Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Class Warfare as explained by the WSJ...

Allan Brinkley, provost and history professor at Columbia University, has an article in today's Wall Street Journal focused on the rise of economic populism he fears is about to sweep over the nation.

Brinkley brings up Huey Long, the Depression-era governor of Louisiana as a case in point - whose call for a radical redistribution of wealth was viewed by some contemporaries as "heroic," and he warns of the dangers we face right now:

"Whether or not we are now entering a new Great Depression, we are almost certainly entering a period in which resentment of financial and corporate titans will increase, and in which many politicians will feel they have no choice but to join the chorus of denunciation -- perhaps even a president with almost unprecedented approval ratings as he begins his term."

I'm here to say ordinary people don't resent people for being rich. They resent rich people for their sense of entitlement. For the idea that they can work the system to profit wildly when times are good, then turn around and socialize the losses when times get tough.

No one is pissed off at Bill Gates because of his billions. No one is about to rise up against Donald Trump, even though he's not the most likable guy.

People are filled with loathing for a particular class of rich people: the billionaires and millionaires on Wall Street.

And here's why. Ordinary Americans understand that Wall Street insiders profited handsomely by selling bad debt packaged prettily as "collateralized loan obligations" and "credit default swaps" and other nonsense.

They understand that the Wall Street executives are "free market" to the hilt when reaping extraordinary profits, but they become as liberal as McGovern when the losses show up on the books.

The millions of people recently laid off from their jobs see highly-paid capitalists running like sprinters to the fed for a handout - working the system like the best of the welfare queens. And their primary concern seems to have been focused on the amount of the bonus they feel they deserve for last year's performance.

It's not the wealth of others that is loathed. It's the hypocrisy. It's the notion that the middle class has to "bear any burden" and the elites get to cavort in the Hamptons again this summer, thanks to the welfare bonus checks they got ($18.4 billion in bonuses paid out to TARP firms!)

So if the "elites" are worried about "economic populism," they may want to start working as hard at getting their companies in the black as they are at negotiating their salaries.

Because to be frank, if we saw the people on Wall Street working that hard to bring sustainable profit back into their companies, I doubt Brinkley would have had a column today.

No comments: