Godwin’s Law notwithstanding, there are serious issues with Perkins’ letter, both in his perception of the problem and tone deaf reaction to it.Valleywag is similarly unimpressed by Perkins' argument:
There is no centralized movement to remove the 1 percent from their penthouse apartments and send them to work camps, there’s no planned nationalization of the region’s thriving tech sector, there’s no threat of assets being seized and redistributed by a fascist government body.
Perhaps what is most alarming is that Perkins doesn’t seem to understand why people are upset about the growing income disparity, why there is resentment against the one percent. It’s this lack of self awareness which is most distressing, because it reinforces some of the very same stereotypes many in the industry are trying so hard to debunk.
A rock through the window of a private Google shuttle, the precursor to the Holocaust—close enough. It'd be one thing if this were just another San Francisco wackjob on Medium—but this is a pioneering voice in the history of venture capital, in the very history of Silicon Valley. And this is how he thinks.Meanwhile, at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall uses Perkins' op-ed to expand on a point he originally made in 2012 about the siege mentality of America's wealthy elite throughout the Obama presidency:
I first started noticing this when I saw several years ago that many of the wealthiest people in the country, especially people in financial services, not only didn't support Obama (not terribly surprising) but had a real and palpable sense that he was out to get them. This was hard to reconcile with the fact that Obama, along with President Bush, had pushed through a series of very unpopular laws and programs and fixes that had not only stabilized global capitalism, saved Wall Street but saved the personal fortunes (and perhaps even the personal liberty) of the people who were turning so acidly against him. Indeed, through the critical years of 2009, 10 and 11 he was serving as what amounted to Wall Street's personal heat shield, absorbing as political damage the public revulsion at the bailout policies that had kept Wall Street whole.
So what is it about?
I see three basic roots, though I don't think my list is exhaustive.
One is the simple but massive run up in the concentration of wealth itself over the past two generations. There's a slice of the population, whether it's the top 1% or .01% or whatever, that doesn't just have more stuff and money. The sheer scale of the difference means they live what is simply a qualitatively different kind of existence. That gulf creates estrangement and alienation, and one of a particular sort in a democracy where such a minuscule sliver of the population can't hope to protect itself alone at the ballot box.
Let's call this socioeconomic acrophobia.
A second is tied specifically to the 2008 financial crisis. The last 35 years or so have seen a period in which the celebration of wealth and the wealthy has been near the extreme end of the pendulum swing that has moved back and forth over the course of American history. Let's not distract ourselves, for the moment, with whether this view is right or wrong. It's a pendulum swing as old as America. In this view, the super rich, the founders and most successful entrepreneurs, not only wow us by their genius and success but are also seen as the people driving forward the society and economy and prosperity for everyone. That's a nice climate to be wealthy in.
That all changed very abruptly at the end of 2008. Suddenly, there was vast public animus at "Wall Street" and the Big Banks, exacerbated massively by the politics of the bailout.
Quite simply, these were and are folks who just weren't used to public criticism. The whole "masters of the universe" mythology was basically, sure we're massively wealthy. But we're also the ones keeping the globe we all live on from spinning off its axis. So let us enjoy our Hamptons estates and our private jets in peace and we'll do our jobs and you do yours. The crossfire hurricane that ripped apart that social contract stung a lot.
Third there is the simple fact of Obama himself. By various criteria you could argue that before Obama America hadn't had a progressive president in decades. ... President Obama is far from being a Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman. But he is a progressive and sees the economy and the larger society's claims on the very wealthy differently than a Bush or a Reagan. And again, that was just not something any of these folks had experienced before.
Put it all together and you get the climate in which someone like Perkins writes something as ridiculous as he did. As I said up top, his Holocaust analogy is so hyperbolic and ridiculous that he's getting dumped on by almost everyone. But we miss the point if we see this in isolation or just the rant of one out-of-touch douchebag. It is pervasive. The disconnect between perception and reality, among such a powerful segment of the population, is in itself dangerous. And it's led to what I would call a significant radicalization of the politics of extreme wealth.
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