Nick Hanauer is a very affluent businessman who has embarked on a crusade: He wants to inform his fellow plutocrats (and us) that this shit can't go on forever. He delivers that message in the "banned" TED talk embedded above, and in this piece
in Politico. The latter piece takes the form of an address to the other gold-plated assholes afflicting this planet.
Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.
I'll add this. During this country's best era, the top tax rate hovered around 90 percent. People like Paul Ryan like to remind us that JFK proposed lowering the top tax rate to roughly 70 percent, an idea which came to fruition shortly after his death. What people like Paul Ryan don't
tell you is this: The business community fought JFK's proposed tax rate reduction
Yes, I know that the preceding sentence seems counter-intuitive, but it's true.
Why did businessfolk want to keep a highly progressive tax system untouched? For one simple reason: Everything worked
. They didn't want to screw things up. From their perspective, we were all riding in a car that looked stylish and ran fine, and they didn't think that a few minor sputters justified an engine rebuild.
That was the conservative
position in the early 1960s. Boy, have things changed!
Now, the rich seem to adhere to an apocalyptic version of IBGYBG -- I'll be gone, you'll be gone. Hanauer says that his fellow plutocrats understand full well that a rebellion is increasingly likely. They are convinced that they are "somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time."
I think that his words reflect actual conversations with actual rich people. They are planning for The Day. They know that Fox News propaganda and the endless repetition of libertarian cliches won't stave off the pitchforks forever.
Well, guess what? Even if the plutocrats make good their escape, there is no place to escape to
Peter Thiel's Seasteading
idea -- Libertarian islands run by and for the rich -- is little more than a sick joke. You can't run such places without material resources and without workers, both of which will be controlled by the pissed-off revolutionaries running the rest of the world. Those islands will be like Gaza: Giant, open-air prisons. Concentration camps on the high seas.
will control the nukes and the drones. The rich will live in their island prisons only if we allow
them to live.
And even if we do allow them to live, those poor, sick bastards will have to live with each other
. Think of it: On Ayn Rand Island, law will be against the law. No government. Just an island filled with hyper-narcissistic Randroid psychotics who have made the phrase "dog-eat-dog" into a religion.
Being psychologically incapable of cooperation, they'll soon go after each other. They'll kill
each other. They'll kill and kill and kill, until only one is left. That final victor will hoot and howl in triumph, and then he'll notice the great shadow of humanity's boot hovering over his head.
That's when he'll understand that he was never anything more than an insect.
An insect doomed to become a blot on the sidewalk of history.
There is no escape, insects. No island. No refuge. You're trapped on this planet -- with us
The day of the boot will will be our true day of thanksgiving.