Sympathy for the Plutocrat

By Nick Hanauer
October 16, 2012

This is a response to an excerpt from Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, published this week by Penguin Press.

It’s great to be what you people are now calling a plutocrat.  I know.  I am one.

We plutocrats live incredible lives, surrounded by luxury and insulated from risk and discomfort.  Things have gone very well for us over the last several years.  Since George Bush left office, the stock market has doubled, we got a (sweet!) $700 billion rescue of the financial system, and corporate profits are at a 50-year high.  BOOYA!

The growing economic distance between people like me and the little people like you hasn’t been this great in a long, long time.  You may call that inequality.  We call it freedom.  But if things are going to continue to go this well, you people need to get with the program.  Here, I’d like to have a frank discussion about that.

It is something of a puzzle to many of you little people why we plutocrats, who have benefitted most from these trends, view President Obama with such intense disdain. Why, you might ask, given how good the economy has been to you plutocrats, are you so maniacally angry?

“Maybe,” you say to yourself, “I just don’t understand economics.”  I’ll let you in on a little secret.   You understand economics just fine. What you don’t understand is that this fight isn’t about economics.  It’s about status, privileges and power.

People like me don’t hate Obama because he’s going to raise our taxes, although we hate that plenty.  We hate him because his views about the importance and primacy of the middle class diminish our status.  The threat he represents isn’t economic; it’s existential.  It’s not just our pocket books that are threatened, but, more importantly, our prestige and our influence on this country.  Our manhood is at stake.

Facts are for little people.

We plutocrats have a long and proud history of controlling human societies, and the belief systems that we create about how the world works enable us to do that.  “Earth is the center of the solar system” was a useful one for us in the past.  “Lowering taxes on the rich produces growth” is one of our current favorites.  You show me an orthodox belief, and I’ll show you plutocrats who benefit from it.

We understand human nature well enough to know that people believe and accept ideas for all sorts of reasons, but rarely because of facts or evidence.   Mostly, people believe what suits them, what makes them feel good.  And what makes us feel good is a set of beliefs that reinforce our status, privileges and power.

So it’s both annoying and hilarious that you people think you’re going to be able to talk us out of being plutocrats with “evidence” or “facts”.  Our current position and power is the only fact we care about. And we viscerally hate anyone who has the temerity to challenge it.

When Jack or Mitt or I call ourselves “Job Creators”, it isn’t because it’s true or that there is any evidence for it. It’s because being a job creator puts us right at the center of the economic universe – where we deserve to be.  This belief system isn’t just convenient to us, although it is. It’s essential in order to justify our status and power.

We used to call this divine right.  Today we call it “economics”.

You say democracy.  We say plutocracy.

You need to understand that as job creators, at the center of the economic universe, the better we do, the better it must be for you.  In particular, the richer we get and the less constrained by law and regulation we are, the more jobs will trickle downward.  Basically, the less we plutocrats contribute to society in tax, and the less constrained we are, the better it is for you and everyone else.   And you thought we didn’t care!

You need to accept as fact the idea that all prosperity trickles down from the top. That means that, economically speaking, we plutocrats matter.  It also means that you don’t matter.  Tax cuts for the rich create growth and jobs.  Investments in the middle class and the poor balloon the deficit and will bankrupt this great country.  National budget priorities that reflect this will be great for you and your family.  Really.

A bard once said that plutocrats hate regulation for the same reason that robbers hate cops.  That’s a cheap shot, and underappreciates the sophistication of our argument.  Since we are the “job creators”, any restraint on us necessarily decreases the jobs that trickle down to you.  That’s why we deserve a free hand to run the country in whatever way suits us best.  You show me a country with limited government and regulation, and I’ll show you some happy plutocrats busily “job-creating”.

Get With The Program!

So what’s puzzling you about why we hate Obama?  He’s in our way.  And that’s a much bigger threat to us than higher tax rates. Our incredible sway over politics, the economy and culture is being challenged.

Repeat after me.  You sir, are a job creator and the richer you get, the better off my family will be.  Regulation is bad, and the less of it we have, the better off my family will be.  Never forget these things.  And never forget that the rising inequality you see all around isn’t a sign of decay.   It’s a sign of prosperity.  Get with the program.  Now.  Or we will fire you.

15 comments

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Hopefully, this was satire.

Posted by majkmushrm | Report as abusive

Nick, you’ve explained a lot. And Chrystia, well, and Obama, too, I say anybody can have a blind spot, so don’t be too hard on either of them. Just focus on how wonderful it will be when Romney is elected and he reveals his plans.

Posted by bcrawf | Report as abusive

This article below Reuters’ usual standard, clearly written only to stir mud into already roiling economic waters. It has no “point” beyond that and does not pretend to. Turd “journalism” of NO “redeeming effect”.

“We, the people are well aware that the real “control” of our political system has been hijacked by the very “Representatives” we have sent to Congress, disproportionally lawyers and others from the “litigation lobby” and those who have sat and now sit on “our” Supreme Court proclaiming themselves above all law and accountability. We are well aware that our “system” is the best money can buy, and that the personal influence of many is bought and sold at a rate comparable to pocket change; given what WE pay, day in and day out to provide and maintain the offices, staff, benefits and salaries of those who then offer individual and/or collective allegiance, influence and support to the highest bidder.

We don’t need someone like you to tell us the “system” isn’t working for us. It’s rather obvious, thank you.

You make fun of circumstances that “we, the people” did not intend to come about and can little influence today, You make us fear for our own future and that of our country. But you serve OUR purpose if you make us angry enough to shake off our apathy. You show us the difference, an important one, between the hard working and successful people in the “front lines” of honest economic activity and people like you who make their money from exploitation whenever and wherever possible.

You and those like you, bloated parasites pretending economic leadership, will eventually be seen as grist for the economic meat grinder as an example of what inevitably happens when mere lemmings seeking their own personal cliff to jump off fail to look back. You think we are following you, but we are not. We are behind to make sure you do not stop, but go over. If need be, we will PUSH you over. Good riddance to bad rubbish!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

always loved your writings nick. now can you please explain this in redneckworld or some other gop publication which is read by the people who vote against their own wellbeing!

Posted by repubsrcrazy | Report as abusive

Thank-you Nick Hanauer! It is indeed an age for satire — a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but nevertheless needed more than ever!

Posted by Sanity-Monger | Report as abusive

Wo, Nick, I’m really sorry that not everyone who read this realized it was satire! At least you succeeded in getting people worked up… and hopefully to the polls!

Posted by SFCarioca | Report as abusive

Nick’s article joins the trend to question the role of plutocrats and their greed in the future of america.

plutocrats and their aynrandlerism are a blight on the face of american generosity

Posted by scythe | Report as abusive

I don’t think the author considered that many people would not realize this is satire. Only a true idiot would write this sort of stuff on a major news site if these were his/her true beliefs. They would write something entirely opposite.

Sadly, many on the left believe exactly what this satire is saying.

Good one!

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive

I weep for the lemmings

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

@stevedebi,

“Only a true idiot would write this sort of stuff on a major news site if these were his/her true beliefs.”

While I agree entirely, it it only logic and common sense that signal this verbal garbage is satire. But there there exist those who fundamentally agree with the sentiments thus expressed. And there are those too dull to “get the joke”.

There are, in truth, those whose actions daily publicly demonstrate a fundamental and complete contempt for the great majority of American citizens. So I feel the need to point out the “economic taliban” hiding within America’s “engine of democracy”.

These are as able to “fade into the background after each nefarious deed” as their Islamic brethren in cowardice assume the disguise of innocent civilians. They would play the part of the knowing child who shoots a friend and then claims they “didn’t mean it” or “it wasn’t me”. Is their victim any less shot?

This is why in war, those who fight in civilian clothes and not uniform can and should be shot as spies without trial. Those who disrespect or otherwise minimize the values that grant each American, however unequal, genuine opportunity to succeed should expect to “take their just lumps”.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Reading your name makes me feel good :) Thnx

Posted by Shoshie | Report as abusive

Unfortunately, the age of satire is over, replaced by “flame wars” of repeated taunts to “s**k it.”

Posted by DwDunphy | Report as abusive

Oh yes- poor Obama, who has been helped every step of the way by rich benefactors. It is the rich against Obama. Since when? Last week? – Now, I have no love for Romney either but Obama is loved by plent of plutocrats. The wealthiest man in the world Mr. Slim has ties. Georges Soros has very strong ties. And there are many others. The above is drivel. Regulate and steal in the name of the state. Yes, that makes much more sense. Please make government larger so we can suffocate small business some more. More red tape is just what we need. But the plutocrats- you know the ones who write the laws don’t want regs —that they can control? That makes sense.

Posted by usausa06 | Report as abusive

May be it was supposed to be joke or satire .But It was fun reading it.

Posted by GopalRao | Report as abusive

To quote the Simpsons, “Mmm, that’s good satire.”

Let’s be honest. EVERY group (ethnic, class, geographical, etc.) makes itself the center of the universe. The problem is casino capitalists now own the nation’s economy and wield immense power, so when they shift the planetary orbit around themselves, it has far greater impact.

And these profit creators are not necessarily job creators. In many cases they’re job exporters or job destroyers. It’s a lot easier to make money with money than with people, ideas and products/services. But I don’t blame them for doing what they do any more than I blame a scorpion for stinging like a scorpion.

I blame us for staring blankly at the ground, panicking about our tiny piece of the pie, and allowing them to do it.

Posted by Knute5 | Report as abusive