Bash Your Billionaire! It’s been one of those weeks when billionaires have been much in the news. Herewith, three varieties of the follies and delusions of the super-rich.
Billionaire Bilgewater. In Davos, the world’s priciest echo chamber, the billionaires assembled for the annual World Economic Forum turned their attention to economic inequality. “We’re living in a Gilded Age,” Scott Minerd, the chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, told The Washington Post’s Heather Long.
But what do Wall Street’s whizzes prescribe as a solution to the growing disappearance of the middle class? “Upskilling.” Workers can become more productive, in more remunerative jobs, if they learn how to code. “The lack of education in those areas in digital is absolutely shocking,” said Stephen Schwartzman, CEO of Blackstone, the private-equity behemoth that has presided over the destruction of many thousands of jobs.
Not surprisingly, the Post’s Long also discovered that very few Davosites supported raising taxes on the rich—even to fund any government efforts to “upskill” our workers.
Billionaire Bushwah. Michael Bloomberg has rightly condemned Howard Schultz’s pronouncements that he’ll probably run for president as an independent, noting, even more rightly, that the only effect such a campaign could conceivably have would be to split the anti-Trump vote and thereby possibly re-elect our deranged president. But Bloomberg is still gearing up for his own presidential run in 2020’s Democratic primaries. According to a New York Times account of a Bloomberg talk last week in Virginia, the former New York mayor “says he can unite Democrats” around policies of pro-business economics and highly selective social liberalism: He strongly supports gun controls, but has ridiculed legalizing marijuana and hasn’t repudiated the stop-and-frisk operations of the NYPD when he was mayor, which understandably outraged the targeted (black and brown) communities and civil libertarians. This can unite Democrats?
Billionaire Bullshit. Which brings us, of course, to Howard Schultz, who proposes to run on a platform fundamentally indistinguishable from Bloomberg’s, but in such a way that he could give Donald Trump four more years. By so doing, Schultz would ensure that he would be remembered with as much respect as is being accorded to the near-billionaire who died last Friday—Chainsaw Al Dunlap, who won his moniker for his habit of boosting short-term profits at the companies he ran by firing half their work forces, until he himself was ousted for cooking those companies’ books.
Schultz should read the Dunlap obits and other assessments of his career. They’re kind compared to those he’d get should he choose to run as an independent.