Konopacki 11/20/19

If you want to understand why Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been trending in the polls in recent weeks, look no further than Wall Street.

The big money people who have been free to plunder the country's working class are all worked up about Warren's plans to hold them accountable and require them to pay a fair share of taxes like most other Americans.

"Our democracy has been hijacked by the rich and powerful," she often remarks on the primary campaign trail.

That's a message that has obviously energized a significant number of those paying attention to the Democratic primary campaign and, according to several news accounts, Wall Street financiers and wealthy individuals are in a panic.

The New York Times reported earlier in the month that big money is unleashing a barrage of public attacks, donating money to her Democratic rivals and scrambling to counter her blistering narrative about Wall Street.

They're predicting that if Warren were to win the presidency, our entire economic system would collapse. Billionaires like Leon Cooperman and even Bill Gates expressed alarm that Warren wants to add a surtax on those making more than $50 million a year. Chase Manhattan CEO Jamie Dimon complained that she's vilifying "successful people."

It's got some of us wondering if some of these honchos have lost their marbles.

Warren, of course, isn't the first candidate to make the concentration of wealth and economic inequality in America a campaign issue. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been assailing the dictatorship of wealth for years, but apparently the rich don't think he can get the Democratic nomination. They're not that sure about Warren.

Unlike Sanders, Warren calls herself a "capitalist," but she believes the current system that lavishes riches on CEOs and produces corporate billionaires while the working class languishes needs a house cleaning. And, of course, it certainly does.

There are millions of people out there whose memories are still fresh with what the Wall Street cabal did to them with its phony mortgage bundling, exotic financial instruments and, in several instances, outright fraud.

While millions lost their jobs, their homes and life savings in the Great Recession, most of those who caused the debacle paid no price. They weren't even embarrassed by the financial carnage they had caused. Worse, they fought every attempt at reform to keep it from happening again.

Once a defender of corporate America, Warren grew increasingly alarmed by the concentration of power among the Wall Street elite. Greed knew no end. Regulators removed safeguards. The top 1% saw their taxes go down and their earnings rise. Working people were lucky to stay even.

There was a time when millionaires and billionaires did pay a fair share. Top income tax brackets were as high as 90%. Even when John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, it was still at 70%.

Guess what — the economy did just fine. The rich still got richer, but working people got raises, too. America's middle class was thriving.

Then, starting with Ronald Reagan in 1981, the government decided that we need something called "trickle-down" economics. Give the rich tax breaks and the people below will benefit, too.

This has been done three times in the years since, and the result? The top 1% now owns 40% of the nation's wealth — more than all of the bottom 90% of Americans own.

Does Wall Street really have to wonder why Elizabeth Warren is doing well?

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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