Democrats: Party of the Rich

Many blue staters like to characterize Republicans as the party of the rich and Democrats as the party of the downtrodden. Michael Barone notes that trustfunders my a huge margin vote Democrat, live in urban areas, etc.. I would add that in the last election the Democrats were the party of the billionaires including Kerry and his wife, George Soros, Warren Buffet, etc.

Barone characterizes these rich people as exerting power without responsibility. I think they are voting their self interest. In particular, they expect their future income to be a small fraction of their asset base and enjoy their status as having the largest asset bases around. As such they prefer that income rather than wealth be taxed heavily and largely Democrats are the party of higher taxes. They also prefer relative economic stagnation as that preserves their elite status and makes asset protection easier and that is what Democrat’s increased regulatory approach provides.

They have the same interest as the landed aristocracy of old and it is not surprising that they have converted the Democrats to a politics that looks very similar to the conservative politics of old. The Republicans are the party of classical liberalism. John Stuart Mill would understand our politics completely if he were alive today.


5 Responses to Democrats: Party of the Rich

  1. oh boy says:

    i remain so disgusted by this post that my mouth still feels bilious.

  2. ooghe says:

    Here, you largely agree with Michael Barone, who seems to share Samuel Huntington’s nativist distrust of ‘the rootless cosmopolitans’, such a staple of Buchananism and other communitarian movements. The fuzzy part of his formulation is that I can’t tell if Barone is claiming that these pernicious trustfunders have been lured into voting against their economic self interest by being victims of propaganda- a sort of “What’s the Matter with Kansas” theory in reverse- or whether he agrees with you, which is that such lefty politics *are* in their economic self interest. And, are you saying here that Democrats are the party of transnationalism and the anti-protectionist economics that would better suit the middle class? Do you mean the Republicans ought to support higher property taxes as opposed to raising income taxes- perhaps abandoning their oppostion to the death tax, so as to encourage land redistribution and discourage the hoarding of wealth? If Republicans don’t support raising *any* kind of tax, including on assets, wouldn’t the billionaires support them? If the hope is that Republicans will run a current accounts deficit that will drive down the value of the billionaire’s land, wouldn’t the fact that it would be sold to a foreign investor before it went to a ‘native’ be a huge problem for Barone?. The confusion is that Barone seems to give deceptively pro-capitalist lip service to globalization (i.e. ‘evil liberal schools preach against it’) yet then emphasizes how wandering trustfunders feel guilt over ‘their investment in our country’ as if the keeping investments *in our country* is the important practice that evian-sipping transnationals with their Davos forums and rootlessness don’t do. So which is it? Too rootless or too rooted? Which policies would you and Barone agree to?

  3. Robert, there is a difference between making wealth and keeping it. The people who want to keep their wealth are the very rich and the hopeless poor. Both view change as much more risky that the status quo. The people who want to create new wealth believe they can both manage the risks of change and benefit from them.

    Think of it this way: You have three people a very rich person, a middle class person, and a very poor person. Suppose you offered each of them a chance to play a game that gave them a 50-50 chance at doubling or halving their current wealth. Which ones would play and which wouldn’t? Note this game doesn’t take into account the feel good aspects of “supporting the poorest”, but it does capture some of the issue I am describing.

  4. oh boy says:

    more on this–


    chris shays is a republican who seems to understand the devil’s bargain your party has made.

    andrew sullivan is a republican who definitely understands the devil’s bargain your party has made.

    alex– please address this issue. it is really disturbing.

  5. ooghe says:

    Alex- your prisoner’s-choice-esque point well taken, although I don’t tend to think of George Soros or Warren Buffett as particularly risk averse in that they were both already rich as Croesus when they took huge risks. Buffett probably objects to the “sharecropper society” from the standpoint of self interest, but Soros is a disciple of Karl Popper and for whatever reason found Bush’s tenure to be contrary to the precepts of an Open Society. If he were more concerned with being an entrenched elite, he should have just bought some ex-communist state enterprise when he could have.

    I do agree, however, that many affluent professional people tend to vote Democrat whereas most small business owners vote Republican, and further, that the Democrats need to adjust their thinking to recognize that many of the disenfranchised minorities they claim to represent are enfranchising themselves through the creation of wealth, or the belief that they will do so. I’ll never forget a summer when i was hanging around with a crowd of first generation trinidadians and dominicans and thought I was in a meeting of the Young Republicans from all the entrepreneurial interest being espoused. Republicans sense this kinship with these communities, and when they are being smart- trundle off their overtly racist adherents who might undermine the goal of party identification- e.g. Trent Lott. Democrats would be wise to dilute this endeavour, and supplement their defense of popular middle class programs such as Social Security by supporting innovative means of extending finance to middle and lower bracket incomes- the theories of Hernando de Soto come to mind as something any Democrat should be proud to support.

    The Christian Right, as Josh reminds us, is for all intents and purposes a neo-fascist movement that seems quite comfortable expanding the role of government in people’s lives, as their newfound love of federalism suggests. My friend believes Bush has these political forces in hand, but I am very leery of playing this recipe for political advantage. At this rate, conservatism will be tempted to find cohesion by scapegoating affluence and homosexuality as long as there are fewer homosexuals voting against them. Socially conservative immigrants aspiring to become middle class can be on board with both the economics and the values, and the Christian Right will have it’s wolf in the fold to villify. Hopefully, this unwholesome recipe will fracture before it gains the kind of momentum that could actually lead to the erosion of democracy.

    I suspect both parties could be looking at some interesting realignments ahead.

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