he shouldn’t control billions of dollars indistinguishable from saying that he himself should not exist. From his point of view, he’s just doing the same thing that Sanders is doing: Bernie’s saying the thing that Schwarzman is shouldn’t exist, and Schwarzman is saying that Bernie himself shouldn’t exist. To him they’re the same.

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This statement gives us a bit of insight into the way billionaires see themselves as fundamentally different than the rest of us, forming an egoic identity construct out of being a billionaire in the same way a medieval king would form an egoic identity construct out of that position. This anti-billionaire rhetoric is perceived as an attack on their very identity, which is why they are spinning it as though Sanders is calling for the elimination of actual people.

Predictably, Fox News is now trotting out billionaires to defend themselves from this outrageous billionairephobic bigotry, with Home Depot founder and major Republican Party donor Ken Langone receiving a warmly sycophantic reception from Fox’s Mornings with Maria.

“What the hell has he done for the little people?” Langone asked his host Maria Bartiromo. “What jobs has he created?”

Langone went on to detail all the many jobs he’s “created” (read: how many people he’s needed to hire to help him reap lucrative profits from an already existing demand) without bothering to explain what hoarding billions of dollars in offshore accounts has to do with job creation. Exponents of the “billionaires create jobs” argument always avoid this glaring plot hole like the plague.

Again, we see in Langone’s emotional response two things: that he sees ordinary citizens as “the little people” innately different from himself, and that he perceives the push toward greater economic equality as an existential threat.

“If you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany,” Langone has said of the rising pushback against wealth and income inequality. “You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

These outbursts are reminiscent of one we saw a couple of years ago on an MSNBC interview with resort tycoon Stephen Cloobeck, who expressed outrage at the way progressives are using “the millionaire or billionaire word” to discuss issues with class and economic justice, saying he’d instructed Democratic Party leaders to bring a stop to this rhetoric or lose plutocratic funding.

“It is very, very disturbing when I hear the millionaire or billionaire word,” Cloobeck said, as though he was uttering an ethnic slur for an oppressed minority and not a conventional label for a class that effectively owns the US government. “And I’ve told them to stop it. Knock it off.”

We’re seeing this hilarious conflation of economic justice with the persecution of minorities and the elimination of actual human beings more and more often, so we should probably come up with a name for it. I’d like to propose that we label this phenomenon “wealth identity politics,” and it is capitalism’s dumbest turn yet.

It’s especially dumb because the billionaire class has already proven with its actions that it cannot exist without actively working to manipulate governments in a way that undeniably subverts democracy and the will of the people. The debate over whether or not billionaires should exist is long settled. They should not.

A few million dollars will buy you a nice car, a nice house and some nice clothes. A few billion dollars will buy you the ability to control public narratives using media ownership, lobbyists and think tanks, thereby manipulating entire governments and international affairs. Believing that it makes sense to have an elite class which controls this much wealth and power is exactly as stupid as believing it makes sense to have a total monarchy.

Billionaires should not exist, for the same reason that kings and pharaohs should not exist. The leadership of our world should not belong to a class of highly mediocre people who have nothing noteworthy between their ears apart from a knack for accumulating dollars. The ability to amass wealth is not a valid basis upon which to determine who leads us. Our fate as a species should be in all our hands.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

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53 comments for “Wealth Identity Politics: Billionaires Acting Like a Persecuted Minority

  1. October 7, 2019 at 07:52

    >> tycoon Stephen Cloobeck, who expressed outrage at the way progressives are using “the millionaire or billionaire word” to discuss issues with class and economic justice, saying he’d instructed Democratic Party leaders to bring a stop to this rhetoric or lose plutocratic funding.

    “It is very, very disturbing when I hear the millionaire or billionaire word” <<

    I can imagine the pain of [something] Cloobeck. Suppose that you mention Prince of Wales — how rude it is! You should mention His Royal Highness, Prince of Wales. If you say "billionaire Cloobeck", you disregard the unique greatness of the individual. Just look at the title page of of the book in which Steven A. Schwartzman bestows his wisdom to the enlightenment of us peasants: "Lessons in the pursuit of excellence". Perhaps saying "his excellence Cloobeck/Schwartzman" could be adequate? "Most excellent billionaire Cloobeck"? Addressing such unique individuals requires effort and creativity! Not to mention the proper deferential attitude.

  2. Seer
    October 6, 2019 at 18:39

    ALL can be tied back to us operating on an utterly false premise: Perpetual growth on a finite planet. The “1%-ers” totally depend on growth as it is growth that THEY feed off of (they have been groomed to play the system such that they keep control of it to keep this feed tube open for them). ALL systems predicated on perpetual growth are doomed to fail. Capitalism excels at pumping growth, in which case it will create the noose the quickest; but, any other system will also get there, albeit more slowly.

  3. Bryan Blake
    October 6, 2019 at 15:34

    ” … This statement gives us a bit of insight into the way billionaires see themselves as fundamentally different than the rest of us, forming an egoic identity construct out of being a billionaire in the same way a medieval king would form an egoic identity construct out of that position. …”

    This goes directly to a point I am fond of. Humanity has basically lived under one system of economic governance – particularly here in the West. That system is Monarchical or Bloodline Capitalism. The Monarch had its “1%” to exploit and control the masses and economic activity all while operating a military to defend itself and expand its economic power. Just like today. Modern capitalist have much better castles, are far richer and have more powerful militaries to defend their interest than the most powerful kings had. Plus they have the ability to appear anywhere on the globe that their private jets can land. Franklin Roosevelt decried his fellow capitalists as economic royalist. The irony is that he was as close to a modern sitting capitalist King as Western Capitalism has had. So as you struggle with your day to day job and you often feel like a serf, a peasant, a sharecropper, an indentured servant, a bonds servant, or sometimes a member of a chain gang – take heart! You are. You just get to go home at night for a temporary respite from servitude. Just like the jolly old kings of old most of these new parasites possess those billions through their bloodline. New owners same as the old owners.

  4. October 6, 2019 at 08:19

    Ms. Johstone over reaches below:

    “Billionaires should not exist, for the same reason that kings and pharaohs should not exist. The leadership of our world should not belong to a class of highly mediocre people who have nothing noteworthy between their ears apart from a knack for accumulating dollars. The ability to amass wealth is not a valid basis upon which to determine who leads us. Our fate as a species should be in all our hands.”

    Billionaires, or people who have become billionaires, are likely talented and do contribute a great deal to our society. The problem is that their efforts are over rewarded and there should not be people in our society, billionaires or not, who distort democracy or any form of government. So yes, there should not be billionaires and nothing bad will happen if they are eliminated using the principle of fairly distributed wealth in our society.

    Starting with Kennedy, taxes on the rich began to drop yet there was no discernible benefit to society as a whole because of it. Yet, the 1950’s was a period of substantial growth ofour standard of living , homeowner growth, etc. and taxes were pretty stiff for the rich folks.

    Hopefully leaders will emerge that will change how income is distributed and there will be no more billionaires. It will not diminish innovation or the opportunity for talented people to excel, at least it should not.

    • ML
      October 7, 2019 at 11:44

      I disagree that Caitlin over reached at all. She said exactly what needed to be said and I am glad for it. The mainstream press avoids discussing class issues, especially as it relates to class warfare. I say, bring it on. I am repulsed by the psychopaths running the world. Call them out and do it often!

    • Sam F
      October 7, 2019 at 21:53

      Well said, although I doubt that hoping for leaders to emerge will do the trick. They don’t emerge because all branches of government and mass media are already controlled by economic power.

  5. Stephen Maranzano
    October 5, 2019 at 23:42

    There is precedent for this in our not-too-distant history Franklin Roosevelt, who referred to the wealthy elite as “economic royalists,” proposed in 1942 a 100% tax on income over $25,000 (approximately $375,000 today). While Congress didn’t go that far they did set a 94% rate on income over $200,000 — and the top rate remained in the 90 percentiles for the next 20 years — years during which the middle class thrived like no other in our history. As a matter of fact, when people talk about “making America great again,” this era of widespread prosperity is undoubtedly what they are referencing. Of course, the rich weren’t about to go for it, and the top rates were gradually whittled down, to where at their low point in 1982 they hit 28%, and have only come up slightly since ( 37%). So, in essence, these rates proved politically unsustainable… however, the following provides an interesting proposal for dealing with this —

    “Progressive taxes, as traditionally structured, proved unsustainable in the 20th century. We need a new structure. We need a tax system that gives average Americans a clearer personal stake in keeping tax rates on high incomes high — and the wealthy a reason to care about those without wealth.
    A new tax structure that linked incomes at top and bottom could meet both these goals — by placing a 100 percent top tax rate on income above a set multiple of the annual income that comes from working at the minimum wage. If we had this linkage in place, our richest and most powerful could only see their incomes increase if the incomes of our weakest and poorest increased first.
    Imagine a world with this sort of “maximum wage” in effect. Our most privileged would have a direct personal interest in improving the life chances of our least advantaged.” (CommonDreams, June 2018)

    • anon4d2
      October 7, 2019 at 21:50

      But of course once the bribes are out of politics, strong progressive taxation is easily sustainable.

  6. Zhu
    October 5, 2019 at 23:08

    A society in which a few have almost every thing and most people have almost nothing is certain to be unstable. Look at the French, Mexican, Russian Revolutions, among innumerable other examples.

  7. Zhu
    October 5, 2019 at 23:03

    For every new billionaire, how maby become homeless?

  8. Nathan Mulcahy
    October 5, 2019 at 15:19

    Billionaires exist not because they are especially talented or have superior intelligence than the rest of us. They exist because of some human made rules, often coupled with birth advantages, that disproportionately favor them. Existence of billionaires are not the result of superiority but a defect of societal rules and regulations. These rules are human made. There are no good logical, moral or ethical reasons for this class to exist.

    • ML
      October 7, 2019 at 11:46

      Well said, Nathan.

  9. Stan W.
    October 5, 2019 at 12:57

    So, in summary, this article’s message: “Fox News is Bad” and (unmentioned) billionaire George Soros is good.”

    • October 7, 2019 at 18:09

      Johnstone is an equal opportunity critic; if you are familiar with her work, you know that Soros has certainly come in for his share of criticism, for exactly the same reasons as the Kochs, Mercer, Buffett, etc. have. Moreover, she is equally scathing against MSNBC, CNN, and the other neo-liberal outfits as she is against Fox News. One of the reasons I read everything she puts out on her blog is that she doesn’t play favorites or hypocritically protect some from deserved criticisms for doing similar actions for which she showers contempt on others.

    • Jerome
      October 8, 2019 at 09:54

      That is a ridiculous attempt at summary. Clearly the author’s message is not about Fox News as such at all. It is that billionaires are bad. To clarify, neither she nor I mean they are individually bad people but that the accumulation of such extreme wealth and the system which enables that are bad. The fact that she doesn’t give Soros as an example in no way suggests that she exempts him from her point. His absence is explained because he is too clever to make such outrageous statements in public as a defense of his wealth and privilege as the people who have been quoted. What she is clearly advocating is that all billionaires ought to have their wealth removed, without exception. That necessarily implies that Soros be included in the redistribution of wealth.

  10. geeyp
    October 5, 2019 at 04:31

    I have never quoted verses like this. I am now: You cannot serve God and wealth. LUKE 16:13.

  11. Tom Kath
    October 4, 2019 at 21:10

    I think it was Edward Curtin who recently wrote “The system is no longer broken, it’s fixed !”

    On the wealth disparity question, I cannot rid myself of the suspicion that it is sustained by the simple desire of the less wealthy to just exchange positions with the wealthy.

    • anon
      October 7, 2019 at 21:47

      Of course wealth disparity is not sustained by avarice of the less wealthy: perhaps you meant that the question is so sustained, but the question is sustained by the fact. So what did you mean, in fact and argument?

    • Jerome
      October 8, 2019 at 10:11

      First this just isn’t true. It is also logically self contradictory: one cannot exchange one’s position with the wealthy by redistributing the latter’s wealth in an egalitarian manner. If there are no billionaires, you can’t be one of them. Calling for that to happen is thus not a means of achieving wealth oneself. More logically you could argue that it arises from envious resentment: if I can’t be rich then I want no one to be rich. My own reasons are different and arise from compassionate concern for the majority who are struggling to get by or actually failing while in many cases working under oppressively exploitative conditions for the likes of Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest billionaires.

  12. Adewale Atewogbade
    October 4, 2019 at 18:50

    Planet earth urgently needs an extreme paradigm shift. Wealth producing organizations like those owned by our intrepid and entitled billionaires need to be restructured to include the ‘little people’ as part owners and share holders. Everyone who sweats to produce wealth for an organization deserves an equity and a say in the organization. We have seen that the most powerful unions are those that organize government employees. While the billionaires hoard the money, these unions hold everyone hostage just to get a bigger share of our dwindling resources. It is time for all unions to amalgamate across the planet, and form their own powerful lobby groups that can challenge the dominance of super-wealthy businessmen. These people are inadvertently destroying the planet inder the pretenses of being benevolent and this has got to stop as a part of the fight against climate change.

  13. rosemerry
    October 4, 2019 at 15:17

    The main harm is the influence they exert on all of the rest of us. Study the effects of the rich/powerful on the laws passed in Congress and all of the laws in various states and by SCOTUS to see how much power they have and how little the 90% have. 2010 and “Citizens United” and of course the latest Trumpist changes make this clear. The movie free online “Hot Coffee” gives details of four egregious examples that demonstrate what “normal” citizens face legally because of billionaire influence. Posing as philanthropists like Bill Gates fools some people.

  14. Marilyn Langlois
    October 4, 2019 at 14:08

    Right on, Caitlin Johnstone! Let’s phase in a personal wealth cap of, say, $10 million per person and tax 100% of everything over that, while also guaranteeing a dignified standard of living for EVERYONE. A quality of life floor with a personal wealth ceiling is a house we can all live in!

    • anon4d2
      October 7, 2019 at 21:41

      A wealth cap of $1 million is more than necessary to encourage productivity, as no one can spend that much in retirement on a reasonably comfortable standard of living and reasonable security.

  15. Linda Lewis
    October 4, 2019 at 13:57

    Not only do the wealthy act like a persecuted minority, they have organized movements around the concept. For those who would like to know more, I recommend Isaac Martin’s book, “Rich People’s Movements: Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent.”

    “Creating” jobs is a useless activity if there are no competent, motivated people to fill them. FILLING jobs is what counts, and those who fill them are critical to generating the profits wealthy individuals love to cite as proof of their own worth. Corporate success requires teamwork, but there’s no team loyalty among those at the top who take an unfair share of the credit and profits for themselves. The idea that one’s worth to society is determined solely by money, no matter how one obtained it, is a delusion–a deeply destructive delusion when propelled by great wealth.

    Langone remarked, “You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.” He’s right, although not in the way he likely intended. Envy (or as Juliet Schor calls it “competitive consumption”) is a pillar of today’s economy, encouraged through corporate advertising and news media, at the expense of other values that strengthen a society.

    The week’s top news stories confirm a corrosive effect on society’s institutions–government, medicine, education, etc–from the misuse of wealth as an instrument of power to bribe, coerce and corrupt. Restricting the accumulation of extreme wealth is a logical response in terms of protecting society from such abuses. It is unlikely to become law, though, precisely because self-serving oligarchs hold government hostage.

    • freedom lover
      October 6, 2019 at 21:34

      Very Good points. The notion that wealth is connected to money is one of the biggest myths held by both the super rich and the masses. Real wealth of a society is best measured by the productive capacities of the work force. That productive capacity has been in decline in the US since about the middle 1970’s and more recently in Europe since the 1990’s. This has happened through a process of globalization and financialization of the economy(i.e. offshoring manufacturing to third world countries, lack of investment in technology and basic infrastructure, focus on short term phantom profits at the expense of long term improvements in productivity, mergers and acquisitions instead of innovation). This more than anything else is most responsible for the decline of the middle class both here and abroad. A few ideas on reversing this trend.
      1.) Send the $4.5 trillion recommended by the American Society of Civil Engineers to bring our infrastructure up to where it should be.
      2.) Raise the capital gins tax rate to 95% for assets held less than 5-yrs, cut it in half after 5-yrs and cut in half again after 10-yrs and cut to 10% after 20-yrs. This would force CEO’s to plan for the long term instead of the next quarter.
      3. ) re-instate both the Glass Steagall act and Global fixed currency exchange rates.
      4.) Outlaw credit default swaps and the other assorted wall street/City of London financial tricks.
      5.) Set a goal to be participated by and shared in by all willing nations to put humans on Mars before the year 2030. The technological breakthroughs and corresponding increases in productivity that would facilitate would increase the standard of living for all peoples of the world three fold.

  16. Tedder
    October 4, 2019 at 13:54

    The Norman invasion transformed property relations in medieval England, then the 17th and 18th century materialist philosophers (John Locke) honed the notions that ultimately gives us neoliberalism with its monopolies, patents, and trademarks, owning everything.

  17. Chuck
    October 4, 2019 at 13:28

    The problem isn’t the billionaires or their wealth. It’s a lack of oversight to ensure that this wealth does not corrupt our politicians. We almost need a fourth branch of government that is independent with authority to oversee politicians, their corporate connections, 501c3 organizations, etc. to ensure that kickbacks and pay for play isn’t happening. We can’t trust congress to police itself.
    This new branch should also have judicial authority and the ability to remove corrupt politicians.

    • rosemerry
      October 4, 2019 at 15:20

      How on earth could this be possible when the politicians rely on the “donors” in an allegedly democratic nation???

      • AnneR
        October 5, 2019 at 07:36

        And – I would add – when many of those same politicos themselves belong to the Millionaires club? Perhaps not Billions under their mattresses, but they are well within the top 5-10% of the income/wealth bracket. Therefore they have, of themselves, zero interest in raising taxes back to the levels exacted from the wealthy in the 1950s-1970s. None. No interest in enacting laws which prevent off-shoring their wealth, prevent tax avoidance by setting up what can only be called shell entities in places like Ireland.

        Nor of course do they have any interest in upsetting their donors (doubtless many also their friends, dinner companions) – but why would they? All too many of the interests of the ultra rich, the corporate-capitalist-imperialists and AIPAC funders are the same as those of the leading politicos of *both* parties.

    • Sam F
      October 7, 2019 at 21:13

      Both the reduction and regulation of extreme wealth, and of its influence upon government and mass media, are necessary to restore democracy. This is because regulation is not all-seeing, and reduction of wealth extremes reduces poverty as well as the corruption of social values.

  18. evelync
    October 4, 2019 at 12:11

    Ken Langone asks for proof of Bernie Sanders contribution to the lives of working people.
    How about the proof that professors Peter Dreier of Occidental college and Pierre Clavel of Cornell University provide in their 2015 article in the Nation “What Kind of Mayor Was Bernie Sanders”. It’s an amazing read.
    Senator Sanders stayed true to his values as a decent honest guy who is pragmatic, effective and creative and worked to make Burlington a great town for everyone. He protected working people from being thrown out of their apartments – finding a way for them to keep their homes instead of allowing gentrification to destroy their lives; his most powerful opponent came to respect him and they worked together to develop the waterfront as a beautiful place for everyone not just the wealthy.
    He is extremely gifted IMO at finding creative ways to run a government that works with and for everyone.
    Please google the article. If I link to it here the comment may not post.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      October 7, 2019 at 17:33

      In September, we posted the following request to our readers and commenters. This
      came about following a very serious malware attack waged against Consortium News
      that shut down our website.

      “For security reasons, please refrain from inserting links in your comments.”

  19. Truth first
    October 4, 2019 at 11:58

    The very rich just KNOW that they are the indispensable people, the job creators that make the world go round. Any info to the contrary is dangerous because the sheeple may wake up and realize just how menacing and treacherous these people are.
    No country can be a just society if it allows billionaires to be a part of it.

  20. Shannon LeBlanc
    October 4, 2019 at 11:16

    Jeff, everyone needs to understand that one thing the very rich are good at is creating false impressions to bullshit people. The very fact that they are super rich makes everyone think they are somehow special, super sharp, amazing people to be admired, when in reality if you met the same guy in drab clothes in a slum, you wouldn’t even notice him. It’s always the context of meeting them that creates the impression — they control the space, the introductions, the entire reality when they meet people. They don’t rely solely on their sharpness or they wouldn’t have to advertise being super rich.

    And really, if the super rich are that way because the game isn’t rigged and they don’t lie, cheat and steal and use force, then why do they need to use bribery and murder and secret agencies to maintain their position? If they are such amazing sharp cookies, they would maintain top standing by virtue of being intelligent and benevolent and helpful to others. Bullies who have money are not super sharp, they are just grunts with guns and money and people in their pockets. As usual.

  21. Shannon LeBlanc
    October 4, 2019 at 11:10

    Why we all really need to think seriously about corporate boycotts and working for local govt with 100% transparency. And if you read David Graeber’s anthropological works you will see that he points out that states came into being as bureaucratic structures to enforce taxation/extortion upon successful towns and cities, by a soldier/mafia class of extortionists. The billionaires aren’t good at making money, they are good at extraction of wealth from people who create it, by force and lies.

  22. Noah Way
    October 4, 2019 at 10:11

    Billionaires think they are persecuted now? Just wait until the pitchforks come out, which is where this is going to lead if they don’t start taking care of everyone.

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” — JFK

  23. AnneR
    October 4, 2019 at 08:14

    Thank you Caitlin for this timely piece. And – quite right.

    I would millionaires to the equation, frankly. Let us not forget how Killary views (and her audiences) the working classes, (not to mention the outright impoverished, pauperized) I do not doubt at all that such as Pelosi, Schiff et al feel the same way, no matter what “color” head of the single party they belong to. Millionaires can in fact afford much, much more than the basic necessities of living: “A few million dollars will buy you a nice car, a nice house and some nice clothes” – along with people to keep that nice house clean, to maintain your gardens, more than one very nice car, likely more than one house, overstuffed nice clothes closets, nannies to raise your children (in typical aristo fashion), expensive, private educations for your offspring, a small Cessna to avoid the crumbling infrastructure, all the medical care and attention you and your family require, want, good, healthy food, personal trainers and on and on. And I would also bet that Millionaires also have some political clout, if not in DC, then in their home area/state. But equally as likely in DC via, say, AIPAC and the like.

    And millionaires are no readier to pay taxes, definitely not to the extent that they should, than are billionaires. They all belong to the same oligarchic, plutocratic club – basically all are aristos in their beliefs, attitudes and worldviews: they deserve their wealth and no one (lower down the ladder) has the right to reduce it in any way because the hoi polloi are undeserving, a different species even, lesser beings. If they were equal to the wealthy, they’d be wealthy, too.

    • Sam F
      October 6, 2019 at 11:04

      Yes the lesser rich like millionaires profess all the more their sycophancy for money, their contempt of everyone of lesser wealth, the psychopathy of money. Anyone who doubts that should visit any social club of the wealthy in Florida or another Repub state and talk with these people: you will see that with certainty when you have spoken at any length with five or ten of them.

      They rationalize their greed by equating wealth=virtue. They attack anyone who will not recite their tenets of greed. They have nothing to discuss beyond comparing and boasting of their possessions and expensive activities. They are living proof everywhere that money does not lead to virtue, and even the virtue of productivity does not lead to wealth, except in the narrow range of lower- to upper-middle-class. Real virtue never leads to wealth. Unusual wealth is never got by productivity, it is got by lying, cheating, and stealing in a thousand forms. And that is exactly the belief system of the wealthy.

      Leave them millions (as some here suggest)? No one needs more than 150K annually even to send kids to college and live in a costly city, and they would not need anywhere near that if real estate and colleges had price controls. No one can do more than waste a retirement fund over a million. Only the unfortunate should hope to inherit more than a modest home.

      If these were the limits imposed by law upon wealth, democracy might begin to work. But it cannot because money already controls all branches of federal government and the mass media, the very tools that would be necessary to restore democracy. But it cannot be restored without adding strong provisions to the Constitution to protect its institutions and mass media from economic and information power, an influence that should be included in the definition of treason.

      Law will not be the answer until democracy is restored, and that will take military and economic isolation of the diseased United States, until its tyrant millionaires are hated by the People for their domestic exploitation. Even then the people will have to hate them for generations of induced recessions, before they will organize and arm themselves, and infiltrate the police and national guard to deny force to money power. The first signs of movement to restore democracy will likely be militant attacks on gated communities and the facilities of mass media and large businesses.

      The restoration of democracy will not be done by pseudo-activists for climate regulations, gay bathrooms, and longer maternity leaves. The longer those fair weather liberals block alliance with the militants whom they classify as right wing, the longer they will wait for their luxurious reforms. Unfortunate as it may sound, historically alliance with the militants is the only path to reform, and advocacy of pseudo-reforms is the only obstacle.

  24. Dr. Ip
    October 4, 2019 at 06:22

    Billionaires fund the New Right and use the True Believers for their own authoritarian ends.

    The New Right has diarrhea of the mouth, and what spews forth is pure hate.

    To hate others so profoundly actually points to a deep dark well of self-hatred that speaks of the fear each of these New Right people has of her and his inadequate ability to respond to love. These people would rather be hated for what they say and do instead of being loved, because they don’t believe they are good enough to be loved. They believe they are born evil and their own preternatural evil should be hated. Thus, they direct hate at others in order to distract themselves from the hate they feel for themselves, for the lack of empathetic love that they know they should have for other human beings. No matter how much or how little material wealth these people may have, they are the truly poor in our society.

    One of the superficial remedies they try and procure for themselves is the action of being Born Again. Through this ritual of going back under the waters from which they came, they attempt to cleanse themselves of the filth they believe they are laden with. Of course it doesn’t work really, because after the ritual they redouble their ability to hate and direct that hate at others, instead of actually accepting the role of unification with the teachings and ideals of the Jesus they are allegedly trying to emulate. The only hateful moments recorded in the Jesus story are when Jesus goes to the temple to clear out the money lenders with a whip in his hand. If these people from the New Right would chase away the monied interests that use them as pawns in the political chess game, they would truly be on the correct path toward the person in whose name they like to wash themselves of all guilt.

    Of course these New Right automatons [the walking dead] are to be resisted when they encroach. But most of all they are to be pitied because really, deep down inside, they are miserable human beings who know they will never be loved and who have given themselves over to the certainty of this and to the unspeakable thrill of burning with hate, not unlike the self-immolation á la 18 in his Berlin bunker on May Day 1945.

    • Sam F
      October 7, 2019 at 20:44

      Very true, they are flattered and luxuriate, but become miserable because they know that this is superficiality, and that they have lost their dreams, have no more pleasure than comparing possessions, and lose that contest too often for pleasure. I have seen older boasters whine without being pitied when no one is impressed by their empty boasts. They have nothing to show at the end of their lives but possessions, while they decline physically.

      Henry David Thoreau — “I wished to live … and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

      Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias

      I met a traveller from an antique land,
      Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
      Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
      Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
      And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
      Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
      The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
      And on the pedestal, these words appear:
      My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
      Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
      Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
      Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
      The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

  25. Donald Duck
    October 4, 2019 at 04:34

    Yep, it’s a truism to say that economic and financial power easily transmutes into political and ideological power. Governments have become playthings of the super-rich. I think it was F Scott Fitzgerald who in ‘This Side of Paradise’ writing through the voice of Amory Blaine gave us this perspicacious insight:

    ” ‘I detest poor people’, thought Amory suddenly. ‘I hate them for being poor. Poverty may have been beautiful once, but it’s rotten now. It’s the ugliest thing in the world. It’s essentially cleaner to be corrupt and rich than it is to be innocent and poor’

    ”Never before in his life had Amory considered poor people. He thought cynically how lacking in all human sympathy. O.Henry had found in these people romance, pathos, love hate- Amory only saw only coarseness, filth and stupidity.”

    Fitzgerald’s Amory was ‘a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success; grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken …”

    This pretty well sums of our own weltanschauung in the age of decline. Godless, pitiless and psychopathic.

  26. Anne Jaclard
    October 4, 2019 at 01:08

    Not to mention the fact that the “knack” billionaires have for gaining money is not generic or hereditary, except our society treats it as such which is why it is driven by inheritance and other illegitimate transfers to children of oligarchs which make the idea of meritocracy an utter lark.

  27. firstpersoninfinite
    October 3, 2019 at 23:46

    Well said, Caitlin. I call it “gold-plated Puritanism.”

  28. Jeff Harrison
    October 3, 2019 at 21:27

    Excellent commentary, Caitlin, although in defense of millionaires, I will say I’ve known a couple who were real sharp cookies. But the majority of the super wealthy? In general they got there via two routes – one, they were born into it (See Mitt Romney or Donnie Murdo) or two they are excellent corporate politicians and were able to climb the corporate ladder and begin deciding their own pay rate.

    • anon4d2
      October 7, 2019 at 20:29

      Yes, some are sharp, but a tool in the service of amoral greed rather than humanity can be fairly destroyed.

  29. Tom Kath
    October 3, 2019 at 20:23

    Interesting question, “What should people exist as?” I agree, NOT as billionairs, kings, or presidents, and NOT as little people.
    What AS indeed ! Farmers? Journalists? Protestors? Consumers??
    We can NOT all define our presence or existence in the same way. A Billionaire exists AS a Billionaire only by the significance OTHERS attribute to that aspect.

    • Shannon LeBlanc
      October 4, 2019 at 11:18

      We don’t create billionaires other than by selecting the courses of behaviour that allow us to escape persecution from them and their armed forces, including the law courts and sheriffs and politicians they control. They control the entire media, they control all corporate reality that surrounds everyone every day, they control the US Military and secrecy agencies. We don’t create them. Some of us are banally evil enough to be enablers of this bullying class, but the way the strongmen control the system, it’s a brave choice to stand up to them.

  30. peon d. rich
    October 3, 2019 at 19:40

    Job creation my ass. You are a relic of colonial expansion and the enslavement of people – your creation myth exposed. Your position is parasitic in democratic economies that have no idiotic ideologies that uphold disastrous consequences. Adam Smith would hate you, Ricardo would destroy your interest/rent bearing wealth.

    Confiscate their wealth and holdings and then put them on an extravagant allowance (say $10, 000,000 per year to be used for spending money) under the condition that they stay out of political life other than voting. If they don’t agree, then they take their chances on the class war that is beginning to see the popular side awaken. Perhaps they can pit one populace against populace, but they are hated by the majority, as well they should be. If they don’t surrender under these favorable conditions, let them eat the cake made from the ground up bones of their fellow hucksters.

  31. Sam F
    October 3, 2019 at 19:33

    Very imaginative and well put as usual for Caitlin. Either she or Chris Hedges recently noted that most Americans believe that they are temporarily embarrassed millionaires: a fool’s dream that leads them to gladly protect their idols in hope of career favors. No doubt the subjects of monarchy have similar dreams, perhaps even American slaves and servants. Else they would have to attend church to be told every Sunday that they will have pie in the sky with the saints when they die. Practical ideals although seldom perfected, are nonetheless far truer dreams than those.

  32. Drew Hunkins
    October 3, 2019 at 17:20

    Hopefully a day of reckoning is coming soon for 1.) our parasitic financial ruling class, 2.) our militarist-intel Zionist plutocrats, and 3.) our corporate media indoctrination centers and the wealthy lapdogs who work for them.

    Many of these oligarchic elements fully realize the venom and hatred with which us tens of millions of plebs view them. It’s one reason Trump won the presidency, it was a way for the struggling working masses mired in debt bondage paying exorbitant housing costs while suffering through under-employment and poor wages to stick it to the establishment, of which Killary was a prime exemplar. Never forget, this inchoate populism the Western world is experiencing is a messy affair which shows no indication of abating. Us struggling proles no longer believe their smooth lies and half truths (though when it comes to demonizing independent foreign leaders and lauding the military, many of our fellow workers are still quite deluded).

    This magnificent day of reckoning will consist of us someday storming their offices, mansions and studios in righteous fury, a fury that will also be quite cathartic and enjoyable, as we relentlessly upturn every apple-cart in sight. We will quickly confiscate and redistribute all the wealth that they’ve siphoned upwards and redistributed to themselves for the last 40 years, ever since our unions were decimated and they deindustrialized the country.

    We’ll then put that top fraction of the 1% on half-baked show trials, along with their million-dollar media sycophants. We’ll show them the same amount of due process, equal protection and respect for civil liberties as they showed the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the citizens of Ferguson.

    We’ll bust up our parasitic financial elite faster than they busted up our labor unions and we’ll do it with as much indifference as they displayed when they destroyed Gary, Flint, Camden and Appalachia. They essentially subverted the rule of law to stick it to us, employing their creepy white-shoe law firms to annihilate us, we”ll show our bourgeoisie the same courtesy by subverting the rule of law to bring about just deserts to those who have played us off against one another for far too long.

    This day of reckoning is getting closer, they’ve lost control of the narrative. Their gated communities and private police forces won’t be able to rescue them, they won’t be able to board their private jets and take off for Madrid, Miami, London or NYC like the comprador blood suckers in Latin Am, since we’ll already have all the private jets and airports manned with committed people sick and tired of the 60 hour work weeks, the bankrupting co-pays, premiums and deductibles, and the 25% interest rates.

    We’re coming for the parasitic financial elite, put on your yellow vest.

    • anon4d2
      October 7, 2019 at 20:25

      I’ll raise a glass to that spirit, although getting the people so angry and unified implies great future sufferings.

  33. ranneyr
    October 3, 2019 at 17:19

    I particularly like the last paragraph. Very nicely put, Caitlin! I think some one should do it in caligraphy and we can frame it.

  34. vinnieoh
    October 3, 2019 at 16:38

    “You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.” Well Mr. Langone you have effectively stated the best indictment yet against the mass media advertising industry that I could have imagined. An industry, by the way, without which YOU would NOT exist.

    As for being envious or jealous of YOU for your great fortune and the arrogance with which you parade it – NOT. I consider it immoral and destructive to accumulate and hoard such great wealth and then to assume that I and others like me long to revel in that same immorality.

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