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Analysis: In defense of Tom Perkins and 'the rich'

Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers attends Day 3 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 at San Francisco Design Center on September 11, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers attends Day 3 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 at San Francisco Design Center on September 11, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Steve Jennings

American billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins has a rather unusual, if unsettling, change he would like to make to the U.S. electoral system: Give rich folks more than one vote.

It's unusual in its format; it is unsettling when taken in the context it was offered.

I believe Tom Perkins, and rich folks in general - are scared. They fear that the country they help underwrite is turning against them, thanks to a handful of influential progressive politicians and academics who seek to empower themselves by infecting the masses with the kind of vitriolic hatred that revolutions are made of.

Speaking at a Commonwealth Club engagement in his hometown of San Francisco Thursday, Perkins was asked about an idea he thinks would “change the world.”

His answer: “The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes.

“But what I really think is,” he continued, “it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?”

His audience mostly laughed. But I don't think Tom Perkins was joking.

Now, understand that he recently told CNN he “intended to be outrageous” with his suggestion. And he is certainly no stranger to controversy.

He came under intense heat in January when he tapped out a letter to The Wall Street Journal in which he compared liberal progressive angst for the uber-rich to Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews.

"Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich,'" he wrote.

He goes onto say that the “local” paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, feeds the hate.

“From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent,” Perkins wrote.

Is he wrong?

Indeed, President Obama, the poster boy of the progressive left, has begun formally pushing the theme of “income inequality” in recent weeks, beginning with his State of the Union Address in January, and all without a hint of irony, given the first family’s privilege and excesses. But even before now, Obama the community organizer has been a vocal proponent of equalizing the masses in the mold of Karl Marx: Remember when he told Joe the Plumber that wealth, of course, should be redistributed? It was obvious then which direction Obama wanted that wealth to flow, and not much has changed in the man's thinking.

And who can argue that his cry has not been echoed by scores of social engineers and snobbish left-wing economists like The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, who somehow overlook the hypocrisy of their own wealth and advantage while calling on “others” (like Tom Perkins) to do more, to give more?

Maybe, just maybe, Tom Perkins has a point.

Nazi-like persecution? Well, maybe not yet. But is that comparison really over the top?

As jealous and angry as I’ve seen some of the so-called “have-nots” get over their plight – anger that is shamelessly ginned up by self-serving politicians like Obama, and self-righteous economists like Krugman – I can see a great many of them supporting that kind of persecution of “the rich” because, after all, they deserve it, right? It’s their fault for “being rich,” and at the same time it’s their fault that the rest of us are not. "They" keep us down. "They" plot against us. "They" hate us, so "we" hate them.

That’s the way these small-minded, low-brow Occupy types view it because that is how Obama and Krugman and Co. sell it.

Perkins sees this anger welling up, and I’m betting he’s not the only anti-redistributionist rich guy who does.

There isn’t going to be the kind of voting “reform” he advocates, of course (which was made only half tongue-in-cheek, by the way). That said, it is worth taking a closer look at the fear which underlies his defense of the rich. I’ll bet if we do that we’ll see there is much truth to his words.

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