It's Hard Out There For a Billionaire

Is there a group of people you can think of who have thinner skin than America's multi-millionaires and billionaires? Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive (you may remember the time when hedge fund billionaire Steven Schwarzman said that President Obama suggesting that we eliminate the "carried interest loophole," which allows hedge fund managers to pay taxes at only the 15 percent capital gains rate instead of standard income tax rates, was "like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939"). America's barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded in ways that not even a bracing ride to your Hamptons estate in your new Porsche 911 can salve. And now that the presidential campaign is in full swing, their tender feelings are being hurt left and right.

David Weigel points us to this remarkable video, in which someone at the Heritage Foundation interviews an aggrieved Frank VanderSloot, an ordinary businessman whose "life changed forever" when "President Obama's campaign included his name, and seven others, on an enemies list" because he donated to a pro-Romney superPAC. And what was VanderSloot subjected to, once he was placed on this "enemies list"? Harassment from government officials? IRS audits? Baseless prosecutions? National Park Police pulling him over, smashing one of his taillights, then giving him a ticket for having a broken taillight? Well, no. But it is true that he was mentioned on an Obama campaign web site as a major donor to a Romney superPAC. That's the "enemies list." As far as we can tell, no actual government action was taken against him, though he did lose some customers when people found out about his political activities. The entire part of the post concerning VanderSloot reads as follows:

Frank Vandersloot: Frank Vandersloot is the national finance co-chairman of the Romney campaign and, through his company Melaleuca, has donated $1 million to Restore Our Future. He is also a "litigious, combative, and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement" who "spent big" on ads in an "ultimately unsuccessful effort to force Idaho Public Television to cancel a program that showed gays and lesbians in a favorable light to school children."

Shield your eyes from the brutal government oppression!

The quotes come from this Mother Jones article about VanderSloot, his political activities, and his company, a "multi-level marketing" firm that sells supplements and cleaning products. You can argue that the "multi-level marketing" industry is basically made up of con artists who make money by roping gullible people into pyramid schemes and convincing them they'll make riches without actually working. I don't know enough about VanderSloot's company to say if this is an accurate picture of what it does. But what's critical is that the Obama campaign never criticized VanderSloot's business practices, or attacked him for being rich. The paragraph they put on their web site about VanderSloot concerned his involvement in politics.

Frank VanderSloot has a lot of money, and has decided to use some of that money to engage in politics, both in his home state and nationally, by doing things like taking out ads about issues that concern him in newspapers and on billboards, and investing heavily in the candidacy of Mitt Romney, whom he'd like to see become president. Which is fine. I'd prefer a system in which it wouldn't be legal for multi-millionaires to buy presidential candidates, but in America today it is legal. But the whining we get from them is just unbelievable. These guys all seem to think that they are the personal embodiment of the wonder of free enterprise, and if anybody ever criticizes them for their political activities, it can only mean that economic freedom itself is under vicious assault. "We don't hear about the American Dream anymore, do we? It's almost a bad thing. It's almost evil if you become successful in America today," VanderSloot says in the video. "The whole principle of people getting out there and producing jobs for folks, we ought to go back to knowing that's a good thing as opposed to believing it's not."

I've got a deal for Mr. Vandersloot. I'm only an underpaid political writer, but I hereby declare that I will give him one billion dollars if he can show me a time when that committed socialist Barack Obama ever said that "people getting out there and producing jobs for folks" is a bad thing.

I find VanderSloot's whining particularly grating because as a political writer, I get attacked all the time. People say that I'm wrong, people say that I'm an idiot and a jerk, I get plenty of hate mail, and I've even gotten some threats. The latter are a bit unsettling, but as for everything else, it comes with the territory. Like giving a million dollars to a super PAC, writing about politics is a choice, and if you can't tolerate anybody disagreeing with you, or even calling you names from time to time, you shouldn't do either one. What VanderSloot obviously wants is a situation in which he can put millions of dollars into influencing the course of elections and policy debates, but nobody ever criticizes him for it. Well, that's just not how things work in a democracy.

Speaking of one billion dollars, that's the amount that wealthy people and corporations are planning to spend this fall to make sure that Mitt Romney is the next president. It's a good investment on their part–just think of all the goodies a Romney administration could shower on America's beleaguered and oppressed wealthy.

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