The baffling paranoia of rich guys who resent Obama

The president who preserved a system rigged for the haves now faces their (confused) wrath

Topics: Barack Obama, War Room, Bank Bailouts, Debt ceiling, Economics, Great Recession, Unemployment,

The baffling paranoia of rich guys who resent ObamaKen Langone

If I’ve learned one thing from Rupert Murdoch’s recent troubles, it’s that the incredibly wealthy and powerful are just confused old men who believe dumb things they read in email forwards, probably. They are certainly not wiser than any random newspaper-reading person. Here is some proof: Home Depot founder Ken Langone, babbling away on CNBC last week:

Langone, former head of the New York Stock Exchange, just doesn’t really make a lick of sense.

Ken Langone wants higher taxes on rich people. He wants the debt ceiling raised. And he wants his taxes raised. And he wants tax loopholes closed. And he wants government investment in education and job training. In other words, he is, in the current political environment, basically a liberal socialist Democrat? He is more or less aligned with Paul Krugman here. Obama wants all of these things, too!

Except Langone has a big problem with the politician who shares all of his major economic policy goals: That politician is also mean to rich people.



Langone told CNBC that Obama’s behavior has been “unpresidential.”

“He is dividing us as a nation,” Langone said. “He’s not bringing us together. He’s willfully dividing us. He’s petulant.”
[...]
“Ronald Reagan would never go into the Oval Office without his jacket on—that’s how much he revered the presidency,” he said. “This guy worked like hell to be president…Behave like a president. Let me look at you as a model to how we should behave. What does he say? Fat cats, jet airplanes. What is the purpose? Us versus them.

“The thing I fear the most about the future of America is…divide us, we all lose. This has got to stop.”
[...]
“He is not acting presidential. He is behaving in a way designed in my opinion to divide us, to make us look at each other with skepticism, with suspicion. That is the end of America as we know it,” he said. “The destruction he is inflicting by his behavior will carry on long after we settle the debt limit.”

OK, so … this is just pure cultural baggage with no relation to observable reality. Langone is upset that the president is not sufficiently “respectful” to John Boehner, he’s outraged that the president appeared in shirt-sleeves in the Oval Office, and he’s upset about a two-year-old reference to “fat cats.” Langone wants his taxes raised and tax loopholes closed, but he’s upset that the president briefly campaigned on … closing a private jet tax loophole.

So, there is an extensive fact-check of the Reagan jacket thing, but it doesn’t need a fact-checking, it needs psychoanalysis.

Yes, Americans are all ideologically confused. Voters like liberal policies but vote for divided government. Thomas Friedman dreams of a technocratic center-left third party without realizing he’s dreaming of the Democratic Party. But Langone crying about the president’s lack of respect and then wishing for Chris Christie to run isn’t just ideological confusion, it’s the pathology of the ultra-wealthy under imaginary siege.

Guys like Langone should be thankful there aren’t mobs with pitchforks out there, but instead of recognizing that Obama’s their best friend in the country, they’re dreaming that there are mobs, and that this awful populist president is leading them. Imaginary president Black Huey Long haunts them. People like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, who should probably be in jail, are convinced the president who pissed away a significant chunk of his popularity by giving Wall Street all the money it needed to get back on its feet after crippling the world economy is a socialist bent on their destruction. It’s been well-documented, but Langone’s nonsensical rant is a perfect distillation of how stupid these masters of the universe actually are. (I mean, Chris Christie! He’ll bring dignity and respect back to the White House, by yelling at every teacher in the nation, one by one.)

I thought rational self-interest would lead these “fat cats” to support the party that wants to create a stable economy where they can all make as much money as possible, while the bare bones of the social safety net keeps the underclasses pacified, but thin-skinned paranoia apparently trumps all. The president saved capitalism for the rich while overseeing austerity for everyone else, sure, but … he’s uppity! Go ahead and support the guys who want to bring the entire system crashing down, rich guys. Maybe then we will get the pitchforks and torches!

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>