Over the weekend, billionaire venture capitalist and News Corp board member Tom Perkins stirred both ire and criticism when, in a letter published by the Wall Street Journal, he compared the modern fight against rising inequality to the “kristallnacht” attacks by Nazi forces against Jews prior to the holocaust.
Perkins, who has a personal net worth $8 billion, made the comments in a short, three paragraph letter to the editor in which he attempted to paint America’s wealthy elites as an oppressed and unfairly demonized class. Though Kleiner-Perkins, a trading company Perkins helped found, distanced itself from him and denounced his statements, Perkins stood by his comments, telling Bloomberg News that in the “Nazi area it was racial demonization, now it is class demonization.”
Perkins’ sentiments and feelings of persecution seem to stem largely from what he perceives to be manufactured outrage by the Occupy and progressive movements over income inequality and more specifically, the rising costs of rent and life in the San Francisco area which have come as a result of expansion by Silicon Valley tech firms such as Google.
Google, which is headquartered just to the south of San Francisco, has recently taken to busing employees from SF directly, causing not only significant traffic issues, but also contributing to a rising cost of rent and property values which have resulted in many lower income residents having to relocate.
Last month in Oakland during a string of protests against income inequality and Silicon Valley elitism, protesters allegedly smashed out windows of one of Google’s buses, perhaps giving Perkins the inspiration to make the phony comparison between the increasing populist rage over income inequality and Nazi Germany’s “night of shattered glass.” Though grossly out of touch with reality, Perkins’ assertion that the wealthy are a persecuted class is not entirely surprising. In a recent study performed at the University of Illinois and UC Berkeley, researchers found that among the wealthy, a certain disconnect with reality is coupled with a sense of entitlement to wealth, effectively leading many of means and privilege to believe they are in many senses better than those of lower economic standing.