Venture capitalist Tom Perkins recently caused a stir when he wrote an item comparing contemporary liberals to Nazis, insisting liberal criticism of the wealthiest 1% has “parallels” to Nazi genocide. He later apologized for having used the word “Kristallnacht,” but defended his message.
The story ran its course and faded away, right up until yesterday, when billionaire Sam Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, decided to defend Perkins in a Bloomberg TV interview.
“I guess my feeling is that he’s right,” Zell said when asked by Bloomberg’s Betty Liu how he felt about Perkins’ stance. “The 1 percent are being pummeled because it’s politically convenient to do so.”Zell then said the problem is that all non-rich are just jealous that they don’t have the same work ethic that the country’s wealthiest do.“The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent,” he said. “The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.”
First, the notion that the top 1% of Americans are being “pummeled” is only true if you define “pummel” as “making out like bandits in a new Gilded Age while middle-class wages get stuck for a generation.”
Second, to say, out loud, on purpose, that the wealthy “work harder” than everyone else is about the most elitist sentiment possible. It gives Romney’s “47 percent” video a run for its money in the Obnoxious Snobbery Hall of Fame.
And finally, as Dan Primack noticed, let’s not forget that Zell didn’t even bother making “a perfunctory disavowal of the Nazi comparison.”