If Tom Perkins set out to piss off as many nonmillionaires as humanly possible, then he has had a very, very successful week.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor from Perkins in which he compared the plight of the West Coast’s one percent to the plight of Jews just prior to the Holocaust. Yesterday, he reminded everyone just how easy it is to hate the one percent.
Perkins got very, very rich after co-founding a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The firm has funded a laundry list of startups including both AOL and Google.
(Important back-story for those not following recent events in the Bay Area: Google, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., offers its employees many perks, one of which is transportation to and from its offices in big, shiny, gleaming, beautiful buses. In recent months, these buses have become a symbol of rising income inequality, and have been targeted by activists. Protesters have begun blocking buses and there have been fears about the escalating tensions and whether they could give way to more violent encounters.)
Perkins’s letter to the Wall Street Journal pointed to the “demonization of the rich” and the “rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.” Perkins called attention to the “parallels of fascist Nazi Germany” and suggested the uber-rich might be subject to the same violence the Jews suffered during Kristallnacht, the infamous night of violence in 1938.
The reaction to Perkins’s letter wasn’t good. Even the firm he co-founded was horrified. Kleiner Perkins tweeted : “Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree.”
Sometimes, when you make a mistake and everyone points out said mistake, it’s good to apologize and leave it at that. Other times the only option is to double down. Perkins has opted for the latter.
On Monday, during an interview with Bloomberg News, he apologized for the Kristallnacht analogy, saying he regretted his word choice. “It was a terrible word to have chosen,” he said, adding that he had also apologized in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League.
Asked why he made the comparison, Perkins explained: “When you start to use hatred against a minority, it can get out of control.” He admitted that income inequality is a real concern, but stressed that the “one percent are not causing the inequality.”
The solution, according to Perkins, is not to demonize the rich, but to free them from these chains of regulation and interference! “Let the rich do what the rich do, which is get richer,” he said.
Perkins went on to explain that he doesn’t “feel personally threatened” but he does “feel that an important part of America, namely the creative one percent, are threatened.”
You can view the interview here.
He could have left it there. He didn’t.
For the record, there are only two types of people who discuss watches, or “timepieces,” as one-percenters call them: people who spend their days dreaming of being in the one percent, and people in the one percent. No one else discusses watches.
Perkins, likely having spent time only with people who think discussing timepieces is normal, discussed his own timepiece with Bloomberg News’s Emily Chang.
Of his own watch, Perkins told Chang: “This isn’t a Rolex. I could buy a six-pack of Rolexes for this.”
Perkins earned a bachelor’s degree at MIT in 1953 and went on to get his MBA in 1957 from Harvard. He was once married to romance novelist Danielle Steel, and even wrote a steamy romance novel of his own, titled “Sex and the Single Zillionaire.” (Seriously, that’s the title.) Then there was that unfortunate involuntary manslaughter conviction back in 1996. Whoops! These days, when he isn’t writing letters to the editor or offending the masses on live television, Perkins might be found aboard Dr. No, his “adventure yacht” complete with some kind of airplane that flies under water.
Perkins told Bloomberg News that it is “absurd” to “demonize the rich for being rich and doing what the rich do.” But really, when the rich are as tone-deaf as Perkins, it’s not that hard to demonize them at all.
“As the messenger, I’ve been shot,” Perkins said.
Tom, you shot yourself.