Picture of money
Credit: Pictures of Money/Flickr

Is there ever an expose on the political opinions of billionaires that doesn’t unmask them as shortsighted incompetents? Whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s embarrassing tour of the heartland or Bill Gates saying the government should beg corporations to give people jobs, or Republican billionaires aghast that their pet dragons bit the noxious hands that fed them, nothing exposes the anti-meritocratic nature of American capitalism more than any observing billionaires in the wild.

In a similar vein, it’s hard to read this story of shocked Trump-supporting plutocrats ruing their decision without wry amusement. If these are the sorts of people who rule our world, no wonder the world is a mess:

At this year’s event, despite a roaring stock market, the mood was glum. Barry Sternlicht, a billionaire real-estate investor, hotel mogul, and self-described Trump friend and golf partner, seemed to have soured on the president. “I expected him to go to the middle, because I thought he wanted to be great,” he said of Trump, according to an audio of his off-the-record talk obtained by New York. “I played [golf] with Donald Trump and his golf game is like his presidency,” he said, eliciting guffaws. “He’s amusing as my friend, but he’s not very amusing as president of the United States. And I’m a Republican.”

How is this possible? Did Barry watch Trump campaign? It was possible that Trump would abandon the Bannonites, the conservative media complex and the Republican Party to enforce a Teddy Roosevelt-style presidency. That was the best possible case scenario. It was also incredibly unlikely, if for no other reason than it would have required Trump to have real policy interests rather than a gaping maw of unrequitable insecurities and resentments.

Hedge-fund manager David Tepper, the CEO of Appaloosa Management, seemed skeptical on the question of whether Trump and the GOP would be able to cut taxes. Tepper — who supported Jeb Bush in 2016 and has called Trump “selfish” — earlier this year was optimistic about deregulation and tax cuts with the GOP in control of the White House and Congress. But at the end of his Robin Hood talk, which focused mainly on a stock pitch, Tepper asked the crowd, “Is the tax bill going to get passed? Do you know?”

How craven are these people? Sure, most of them didn’t support Trump in the primary. But they’re Republicans nonetheless, and they more or less toed the line and hoped for the best. Then they cheered when Trump became president because it meant they thought they would get a nice big tax cut.

What kind of soulless greed is required to have more personal wealth than most kings or emperors in history, at a time of greater inequality than the Robber Baron era, and still be willing to put your country in the hands of a corrupt sociopath just to move more numbers in a bank ledger that you’ll never truly make use of except as bragging rights? How stupid would you have to be to risk killing the goose that laid your golden eggs, just to dive into a slightly deeper pile of Scrooge McDuck opulence?

And how long should the rest of us tolerate a society that continues to reward these jokers so far in excess of their talents and intelligence, for rent-seeking work that is mostly socially destructive and damaging to the common good?

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Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.