Posted on May 24, 2012
It is a familiar attack.
At the turn of the 18th Century, the bourgeoisie, disgusted by the opulent wealth of Marie Antoinette and her husband, rose up in revolution, sending France into years of destruction and war.
In the middle of the Great War, Marxist-inspired Bolsheviks seized control of a tottering Russian government, killing the Czar and his family. The new revolutionaries targeted the upper middle class and small land-owners and the relatively wealthy Kulaks, wiping them out. The result was famine, intense poverty and dictatorship.
At the conclusion of the Second World War, Mao, adopting Marxist theory, won a civil war in China, driving Chiang Kai-Shek to the island of Taiwan. He too targeted wealthy businessmen and intellectuals in the Cultural Revolution. The result? Poverty, famine, economic catastrophe.
Attacking the wealthy might seem like a great political tactic. It rarely if ever works.
I was thinking about this historic fact earlier this week, when I appeared on MSNBC, the place where wealthy Democratic activists spout off about how much they hate the wealthy.
I was on Andrea Mitchell’s show, and the subject was Bain Capital.
Appearing with me was Tad Devine, the smart Democratic strategist who came up with the original ad campaign against Mitt Romney when he ran against Ted Kennedy.
Devine did the original interviews with the folks who lost their jobs when Bain Capital came in to restructure their place of work. These former employees were bitter, angry at Romney for firing them, unhappy with the thought of creative destruction, the process by which unproductive companies become productive or go out of business.
Devine’s ads were a powerful indictment of the wealthy Mitt Romney. And in Massachusetts in 1994, there were very effective. Or at least effective enough to allow Kennedy to once again win re-election in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
They weren’t so effective that they killed Romney’s political career, however. And they didn’t work very well when Newt Gingrich tried it in the Republican primary.
During our conversation, Devine said something interesting. He said agreed that Romney was successful in creating wealth, but then he suggested that Romney wasn’t successful in creating jobs.
And the way he put it was if he were suggesting that creating wealth is some sort of the bad thing.
Creating jobs is important. But creating wealth is a necessary part of creating jobs.
A company can’t hire people if it can’t make a profit.
Unlike the government, that can simply raise taxes or run deficits, companies have to show they can productively create products and make money. That is the way that they stay in business. And that is how they can create jobs.
Wealth creation is the most important part of job creation.
Creating wealth is not a bad thing. I think, like Jack Kennedy, a rising tide lifts all boats. But the Kennedy position is not where the Obama Administration is currently. They believe firmly that creating wealth for wealth’s sake is morally suspect. They believe that rich people need to pay more than they already pay in taxes. In fact, if there is one theme that comes from Mr. Obama’s speeches, it is that the rich have to pay their fair share.
That’s the same sentiment that led to Marie Antoinette’s decapitation. Those damn rich just don’t pay their fair share. Off with their heads.
Many leading Democrats are not comfortable with the Obama attack on wealth.
Corey Booker, the New Jersey mayor, said that the Bain Capitol attacks were nauseating. Ed Rendell expressed serious misgivings with this tack taken by Obama. And other Democrats, especially those who are trying to raise money from non-guilt ridden wealthy people.
Attacking wealth doesn’t work as a practical matter or as a political matter. The Administration should knock it off.