Ezra Klein reports: Chrystia Freeland is editor of Thomson Reuters Digital and author of “The Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.” We spoke Tuesday about how the plutocrats she reported on for the book were handling Mitt Romney’s loss:
Ezra Klein: You’ve written about the revolt of the very rich against President Obama, and all the money they spent and time they dedicated to defeating him. So what’s the mood in those circles now that they’ve lost?
Chrystia Freeland: 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.
The Romney comments to his donors, for which he was roundly pounced on by Republican politicians, I think they accurately reflected the view of a lot of these money guys. It’s the continuation of this 47 percent idea. They believe that Obama has been shoring up the entitlement society, and if you give enough entitlements to enough people, they’ll vote for you.
EK: Here’s my question about those comments. Romney was promising the very rich either a huge tax cut or, if you believe he would’ve paid for every dime and dollar of his cut, protection from any tax increases. He was promising financiers that he would roll back Dodd-Frank and Sarbanex-Oxley. He was promising current seniors that he wouldn’t touch their benefit. How are these not “gifts”?
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.
What a convenient and self-serving justification for taking everything for yourself! Sort of like this:
Bob Cesca: “Even though Hostess is asking for permission to cut employee pensions by over $1 million per month, they’re also still asking for permission to dish out bonuses [to senior management] totaling $1.75 million.”
Bloomberg: “Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), the casino company led by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, voted a special dividend that will pay [Sheldon Adelson] about $1.2 billion before an expected increase in federal taxes.”
That’s BILLION with a B. Or this special spin:
Think Progress: “Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) argued Wednesday: ‘People need to understand that the reason we worry about raising taxes on anyone – even raising taxes on the rich – it’s not that we’re looking out for the rich, it’s not that we’re concerned that the rich won’t be able to fend for themselves, because they will. It’s because we worry about the consequences that will inevitably result from that action and that will hit the poorest among us the hardest.’“