Why the 1 percenters lean left
Ihave often asked myself, and heard it asked by others, why so many wealthy people support liberal causes. (This is the flip side of the usual election-year frustration of the liberals with the working classes’ clinging to their guns and religion.) In this presidential campaign season, as in 2008, the Democratic Party, which claims with less and less credibility to be the champion of the poor, has far more money to spend than the Republican Party, which is said to be the party of the greedy upper classes; how could this be?
The simple answer is this: Wealthy liberals blatantly use social liberalism and big-government regulation to protect their relative positions in society. Big-government regulation and taxation thwart the economic mobility of those trying to move up, allowing the elites to remain elite while still seeming pious for all their apparent efforts to help the little people.
Note that their idea of political action deals always with outcomes, never with principles. They see the federal government as a charitable organization or a tool they can use to reshape society. I’m not impugning motives — this is what they openly profess. Conservatives have an ideal government in mind, one that sticks to the principles of the Founders; liberals have an ideal society in mind, and they will tinker with the government until it creates one.
It’s not hard to find examples. Wealthy liberals fortifying their positions with their Robin Hood policies are in the news every day. One we’re all sick of hearing about is multibillionaire investor Warren Buffet, who supports raising taxes on capital gains and dividends, despite having made his fortune this way. While I respect Warren Buffett and do not begrudge him his wealth and success, he makes a highly disingenuous case for some very destructive policies.
Not only has Mr. Buffett made the moral argument that it is “fair” and just to impose an alternative minimum tax of 30 percent on millionaires, but he also has misrepresented the salary of his secretary (who has allowed herself to be enlisted for his and the president’s political purposes) and the tax rate he pays. What could explain such bizarre behavior from an octogenarian billionaire? Why would a self-made man want to punish success and reward failure?
The answer is that he is already a billionaire. Were he still climbing the ladder, rather than merely trying to maintain his vast wealth, he might have a different view of “fairness.” Indeed, I would be curious to see what his views were decades ago.
It is simply laughable and deserving of ridicule that fairness requires that we make an already highly progressive tax system even more progressive than it already is, rather than flattening the tax so that all pay the same portion of their wealth. No one even reasonably acquainted with the facts can maintain that our government doesn’t plunder the wealthy enough; it would require an ulterior motive to hold such a ludicrous belief.
For another example of limousine socialism, the partners of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and the president of Jpmorgan Chase & Co. — two institutions stocked with veterans in the Obama administration — gave strong initial support for the highly partisan, expensive and expansive Dodd-frank bill to regulate the financial sector. Their banks are too big to fail. They can afford the roster of lawyers it takes to navigate through the regulatory typhoon created by this legislation.
But it is much harder for their smaller competitors to afford these costs. Partners of major Wall Street law firms and the American Bar Association consistently support liberal politicians, advocating additional regulation requiring more legal services. It is a universal observation of the philosophers that a nation with many laws is not a good nation, but it is the universal observation of the lawyers that such a nation is ripe for devouring.
It is in their financial interest to create laws that the layman cannot understand or interpret. It’s not, of course, in the interest of the country — who else thinks it’s a good idea that we not know what we’re supposed to be doing?