I sometimes feel a little sorry for the Republicans. They are always being called the party of “the rich”, or the party of the “fat cats”. This is puzzling, because there are so many very rich, very important Democrats in America. I have an article dated Jan. 1, 2012, that listed the twenty wealthiest people in America at that time, and 12 of them were Democrats.
All of the top twenty had estates worth over $12 billion. At the top of the list were the well known billionaire Democrats Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Warren Buffet, head of Berkshire Hathaway, who’s perhaps the world’s most famous investor (and most famous “fat cat” supporter of President Obama). These two had assets of $54 Billion and $45 billion, respectively.
In fairness to the top twenty, all but two were contributors to both parties, those two being the “Google Boys”, who contributed only to the Democrat Party. (Don‘t know who the “Google Boys“ are? Very few do, especially those who call Republicans “fat cats”.)
The top Republicans were the Koch brothers, in fifth and sixth place with assets of $21.5 billion each. Following them were three of WalMart-founder Sam Walton’s kids, all Republican. A fourth Walton, daughter-in-law Christy, was in fourth place, and she’s identified as a Democrat, which is probably a mistake as her contributions favored Republicans.
Other very rich Democrats who came immediately to my mind, but were too “poor” to make the list, were Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, Vikram Pandit, Robert Rubin, Sandford Weill, Jim Chanos, the late Steve Jobs and, probably a Democrat, Jeff Bezos. Most of these people are associated with Wall Street, a field I worked in for many years.
Then, of course, we have all those Democrats making millions in show business. At the top of the list would be someone I admire very much, the hugely influential Oprah Winfrey. Google up her income, and the numbers I’ve seen range between $175 million and $315 million, with an estate of almost $3 billion.
What does all this mean? Not much, in my opinion. I think it’s a wholesome thing that highly successful people are well represented in both parties. It is not a wholesome thing that Democrats still find it a political winner to portray being rich as somehow bad, and the Republicans as the party of the rich.
The thinking goes like this: If you spend your life amassing wealth it means you’re greedy. If you’re greedy, you must be selfish. If you are selfish, you do not “care” about other people, especially the down-and-out, the struggling, the — fill in the blanks, ad infinitum. Sure enough, exit polls in the 2012 election showed Romney losing big on the “care” issue. (Interestingly, if you inherited your money, you’re off the hook.)
If the Republicans don’t turn this argument 180 degrees around, and I could tell them how to do it, then the Democrats will continue to use class warfare and politics of envy to win elections. I find that very discouraging. Both parties should be celebrating America as the land of opportunity, a meritocracy that shines a light of hope for the entire world.
Of course, how you get rich counts. In America, meritocracy has been the primary road to riches. In many parts of the world, that is not the case. In Cuba for example, Fidel is reputedly the richest person with a fortune of almost $1 billion. He didn’t get it by selling rum and Colas on the beach.
I remember some years ago Henry Ford’s grandson was showing the Chinese dictator, Deng Xiaoping, around one of Ford’s factories. Deng had risen to the top following Mao’s demise in 1978, and he was no fool. I will always remember what he said to Ford: “I guess before a nation can get rich, people have to get rich.”
That’s right. People. Not government.