When Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers wrote an inflammatory letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal on January 24th, I wonder if he knew how explosive his letter would be. He should have. We all know that Holocaust references are only made to create a firestorm. Which makes one question the editorial choices of the Wall Street Journal which most likely gets hundreds of letters a day on much more pressing issues than the brief tasteless burst of paranoia that was Mr Perkins letter.
What Mr Perkins feels in terms of hostility towards the ultra rich in America is undeniable. People want to find a target for their economic frustrations and so they find a group to pick on. That is never a good idea as Mr Perkins so inappropriately acknowledged in his short missive. Whether it is immigrants, the wealthy or bankers, making any group the target of hate does not reflect the complexity of the problem nor does it solve it or make us feel better.
However, be sure that whatever frustration Mr Perkins may feel it does not come close to the hungry bellies, inadequate housing or unstable employment that is the fate of the poor in the USA. If you are poor in the USA it is easy to feel that someone thinks you are not worthy of the basics of human life: food, shelter, a good education for their children etc.
That said, there need not be a contest for who has it hardest in the USA because noone, not even Mr Perkins himself, could possibly feel that his luxurious life is one to be pitied. His poor little rich boy pity party was quite unbecoming a man of his stature.
What is to be pitied are the policies that permit Mr Perkins his fabulous wealth while depriving others of basic sustenance. Hating rich people gets us nowhere. Instead, their should be vitriol for food stamp policies. For tax policies that give poor kids poor schools and allow the wealthy to maintain their wealth through tax loopholes and low tax rates (relative to other countries in the OECD). Even the generous who set up foundations are coddled by the taxman for their philanthropy, which is needed to plug the holes left gaping by a social safety net with holes so big it is saving noone.
I am sure that Mr. Perkins has been duly chastised by his Jewish friends for his unfortunate use of metaphor. Perhaps if Mr Perkins knew some not so wealthy people he may not feel so persecuted. In the meantime he could take his formidable legal skills and work with other rich folks like Bill Gates Sr. to reform taxes to make this country more economically equal, and thus a less scary place for Mr. Perkins.
- Policy provokes me to think and write. I currently work in ivory towers inspiring people to engage in their world. I am a student of the human condition and my classroom is the world. I don't need credentials to have an opinion but I've got paper to prove I know a few things about public health, social welfare and economics. I'm coming out of the tower and taking the words to the people and hope you will send some words back at me.