Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drunks

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Super Rich Were Astonished that Obama Won

Posted by on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 8:45 AM

You must find the time today to read Ezra Klein's great interview with Chrystia Freeland, an expert of the mindset of the class of people who rule our financial universe and the author of a book I'm going to buy right quick, The Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. My favorite passages:

CF: There’s a great joke on Wall Street which is that the bet on Romney is Wall Street’s worst bet since the bet on subprime. But I found the hostility towards Obama astonishing. I found the commitment to getting him out astonishing. I found the absolute confidence that it would work astonishing. On that Tuesday, the big Romney backers I was talking to were sure he was going to win. They were all flying into Logan Airport for the victory party. There’s this stunned feeling of how could we be so wrong, and a feeling of alienation.


CF: Let me be clear that I’m not defending any of them. But I think the way it works — and I think Romney’s comments were very telling in this regard — there are two differences in the mind of this class. First, they’re absolutely convinced that they’re not asking for special privileges for themselves. They’re convinced that it just so happens that their self-interest coincides perfectly with the collective interest. That’s where you get this idea of the “job creators”. The view is that to seek a low tax environment or less regulation, that’s not special pleading for yourself, it’s not transactional politics. It’s that this set of rules is the most conducive to economic growth for everybody. It will grow the pie. Now, it also happens to be an incredibly convenient way of thinking. If you’ve developed an ideology that what’s good for you personally also happens to be good for everyone else, that’s quite wonderful because there’s no moral tension.


CF: To get back to Romney, that’s where you get the belief that being successful in business qualifies you to be president. What’s interesting to me is that if you talk to the billionaires in other countries that have different social orders, you heard different views on this.
Yuri Millner, the Russian billionaire, set up a prize in theoretical physics where he gave three million bucks each to what he thought were the nine best theoretical physicists in the world. The reason he did that, he said, is that he thinks that the way our society allocates brainpower against work is not ideal. He thinks the work he does is kind of boring and humdrum and doesn’t make that much of a difference in the world but leads to these huge rewards, while in his view, the most defining and important work, the work that makes us human, is grappling with understanding the universe. George Soros will say that he thinks the most important human endeavor is to be a philosopher. You encounter that sentiment less often among the anglo saxons, because we’ve persuaded ourselves that the heroes of our social narrative our businesspeople.


Comments (27) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I was under the impression that, despite conventional wisdom, the richest 1% were split pretty much as evenly as the rest of the country.

Yes, I'm sure the rich Romney supporters were stunned. So were the poor Romney supporters. If these people were bright, they wouldn't have been Romney supporters in the first place.
Posted by GermanSausage on November 29, 2012 at 8:59 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 2
If you’ve developed an ideology that what’s good for you personally also happens to be good for everyone else, that’s quite wonderful because there’s no moral tension.

Most children develop the theory of mind at a very young age. Clearly, this is what's preventing them from becoming bajillionaires.
Posted by MacCrocodile on November 29, 2012 at 9:03 AM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 3
“If you’ve developed an ideology that what’s good for you personally also happens to be good for everyone else, that’s quite wonderful because there’s no moral tension.”

Isn’t this exactly where the Liberal ideology on healthcare reform (and every other entitlement program) is?
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on November 29, 2012 at 9:05 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 4
"CF: There’s a great joke on Wall Street which is that the bet on Romney is Wall Street’s worst bet since the bet on subprime. "

Except that the bet on subprime was WIN/WIN for Wall Street. They got the fees, they got the bonuses, WE got the toxic assets, bail-out costs and foreclosures. Timmeh Geithner refused to follow Obama's instructions to at least look at having the Feds take over Citibank.

Or did Lloyd Blankfein finally get arrested? Until that's in the Morning News, there is no win for us.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on November 29, 2012 at 9:15 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 5
Some heroes. They've lead us down the garden path too many times now. But they never seem to suffer with the rest of us when their schemes collapse. There's no future in pandering to the rich.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on November 29, 2012 at 9:17 AM · Report this
What @1 said. It's rather odd that our resident 'shoshalist' buys into corporate media's myth building about Obama.
Posted by anon1256 on November 29, 2012 at 9:19 AM · Report this
Original Andrew 7
@ 3,

The point of social safety net programs is to help others, even if you don't need the help yourself. For example, it's highly unlikely that I'll need programs that help women and children, like WIC and SNAP, but I'll gladly pay more taxes for them. Helping others is not only the correct moral choice, it benefits our entire society.

It's understandable that's totally beyond your comprehension.
Posted by Original Andrew on November 29, 2012 at 9:26 AM · Report this
Anne18 8
@3 Except that because of, you know, FACTS universal health care actually is good for the vast majority. And I've found this odd thing in a lot of people pulling for change (in the health care system, gay rights, gender equality, etc) - the ability to empathize with those suffering from a plight not their own.
Posted by Anne18 on November 29, 2012 at 9:29 AM · Report this
Thanks for this pointer, Charles.
Posted by Ancient Sumerian on November 29, 2012 at 9:34 AM · Report this
No, it's really not. The Democratic policy thinkers pushing for healthcare-for-all typically have a good salary and excellent health care benefits, and they expect that under the ACA they will pay for the insurance they're now guaranteed to get. This is fundamentally unlike hedge-fund gazillionaires insisting that their salaries must be taxed as "capital gains" (even though it's not their capital) and for that matter that capital gains must be taxed at a low rate - a rate of 0% in the tax plan of Herman Cain, who was leading in the polls for the Republican nomination a year ago today. That's just a whole different world of self-interested special pleading.
Posted by Warren Terra on November 29, 2012 at 9:35 AM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 11
@1: My understanding is that the 1% in the financial industry was almost completely Romney, but the 1% in high tech and other industries trended Obama. I can't remember where I heard it first, though.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on November 29, 2012 at 9:39 AM · Report this

Quite the opposite, I would say. The Liberal Philosophy on matters such as these is more along the lines of: "what's good for the largest group of people is better than what's good for a few individuals, even if that includes myself". Or, as a certain logician would phrase it, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one".

It's not that Liberals lack a sense of self-interest, but rather they recognize and accept the premise that there are times when their self-interest should be set aside, if doing so contributes to the greater good.

In the end it comes down to understanding that we do not stand separate and apart from that greater good, and will ultimately benefit from it as well, even if those benefits are not obvious or immediate.
Posted by COMTE on November 29, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
kcrobinson 13
I know that this typo is (sic) from the source, but you've bolded it Charles so you're just as responsible:

we’ve persuaded ourselves that the heroes of our social narrative our businesspeople.
Posted by kcrobinson on November 29, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
Charles, you might like this piece: The Revolt of the Rich.
Posted by midwaypete on November 29, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 15
Just repeating what COMTE @12 said.

You've got it backwards. Liberals (generally) believe "what's good for everyone will be good for me too."
Posted by Urgutha Forka on November 29, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 16
@12 He's already dead?
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on November 29, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Comments against #3 are just proving the point YGBKM is making. Liberals do not consider that some people view the practice of government redistributing money by force as a source of moral tension.
Posted by cliche on November 29, 2012 at 10:35 AM · Report this
Freeland is one of those murky types, who tends to parse stuff, trivialize and confuse the public who bothers to read her, much the same as that halfwit, Robert Reich, who still can't understand simple arithmetic nor large data sets (or else he's a complete fraud).

Reich wrote another recent article where he mentions that tedious 70% consumption figure, without ever bothering to elaborate (on the farfeteched assumption he actually comprehends) on the important point of what the group is whoconsitutes that 70% figure (was the top 20% of the populace, now contracting down to around the top 15% of the population --- i.e., the vast majority of consumption today in America, due to extreme concentration of wealth, is done by the upper 15%).

Freeland constantly claims "successful businesspeople" as opposed to financial fraudsters and thieves --- there's no getting around their financial fraud --- at this point --- with the light shined on financial frauds such as Paulson's and Goldman Sachs' Abacus CDO, Magnetar Capital, SAC Capital, Jon Corzine's theft of billions, etc., etc., etc.

Anyone agreeing with the editor of Thomson Reuters Digital (the company which was mysteriously saved --- Reuters, that is --- and then immediately purchased the software text analytics firm, ClearForest (originally financed by the same Israeli firm which financed Narus, etc.), is a highly suspect author to begin with.

Please stop supporting those who would confuse and further bewilder. Instead, go see Naomi Wolfe at the Town Hall this coming Tuesday --- she has a highly intelligent mind and speaks from an honest viewpoint.

Forget Freeland's book......
Posted by sgt_doom on November 29, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Report this

I suppose you also therefore consider paying your fair share to drive on freeways, to receive services from first-responders, to get cheap electricity and clean water, to ensure your food is healthy and affordable, and all the other benefits provided by government to taxpayers as "redistribution of money by force", yes?

If so, I kindly suggest you go build a cabin in the woods somewhere far, far away from the rest of us, where you can enjoy your cherished "rugged individualist" lifestyle without any hindrance from the "parasitic" government you apparently find so loathsome.
Posted by COMTE on November 29, 2012 at 10:55 AM · Report this
@19 - The point is simply that any given person's ideal society will be moral from their viewpoint. Charles Mudede would certainly argue Marxism as a moral system. Or when Goldy posts the charts of "red" counties of Washington receiving more tax dollars than they put in and he can't understand why they aren't grateful for that and instead vote against their "self interest". The implication is that Goldy's redistribution world view is the best for everybody but not everybody understands that yet. What if the "red" people really do value self-sufficiency, charity, hard work, and freedom above all else. Is that an immoral way to approach life?
Posted by cliche on November 29, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 21
You have to feel for them.

After working so hard to elect the Anti-Christ, Rmoney, their plans to end the world fell short when sensible people chose someone good for the country instead.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 29, 2012 at 11:13 AM · Report this
@20 - "Is that an immoral way to approach life?"

It wouldn't be immoral if their practice genuinely reflected the values you claim they hold: for example, conformity with the judeo-christian tradition has little to do with freedom, clamoring for cheap gasoline or fertilizer in the age of oil wars has nothing to do with self-sufficiency.
Posted by anon1256 on November 29, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Report this
Another factor is that, in my biased perceptions of my experience, liberals tend to be people who believe that there is no fundamental difference between themselves and people who are very poor and very rich.

It could be easy to go too far in this, putting all success and failure down to chance, but I think we're onto something here, namely that '[...] the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all,' (which were perhaps more accurate as 'can happen').

That is to say, contrary to the language of 'makers' and 'takers', 'creators' and 'moochers', 'workers' and 'parasites', the 'Elect' and the 'Preterite', any of us can be very different things in different times, and could easily have been very different in different circumstances. This marries self-interest to collective interest. (This relates to why racism is so toxic: you can make laws that are terrible for
a group, content in the notion that you will never, ever, be a member of it.)

As to the very wealthy's view of reality's being morally coherent, I've never doubted that for a moment---it's almost tautologically true of human beings that this would be the case, but some humans are also capable of at least occasionally considering that they might be wrong, factually or morally. Only the stupid of any ideology or party believe their opponents to be villains in their own stories---stupid both because it bespeaks real lack of interest in reality and because it can put one at disadvantages both tactical and strategic. (See Sun Tzu.)
Posted by Gerald Fnord on November 29, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
@20 The red people - as you call them - may value self-sufficiency, charity, hard work, and freedom (I wouldn't necessarily, by the way), or at least they may say and even think that they do. However, the wealth redistribution scheme the wealthy have been running since Reagan through the Republican Party - they've been waging class warfare for decades now, this selfish looting they can easily justify to themselves - is counter to all those stated red people values. Charity? By taking assistance away from the poor? By confiscating their savings when they become seriously ill? Freedom? To do what the wealthiest demand that you do, and forcing you to live by their self-serving rules? Hard work? Sure, for pennies without benefits or hope of a larger share of that proverbial pie. And self-reliance? If you want real self-reliance and freedom, go live in that cabin in the woods like the Unabomber. And if you accept a dead rabbit from your neighbor five miles away, by the way, you're relying on him. The most practical self-reliance comes as a benefit of economic freedom, and the red people aren't going to get that in a society where you work longer hours for less pay, less benefits, and, rather, for the benefit of more creditors. It's indentured servanthood, in other words. That's Romney's America, and it's the America of the 1%.

An America where Big Government flexes its muscles to help its constituents - the people they're supposed to represent! - comes closest to those red people values you mentioned.
Posted by floater on November 29, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Report this
Original Andrew 25
@ 20 AmeriKKKa's rich are totally amoral, so there's no tension for them at all.

Regarding eastern Washington's far-white red-county voters, they're the biggest hypocritical welfare queens and pathological compulsive liars in the state. Same goes for the red states that would instantly collapse if cut-off from the sweet blue state tax dollars from which they mooch off.
Posted by Original Andrew on November 29, 2012 at 11:45 AM · Report this
But But the left tells me Obama is in bed with this people and they love him.
Posted by Seattle14 on November 29, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Report this
Karlheinz Arschbomber 27
What O.Andrew @25 said. I have an uncle (via a soon-to-be ex-marriage) who is one of those 1% Wall Street lifer-insiders. He's written numerous WSJ columns. I used to have a lot of respect for the guy, he's no dummy. But it's clear that even though he's worth untold dozens of millions, and is well over 70 now, ALL HE FUCKING CARES ABOUT is keeping his money, and everyone else can just drop dead.

It's that "we built this" bullshit. He came in as a poor immigrant and worked his way up, full credit there. But succeeded on the back of a social, educational, medical, scientific, etc. infrastructure supported by... taxes, for the common weal.

Right-wingers now are just "I've got mine, you lot get fucked". No need to invoke similarly bullshit Marxist nonsense.
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber on November 29, 2012 at 11:56 AM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy