Billionaires Can’t Stop Whining About Oppression
Billionaires made out like bandits while Americans suffer. Yet a parade of some of the richest people in human history has recently formed to denounce President Obama for oppressing them.
America’s billionaires are up in arms! Sure, they’ve made out like bandits, while tens of millions of Americans are still suffering – out of work, in bankruptcy, or owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. Along with the rest of the 1 per cent, they’ve captured 93 per cent of income gains in the US in the first year of lopsided economic recovery. But that’s not the point! The point is: They’re the most oppressed people in the history of the world! What’s happening to them in America today is reminiscent of Nazi Germany under Hitler!
Believe it or not, that’s the message coming from a veritable parade of self-portrayed victims at the pinnacle of the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent, who are very angry at President Obama supposedly saying mean things about them. These men are so spectacularly wealthy that it’s literally impossible to understand them in the context of other people’s economic lives, to make sense of what they’re saying. They’re like elephants in the midst of a leper colony, complaining about a gnat bite in a dream they just remembered.
They’ve also been treated so well by Obama that it’s likewise impossible to grasp. He could have gone after them immediately after taking office, breaking up the big banks and pursuing criminal charges against those responsible for destroying the economy based on multiple interlocking forms of fraud. Obama did none of that. There’s simply no understanding their hatred of him in purely objective terms.
But their self-pitying portrayal as victims is another thing altogether. It’s not just commonplace, it’s virtually mandatory among the ranks of American conservatives today – particularly when there’s little or no basis in fact. Indeed, it’s sometimes even quantifiable, as I explained in a column occasioned by Herman Cain’s slow, self-pitying exit from the presidential race.
Increasing taxes slightly
For example, there’s a widespread belief in certain evangelical Christian circles that 146,000 Christians a year are martyred worldwide, when the real figure is almost certainly less than five a year (possibly even zero) – which would yield what I dubbed a “conservative victimology ratio” of 28,600 to one. Likewise, voter fraud cases are similarly scarce, but conservatives imagine they number into the millions – and voter suppression in various forms actually does keep millions from voting. Using a variety of different approaches and examples, I came up with victimology ratios ranging from 30.4 million to one down to 22,010 to one.
So, with this staggering magnitude of conservative self-pity in mind, is it any wonder that a parade of some of the richest people in human history has recently formed to denounce President Obama for oppressing them, persecuting them like Jews in Hitler’s Germany, even forcing them out of the country? These are some of the toughest businessmen who’ve ever lived, but Obama has apparently hurt their tender feelings, and they want the world to know what a meanie-bo-beanie he really is! At the same time, many of them are busy bullying those who work for them into voting Republican – even showing up at rallies and contributing money as well – all practices that violate the spirit of American democracy, if not the letter of the law.
Mind you, Obama hasn’t actually done anything to them. He’d like to raise their taxes slightly – back to what they were under Bill Clinton, a period of time when their incomes skyrocketed, growing much more rapidly, as a group, than they did under Bush (the top 0.01 per cent lost $44 million under GW Bush compared to what they would have made if income growth under Clinton had been duplicated). But Obama hasn’t even done that. He could have tried to nationalise and then re-sell the bankrupted “too big to fail” super-banks and Wall Street firms who drove the economy over the cliff – the same way that the FDIC treats ordinary banks when they fail. But he didn’t even try to do that. Never even mentioned it.
Indeed, Obama could have fundamentally changed the direction of the American economy, just as FDR did in a much too similar situation during the Great Depression. As economist Dean Baker recently noted, “Obama took office with the economy in a free-fall”. His popularity was sky-high, while the opposition was completely discredited by its support for the policies that lead to the disaster. Thus:
“President Obama could have seized this opportunity to try to turn the economy in a fundamentally different direction.
This would have meant first and foremost building on the anger the country felt toward the large Wall Street banks. If he had taken an aggressive stance of prosecuting criminal activity and breaking up large insolvent banks, he almost certainly would have the support of the vast majority of the country. It is unlikely that the Republicans in Congress could have sustained resistance that was centred on protecting the large banks responsible for the disaster.”
Had Obama taken this path, no doubt the billionaires would have turned on him even more swiftly, as they turned on FDR, himself a product of old money dating back to early colonial days even before New Amsterdam became New York. It was precisely Roosevelt’s multi-generational security in the upper class (the Astors were tasteless social climbers compared to him) which helped give him the supreme confidence to laugh it off – even after an attempted coup – and declare to a crowd in Madison Square Garden that he “relished their hatred”.
If Obama had done the sensible thing and followed Roosevelt’s example, then the billionaires’ anger would at least be comprehensible without reference to the pattern of hyperbolic conservative self-pity. But he did nothing of the sort.