Like Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg is a centrist. But before committing to the race, he should think very seriously… https://t.co/3eMUSXH4X6 at https://t.co/3eMUSXH4X6— Sun Sentinel Opinion (@SoFlaOpinion) November 11, 2019
The extremely rich Americans who are now frantically trying to figure out how to intervene in the Democratic presidential campaign make me wonder how different they are from the animated character who loved frolicking in money and kissing dollar bills while counting them. If Uncle Scrooge existed as a billionaire in human form today, it's easy to picture him aligned with fellow plutocrats against the "threat" of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The exceedingly wealthy are usually content to stay in the shadows while their combined financial leverage and media power keep top government officials more or less in line. But the grassroots strengths of the Warren and Sanders campaigns have jolted some key oligarchs into overt action.
"At least 16 billionaires have in recent months spoken out against what they regard as the danger posed by the populist Democrats, particularly over their proposals to enact a 'wealth tax' on vast fortunes," the Washington Post reported over the weekend. Many of those billionaires are "expressing concern" that the populist Democrats "will blow the election to Trump by veering too far left."
But are those billionaires more worried about a wealth tax that will curtail vast fortunes, or about Trump winning re-election? Are we supposed to believe the far-fetched notion that voters will opt for Trump over the Democratic nominee because they don't want billionaires to pay higher taxes?
The biggest fear among the billionaire class is not that a progressive Democratic nominee will lose against Trump. The biggest fear is that such a nominee will win -- thus gaining presidential muscle to implement measures like a wealth tax that would adversely affect the outsized fortunes of the 0.1 percent.
Such fears are causing a step-up of attacks on Sanders and Warren, and even some early indications of trauma. "Piling on against the wealth tax have been corporate celebrities from Silicon Valley and Wall Street," the Post reported on Saturday. Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg "suggested Sanders's call to abolish billionaires could hurt philanthropies and scientific research by giving the government too much decision-making power. . . . Appearing on CNBC, billionaire investor Leon Cooperman choked up while discussing the impact a wealth tax could have on his family."
Sanders often points to the fact that just three individuals -- Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett -- own as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the U.S. population. Gates has publicly denounced Warren's proposal for a wealth tax. It shouldn't surprise us now to learn that earlier this year Bezos urged Bloomberg to run for president. We might call it ruling-class unity -- which is a point that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quickly made while campaigning alongside Sanders in Iowa when the news broke.
"Of course!" AOC told a Des Moines Register reporter. "They've got class solidarity. The billionaires are looking out for each other. They're willing to transcend difference and background and even politics. The fact that Bill Gates seems more willing to vote for Donald Trump than anyone else tells you everything you need to know about how far they're willing to go to protect their excess, at the cost to everyday Americans."