The Oligarchs Are Getting Worried

[A response to The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats, an article written by Nick Hanauer.]

“I bought a few shirts, a few pair of pants and the rest of my money I socked away into savings…”

My wife and I had a rather long discussion about this article last night over wine. We like to spend at least one night a week where we both dress nicely for each other, prepare some of our favorite things to eat and discuss our life, the world, and whatever else comes up like we did when we first met.

My take on this was that Nick Hanauer was whistling past the graveyard. Clearly- to me at least- he demonstrates an understanding of the simmering boil out there below his Gulfstream. His arrogance and hubris was an artifact of his environment, rather than the opposite. Why he was unable, in an open letter that he must have known would receive wide reception, to tell the truth was not because he was seeking to deceive others, but rather himself. His appeal for a $15 per hour minimum wage when the pay rates for his own company top out at $14 per hour demonstrates that he doesn’t actually believe in anything he has to say, but rather that he feels it is what he must say- to protect himself should things go bad, to make himself appear to be what he is not, for whatever reason that truly motivates him, but not for any of the ones he gives. If he actually believed his own rhetoric, what would prevent him from offering his entry level employees the $15 per hour he promotes rather than the $9 he actually offers? His deception isn’t one of commission as much as it is one of omission.

When he tells us about his modest purchases of slacks and shirts, what he leaves out is his gargantuan purchases of political influence. He leads us to believe that he doesn’t really even have a plan for his massive wealth- a savings account? Really? For what exactly, future purchases of Dockers? If easing the financial situation of workers is his raison d’etre, what prevents him from giving 1/10 of his savings account to his 2,400 employees, a sum that would be life changing for them, barely noticed by a guy who only has 3 cars for all his billions? He doesn’t for the same reason he lies about the “savings account”- because he doesn’t believe it himself.

I think he is afraid, deeply, rightly so, that the future built as it has been on such fragile foundations as a feather pillow story line, might not be as secure as it once seemed. He thinks that maybe he can get out in front of the massive social unrest that he sees coming and perhaps buy him a future out in the same way his billions have bought him his shirts and pants in the past.

Surely he knows that the reason $15 per hour is the new $5 per hour is that endless rounds of quantitative easing and Fed policies of monetization of debt have devalued the dollar. Compounding the problem by throwing more FR’s at it doesn’t solve anything, in fact it only exacerbates the problem. Two years from now we’ll be talking about a $25 per hour minimum wage- that is if there are any jobs left.

I thought his parting shot to the zillionaires that higher wages for low end workers would be more millions for them was especially telling in light of the original thrust of income equality being a threat from the pitchfork wielding “crazies” as he refers to everyone not a feather pillow plutocrat. The fact that his good buddy and the source of his billions, Jeff Bezos, is building spacecraft and funding his own private NASA is telling in it’s own right. Perhaps he has gleaned some crucial tidbits of information at his annual Bilderberg retreat. I doubt it has anything with making sure the common folk get to ride to the stars, but who knows with these folks.

My wife doesn’t buy any of it. She believes that this isn’t a personal reflection, but rather a collaboration- a policy piece, so to speak- of a group of ultra wealthy, hyper influential oligarchs that simply tapped Mr Hanauer to deliver the message. Written to “my fellow zillionaires” it reads as if it were directed to an entirely different audience, somewhere far below the rarified atmosphere that “99.9% couldn’t possibly conceive”.

After the reflection of the past night, I think she may be right.

In the 4th century, just before the sack of Rome, the reigning oligarchs of that time negotiated payoffs with the Visigoths hoping to forestall the inevitable. Something tells me that in today’s exchange rate it would have translated to roughly $15 per hour.

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