Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Bloomberg: Odd Nazi comments obscure inequality debate

From Bloomberg View

First Published Jan 28 2014 05:00 pm • Last Updated Jan 28 2014 05:00 pm

Let’s stipulate one thing upfront: Comparing your problem to the Holocaust is always a bad idea. There was only one, and nothing happening in the United States today is comparable to it.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Tom Perkins, a founder of the venture-capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has managed to intensify the illogic of this category error in a way that almost defies belief. In a three-paragraph letter published Saturday in the Wall Street Journal, Perkins lamented that progressive anger toward the rich — as expressed by the Occupy movement and in protests against Google’s private buses for employees — was analogous to Nazi persecution of Jews.

"I would call attention to the parallels of fascist 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, alarmingly. He stood by his view in an email to Bloomberg News but later said on Bloomberg Television that he apologizes to anyone who took his comments "as a sign of overt or latent anti- Semitism."

Perkins was responding, if that’s the word, to an editorial in the paper about college speech codes that might violate the First Amendment. So perhaps the letter was intended as some kind of metaphorical performance art. But if it has any value at all, it’s as an illustration of the depths to which the debate over inequality in the U.S. has sunk. Godwin’s law — which holds that any sufficiently long online debate will eventually mention Hitler or Nazis — apparently holds true offline as well.

Which is a shame, because it’s a critical debate to have. Wages for the middle class have stagnated. The gap between rich and poor is widening, generational mobility has stalled, and a larger share of income is accruing to owners of capital rather than labor.

There is an ascendant strain of Democratic politics that generally blames all this on acquisitive rich people and ruthless corporations. But this is too simplistic: Many of these trends are driven more by globalization and technological change than a rigged system that inevitably favors the rich. And when transfers such as health care and unemployment benefits are included, the picture looks less unbalanced.

Which isn’t to say that inequality shouldn’t be addressed. It’s just that the old partisan responses to it — Republicans want more tax cuts, Democrats more redistribution — are meant to address the inequalities of a different era. And overheated rhetoric has forestalled any meaningful progress on an urgent, but still solvable, social problem.

The debate to have now is about how to create opportunities for the poor in an age of technological upheaval. That could mean expanding proven policies such as the earned income tax credit and considering innovative new ones such as education-savings accounts or equity-based components to social welfare. It could also mean overhauling the U.S. tax code in a way that substantially scales back preferences for the better-off.

To the long list of things inhibiting intelligent discussion on the topic, however, add an unhinged rant about Nazis.


story continues below
story continues below



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.