Robert B. Simpson: Under siege

February 1, 2014 

Life can be really tough sometimes, and then, just when you think you've got the worst of the problems under control, a real heartbreaker crashes down on you. It happened to me this week when I read a letter to The Wall Street Journal and learned that Tom Perkins thinks the Little People don't love him as much as he believes appropriate. It's clear that he is crushed by this revelation.

Tom Perkins was once head of the research area of Hewlett-Packard, and spent many years involved with that and other computer companies. He founded a hugely successful venture capital firm and sat on the boards of various technology companies.

Through it all, he was controversial. He also made a lot of money, and he lived the good life to the fullest. He owns homes in California, including a penthouse in San Francisco, and also a castle in England. He owned the world's largest yacht, 289 feet long, until he sold it for something over 100 million dollars.

After his first wife died, Perkins married famous novelist Danielle Steele, also a San Francisco resident. They later divorced, but reportedly remain on friendly terms.

As for why he thinks we Little People don't love him, Tom says he believes the rich are under attack, the 1 per cent being demonized by the 99 per cent. He saw the Occupy movement in San Francisco break windows, and he says that made him think of Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi attack on Jewish citizens and their businesses. So in his letter, he suggested that he fears similar urges could lead to an outright assault on the rich by us Little People.

He understands, he explained to an interviewer, that inequality is a huge problem in this country, but it isn't caused by the rich. It's caused by too much government, too high taxes, and too much demonization of what he calls "the creative one percent," the rich folks like him who create the jobs for the rest of us. Let the rich do what the rich do, make money, he says, and they'll bring the Little People along too. Kind of like a form of trickle-down economics, and we know how well that worked.

Tom's letter includes a glowing reference to Ms. Steele, who is also quite wealthy and who was likewise chagrined to learn that she was not universally loved. She enraged her neighbors by parking her large collection of expensive automobiles on the street, taking up virtually all the parking spaces on her block, with her minions going out to move the cars for the street sweeper and then putting them back. The neighbors should have been proud that Danielle Steele chose to live among them, but they, ungrateful wretches, complained. Loudly. This was mean and hurtful to Ms. Steele.

I wish Tom understood that many Little People are on his side. I frequently read comments demanding that the rest of us get off the backs of the rich. After all, they pay a huge slice of our country's income tax tab. Of course, they also claim an ungodly amount of our country's wealth, too, and the amount grows larger by the day. Still, given that the creative one percent have created so many jobs, it looks like the lazy Little People who are complaining would just avail themselves of one of those jobs and the inequality would be solved.

Despite Tom's sincere wish to help people through his venture capital firm, from which he is now retired, he sometimes makes strange comparisons. Like comparing his idea of a class war being waged by the poor against the rich to Kristallnach, forerunner of the Holocaust. He backed off that comparison, apologizing to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. Predictably, he explained that his comparison was misunderstood and did not mean what it seemed to mean.

It must be awful to work so hard and then learn that you aren't universally loved. I wish somebody could let Tom know that I have written kindly about him and his ideas. Maybe that will make him feel better. I hate to see a grown man cry.

Robert B. Simpson, a 28-year Infantry veteran who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of "Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage."

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