Rich 'Freaking Out' Over Obama's Income Inequality Remarks

Thursday, 30 Jan 2014 02:49 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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President Barack Obama's attack on income inequality in his State of the Union address has fueled the recent fears of the rich that there's going to be a change in their fortunes.

The wealthy one-percenters feel they are being unfairly targeted by politicians, the press and by people less fortunate than themselves. And now they are fighting back, even though they have no real reason to believe that their bank balances are likely to dwindle in the near future, Politico reports.

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans

The rich have been taking it on the chin from the Occupy movement, New York City's super-liberal new Mayor Bill de Blasio, and even in the unlikely form of Pope Francis. And then there's Obama, of course, and the Democrats who plan to make income inequality the focus of the midterm elections.

But the rich are trying to turn the tide by going on the attack themselves. However, Thomas Perkins, co-founder of the prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, appeared to have gone a little overboard with a letter over the weekend to The Wall Street Journal when he compared the holocaust in Nazi Germany to "the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'''

Perkins also said that he feared a progressive "Kristallnacht,” referring to the 1938 German pogrom in which nearly 100 Jews were killed and 30,000 were arrested.

Following a mighty backlash, including the company that bears his name disavowing him, Perkins went on TV to apologize for his controversial comments. But then he stoked the fire by declaring that "when you start to use hatred against a minority, it can get out of control."

New York City Mayor de Blasio inadvertently fanned the flames of discontent among the rich during a recent snowstorm when city plows failed to clean the mess on the tony East Side of New York City.

Wealthy residents claimed it was an act of revenge by de Blasio for their wealth and their support of his political opponent. "He is trying to get us back. He is very divisive and political," Upper East Side resident Molly Jong Fast told the Post. 'By not plowing the Upper East Side, he is saying, ‘I’m not one of them'."

Although the progressive mayor admitted the mistake, he flatly denied that it was political payback or that he was deliberately targeting the posh neighborhood.

However, in a city of millionaires, many of them Democrats, the mayor has caused some consternation over his plans to tax the rich to pay for his children's pre-K programs. There are concerns that tax hikes could result in well-to-do residents and business owners leaving the city.

In November, Pope Francis appeared to go after the wealthy when he denounced "trickle-down economics" and discussed the dangers of income inequality. But Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone has since fired back, warning the pontiff that his comments could result in the Catholic Church in America receiving fewer donations.

"You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,” Langone said.

Politico points out that there is "a deep-seated anxiety" among the wealthy that the national mood is turning against the super-rich "in ways that ultimately could prove dangerous and hard to control. It added, "The collective result, according to one member of the one percent, is a fear that the rich are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe not today but soon."

But the report says that the plutocrats may be "freaking out" unnecessarily, noting that Obama's speech never even hinted at a tax on the rich while his remarks on income inequality were, in fact, pretty soft.

“After four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled," said Obama without explaining how he was going to change the status quo.

Justin Wolfers, economics professor at the University of Michigan, noted that although Obama stirred the pot with his speech, the fears of the wealthy are being overblown.

"If there is anything driving this rise in rhetoric, it’s that the president pivoted to talking about inequality, which some interpret as taking from the one percent and giving to the 99 percent," he said. "None of the issues currently on the table would have a large effect on the very rich."

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans

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