Why Do the Super-Rich Keep Comparing Obama to Hitler?

Legendary venture capitalist Tom Perkins became just the latest 1 percenter to wonder whether higher marginal tax rates and Occupy Wall Street might be the start of something far, far darker.
Former VC Tom Perkins has some interesting thoughts about 1930s Germany and the U.S. today (Reuters)

First, they came for the bailed-out bankers' bonuses, and I did not speak out, because I wasn't a banker.

Then they came for the hedge fund managers' tax loophole, and I did not speak out, because I wasn't a hedge fund manager.

Then they came for novelist Danielle Steel's hedges, and finally I did speak out, because I know her, and I'm a knight—a literal knight of the Kingdom of Norway—so I thought I'd get on my high horse and charge forth in her defense. 

This is the Ballad of Tom Joad Perkins, Silicon Valley's legendary venture capitalist. He had to speak out after he saw the appalling way the San Francisco Chronicle disparaged his ex-wife Ms. Steel's plots, prose, and shrubbery.

He showed that, for now at least, the pen is still mightier than even a knight's sword. He wrote a letter in the Wall Street Journal explaining that progressive attacks on today's so-called "1 percent"—the "rich"—are just like the Nazis' attacks on their 1 percent—the Jews. A new Kristallnacht, basically. Oops. That's insensitive. Perkins apologized on Bloomberg TV for using that word ... though he did point out that Occupy protesters broke windows at a Wells Fargo and luxury car dealerships in San Francisco. And that, he reminded us, is how Kristallnacht began. 

So don't kid yourself. Today, they're coming for Bentleys. Tomorrow, they'll come for Aston Martins. The time to speak out is now.

Others have. Buyout-king (and actual-billionaire) Steven Schwarzman has said that Obama's plan to tax the income of venture capitalists, hedge fund and private equity mangers like everybody else's, and not as capital gains, is like Hitler invading Poland. And hedge funder (another actual billionaire) Leon Cooperman has pointed out that you know who else came to power amidst an economic crisis. And no, he wasn't talking about Ronald Reagan.

If it all seems historically illiterate and grossly short on perspective, here's why 1 percenters are sure Obama is the new Hitler.

1. They Feel Powerless. They had power, and they lost it. They lost it, because the financial crisis gave Democrats big enough super-majorities to unmake Reagan's world. And unmake it they did. Dodd-Frank didn't get as diluted as they hoped, so it (along with higher capital requirements) might slowly suck profitability out of the big banks. Obamacare will take leverage away from bosses and give it to workers who no longer have to stay in jobs they don't like for fear of being uninsured. And, as a certain bearded Princeton economist points out, average federal tax rates for the "top 1 percent" are higher than they've been at any time since 1979. 

Sure, they saved the carried interest loophole for VCs, hedgies, and buyout titans—the Stalingrad of the 1 percent?—and sure, the rich can get Washington to talk about deficits nonstop. But they can't quite get Bowles-Simpson to fix the debt (and their taxes).

2. And They Might Not Ever Get Our Power Back. The tipping point might have already come and gone. America as they know it, a land where everyone dreams and can make it big if they work hard and have the right parents, is gone. The 1 percent knows America is now a nation of takers. Obamacare pushed them over the edge from Social Darwinism into dependency. Indeed, as Mitt Romney courageously pointed out, 47 43 percent of Americans only pay federal payroll, not income, taxes. This near majority that's falling as the economy recovers will soon become a majority. Then the populous will vote themselves more and more benefits, and tax the rich more and more to do so. Just as Ayn Rand predicted.

Presented by

Matthew O'Brien

Matthew O'Brien is a former senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

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