Following billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s high-profile endorsement of Hillary Clinton in a speech at the Democratic convention, several more billionaires have formally thrown their names in with the pro-Clinton camp.
Earlier this week, Republican fundraiser and Hewlett Packard executive Meg Whitman — having already made headlines after comparing Donald Trump to Hitler and Mussolini — announced that she plans to both raise money for the Clinton campaign and vote for Clinton in November.
“I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her,” Whitman told the New York Times.
Prominent billionaires Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban have also been vocal in their support for Hillary Clinton; both, in addition, have raised questions about Trump’s oft-touted business credentials.
On Wednesday, The Atlantic reports, yet another billionaire announced his support for Clinton: This time, it was Seth Klarman, a hedge fund CEO and frequent donor to Republican candidates.
Speaking about his decision to back Clinton, Klarman emphasized the threat posed by a Trump presidency.
“His words and actions over the last several days,” Klarman said, “are so shockingly unacceptable in our diverse and democratic society that it is simply unthinkable that Donald Trump could become our president.”
The sprint of traditionally conservative billionaires away from the Republican Party paints a rather striking picture, particularly during a year in which anger against establishment politics has reached a fever pitch.
Despite being a billionaire himself, a critique of the donor class was a central component of Trump’s success throughout the primary process.
Hillary Clinton, for her part, attempted to inflate her progressive credentials in the face of a primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, who consistently outflanked her from the left. Sanders emphasized Clinton’s unprincipled fundraising, arguing that a candidate who takes significant money from Wall Street and the billionaire class cannot possibly address the concerns of the public at large.
The Clinton campaign, however, seems unconcerned with alienating progressives already skeptical of her platform; As the New York Times reports, she is “aggressively courting Republican leaders” and billionaires, hoping to firmly establish a base of support among the nations deep-pocketed elites.
But facing an economy that has failed to deliver for working families, most Americans are not likely to be charmed by what CNN has called “The Hillary Clinton Billionaires Club.”
Over the last several decades, Americans have seen the middle class rapidly decline; they have seen wages stagnate; and they have seen those in the very highest income brackets, including the billionaires now lining up in support of Hillary Clinton, reap lavish rewards.
An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has noted these striking disparities.
“Wages of the top 1.0 percent rose 149.4 percent from 1979 to 2014, while the top 0.1 percent — the very highest earners — had earnings grow at least twice as quickly, up 324.4 percent since 1979,” EPI notes. Meanwhile, “The annual earnings of the bottom 90 percent rose just 16.7 percent from 1979 to 2014, but grew by only 1.0 percent since broad-based earnings stagnation began in 2002.”
After running a campaign in which she promised to address the concerns of working Americans who have been devastated by soaring inequality and corporate trade policies, it is improbable that Hillary Clinton’s growing list of billionaire backers will assuage those who are wary of her ties to special interests and of her commitment to what Bernie Sanders repeatedly called “establishment economics” — economics that have only served to worsen the conditions of the most vulnerable.
“Intuitively people think that rich people have too much power over politics,” Sanders delegate Jonathan Tasini told Politico. “Will she go ahead as president and implement the Democratic Party platform’s main issues? That’s something that is of great concern to people, and certainly a significant part of the Sanders base needs to be convinced that this is the case.”
Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of the support of prominent billionaires — most of whom have been either hostile or indifferent toward progressive attempts to address America’s unsustainable inequities — is not a compelling argument in favor of the notion that she will address the scourge of money in politics. In fact, it seems to be quite a good argument for the opposite case: that Clinton is doing what Democrats have done for decades — pivoting to the center and abandoning those pushing back against the disproportionate influence exerted by self-interested billionaires and corporations over the political process.
Economist Dean Baker argues, in an interview with Politico, that the wealthiest will shape Hillary Clinton’s agenda far more than the progressive coalition that bolstered the Sanders campaign.
“It’s the kind of thing that reminds everyone that she’s talking to a lot of people, many of whom are very much among the 1 percent or 1/100th of 1 percent,” Baker said. “When she’s sitting down deciding what to do it’s not going to be a bunch of labor people there, it’s not going to be a lot of progressive people there.”
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]