Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poor Historical Analogies (8-20-10)

The list of poor historical analogies citing World War II is exhaustively long, but this one is particularly, um, impressive. From a Newsweek piece via Jonathan Schwarz comes this contender:

President Obama and the business community have been at odds for months. But in July the chairman and cofounder of the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, amped up the rhetoric. Stephen Schwarzman—the leading John McCain supporter in a firm that, in 2008, gave more money to Obama—was addressing board members of a nonprofit organization when he let loose. “It’s a war,” Schwarzman said of the struggle with the administration over increasing taxes on private-equity firms. “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”...

Schwarzman’s original beef with Obama grew out of a 2008 campaign promise that “carried interest”—the compensation structure of private-equity-fund managers—would be taxed as ordinary income (35 percent) instead of capital gains (15 percent). Obama and many Democrats have argued that it’s unfair for people like Schwarzman, with a net worth of about $8 billion, to pay taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries and chauffeurs. More substantively, the commissions and fees that hedge-fund managers reap (20 percent of their clients’ profits) are not, strictly speaking, capital gains because the managers themselves never held the stocks.

Yeah, and a progressive income tax is like the Holocaust. (Hey, as long as we're going all Godwin, why not go all the way?)

There's more:

Schwarzman is also angry at the president for some of his rhetoric (Obama has talked of “fat-cat bankers”) and for not having a prominent former CEO in his cabinet or inner circle—concerns shared widely throughout the business community, including among Democrats. “Steve thinks the president lacks an intuitive feeling for the role of capital markets,” says a Wall Street executive who knows Schwarzman. “Obama is from Mars and Steve is from Venus.”

This guy is worth eight billion, meaning he's a incredibly wealthy man, while average folks are having a really rough time of it these days. Yet he's complaining about his taxes possibly going up and that (as the Balloon Juice crew would put it) his tender fee-fees are hurt. It seems like "carried interest" always should have been taxed much, much higher anyway, he'd be getting off easy even with the proposed increase, and he had a ridiculously sweet deal for a long time. These are not the sufferings of Job. While tax rates should be set rationally - which would entail raising taxes on the super-wealthy anyway - I'm thinking Schwarzman's grandiose feelings of victimization give a little extra incentive.

While not every wealthy person, not even on Wall Street, acts this way, if you've been following the news this past year, you know Schwarzman's attitude is hardly rare in his circles. I think it's time to revisit another Schwarz post, from October 2008:

Who wouldn't be stunned when the most greedy, venal, vicious, cruel, arrogant, ignorant human beings on earth aren't eager to work in the public interest? Especially when people like them have never been willing to do so in the entire history of mankind, except on the rare occasions when they've been directly threatened with execution? It's stunning!


Cirze said...

Thanks, Bat,

Must continue to follow the trail of the slime. The deadly slime that has infected the country and is leeching into its every pore.

The reason they've been so adamant on this issue is not that it's not easily seen through by any informed observer, it's that the level of vehemence tends to stop discussion.

And they win. Again.

And again.

And again.

The pattern has been established. Why quit now?

The country isn't dead yet.

But soon . . . .

Thanks for all you do to keep us breathing.

Love you,


It seems like "carried interest" always should have been taxed much, much higher anyway, he'd be getting off easy even with the proposed increase, and he had a ridiculously sweet deal for a long time. These are not the sufferings of Job.

libhom said...

I am disgusted that "Keating Five" McCain actually compared the Obama administration to Hitler. He used to be a bit more temperate with his rhetoric, but now he will say anything to panhandle for corporate dollars.

Porlock Junior said...

Is McCain actually worse, or are we just fed up with him?

I do think it's the former. I have a vested interest in that side, since I had some respect for him 10 years ago, despite his obvious desperate pandering in a little matter of flags and South Carolina; and I'd like not to have been wrong all along.

But I do think he has deteriorated badly. He really was against torture for a time, convincingly and at some cost to his political position; similarly, I think, on campaign finance.

When you've pandered badly, there are a couple of ways to respond. Al Gore did some in 2000 himself, and then he "lost", and then he saw that he had no more to lose, and made himself something of a culture hero.

McCain kept chasing the pot of shit at the end of the rainbow, and finally saw that His Country needed him to embrace Bush and torture. A sort of modern-day Robert E Lee. Also, a senescent fool who sank some years ag into a caricature of himself.

Sorry for the OT rant, but at least it was fun to write.

Batocchio said...

Suzan, you're right about the vehemence being important. I have a few future posts on that.

Libhom, were you thinking of a specific recent remark, or his general current bullshit, or the general bullshit during the 2008 presidential campaign? I thought McCain was hawking "socialism" more these days, not that the conservative base would see any contradiction with that and Hitler.

Porlock, hey, I enjoyed the "OT rant." If you haven't, check out Billmon's 2008 post, "The Great White Hope." McCain has always been a bit of a tool. That said, I do think he's had some good moments. He was one of the only GOP presidential candidates to oppose torture and to admit Iraq had been badly screwed up (although he wanted to stay the course). Post-election, he really has become little more than a cranky old man - and has contradicted himself almost too many times to count.