“No to the billionaires,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said in the first days of her campaign for president. “We are the Democratic Party and that is the party of the people.”
Her brushback pitch was aimed at candidates rich enough to self-fund their campaigns, like Michael Bloomberg. But this kind of binary thinking is a slight to history. The best president of the 20th century, Franklin Roosevelt, was a product of dynastic family wealth, as was John Kennedy. The Obamas, with their newfound riches from books and ventures into the entertainment industry, will soon have the kind of money to draw snark from the socialist wing of their party.
And Warren may have missed the announcement of another rich guy running for president as a Democrat, the venture capitalist Andrew Yang. He’s campaigning on a plan to guarantee every American aged 18 to 64 a basic income of $1,000 a month, paid for by a new tax on companies benefiting most from automation.
I know, I know: The last thing a country struggling with Neo-Gilded Age inequality needs is more influence from billionaire supercitizens. It’s bad enough that the Koch brothers bought themselves a budget-busting tax cut and an energy policy hatched in their corporate boardroom. An 85-year-old casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, now has more influence on American foreign policy than even the secretary of state, the Koch tool Mike Pompeo.