Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hollande in the Hamptons

It seems that François Hollande has inspired fear and loathing in the Hamptons. An article in New York Magazine quotes "billionaire Jeff Greene" (a name I'd never heard until a few moments ago):

“Right now, for some bizarre reason, a lot of these people are supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy,” he says. “At some point, if we keep doing this, their numbers are going to keep swelling, it won’t be an Obama or a Romney. It will be a ­Hollande. A Chávez.”


bert said...

Nice catch, Art.
He's a Democrat. His case is that naked grasping is counterproductive, and there should be a bit of noblesse oblige. The emphasis there seems to be on "a bit". Clearly, Hollande earns a place in his demonology by hiking tax rates at the top end more than he'd like. How funny to see him deployed as a bogeyman to scare the superrich.
There's a Colbert quote (the 17th century one) about geese and hissing that might be relevant here.

Mitch Guthman said...

The “billionaire Jeff Greene” is living proof of a point I made during the last French presidential election about the benefits of Mélenchon’s rise. Not only did Mélenchon move Hollande ever so slightly to the left, he also provided a cautionary message to the ultra-rich that they might want to hedge their bets a bit because there are worse things than paying a bit more tax on your second millions of euros in annual income.

Truthfully, I don’t see Mélenchon setting up the guillotine in the Place de la Concorde but I have little doubt that the ultra-rich would not like living in a Europe where resistance to banking reform was met not by instant capitulation but instead by hanging a banker or hedge fund manager from every lamppost in the City. To borrow from Dr. Johnson, I believe the prospect of an imminent hanging would make sensible financial regulation much more palatable for the Masters of the Universe.

bert said...

In '08 Obama raised more money from Wall Street than McCain. Jeff Greene is a real estate guy, but he made the leap from multimillionaire to billionaire via Wall Street. Which means he's also living proof of the theory that if you want to understand the Obama administration's response to the financial crisis, you'll find a lot of the explanation you need by looking at the role of money in US politics.

The shame of it is, there was definitely a window for Roosevelt-style populism around 2009, which for all practical political purposes closed with the 2010 midterms.

Anonymous said...

@Mitch "Truthfully, I don’t see Mélenchon setting up the guillotine in the Place de la Concorde.."
More's the pity. With a new guillotine in place the Place de la Concorde could become the public court room for the racketeers and criminals that have hijacked global finance. A parade of Wall Streeters, City shysters and their EU cohorts into a Concorde dock framed by a guillotine and with Robespierre's words before them -- "Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue" -- would be just desserts indeed.

Anonymous said...

In the Wall Street Journal James Taranto had a good reaction to this article titled “It Came From Zucotti Park, New York magazine purveys left-wing horror fantasy.” Taranto says do-good liberals answer to every social problem is to throw more money at it. Liberals never seem to realize that their policies of entitlement actually enslave whom they are trying to help. An excerpt below makes a good point.

“The problem with this line of reasoning is evident in a campaign-trail anecdote of Greene's. He visited a prospective voter, an obese unmarried mother of four, in Miami's Liberty City: "All she was talking about was her $646 check which was coming in three days which she needed to buy more food," Greene said. As for her children: "One had been shot, one was in jail, two had gang problems."

It never seems to dawn on Greene that this is what happens to people when government resolves to "take care of" them--that dependency is more poison than elixir. Moreover, he conflates the chronic problems of underclass social breakdown with the acute problem of slow economic growth, which is the reason behind current middle- and working-class insecurities. And he fails to see that these two problems have a common cause: a government that has made promises it has neither the competence nor the resources to keep.

What we find most interesting, though, are Greene's nightmares of "social unrest." Such fantasies are common on the left, and it seems to us they are more "mainstream" than their counterparts on the right. But make no mistake, they are fantasies. Occupy Wall Street actually was nothing more than "a little kind of disorganized joke," not the revolutionary movement that Greene fears and many leftists hoped.”

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Anonymous,

I hope Mélenchon wouldn’t even if he could. I honestly don’t think he would. The history of violent, bloody revolutions makes me think that they are perhaps sometimes necessary but only as an absolute last resort. The three of which I have a passing knowledge (French, British and Russian) all lead to catastrophe and immense suffering. All three were avoidable if the ancien régime had been willing to give a little. That’s how I think the West was able to avoid catastrophic revolutions and end the First Gilded Age without bloodshed.

Still, I can’t deny that yours is an approach to financial regulation with an undeniable appeal, particularly as applied to recalcitrant bankers. Perhaps we could steer a middle course between laissez-faire and turning the Place de la Concorde into an abattoir for bankers. Maybe the thing to do is to hang a banker from time to time « pour encourager les autres »

Anonymous said...

@Mitch: Even the Wall Street Journal is mulling over capital punishment for crimes against capital -