What do billionaires know about the economy, anyway?
Some Democrats have a sneering tone toward the nation’s best entrepreneurs, as if they’re just trust-fund brats popping off on issues they know nothing about. President Biden, for instance, has found himself in a silly sniping contest with Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos, who keeps dissing Biden’s pronouncements on inflation. Yet Bezos, alas, is right.
On July 2, Biden posted a tweet imploring gasoline producers and filling stations to voluntarily lower prices. In a capitalist economy, that is simply daft. Bezos must have had a dull holiday weekend, because he promptly replied to Biden’s tweet by saying, “It’s either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.” So now we have Biden saying something silly and one of the world’s eminent business-builders calling him out. Newsy!
If this develops like other Biden-Bezos tweetspats, the White House press corps will poke Biden and his spokespeople about this for a few days, producing some cringey denunciations of Bezos for being a money-loving billionaire, which, you know, is inherently bad. In May, after Bezos argued that Biden’s legislative agenda would make inflation worse, a White House spokesperson called Bezos “one of the wealthiest individuals on earth” who “opposes an economic agenda for the middle class and also opposes labor unions.” Oooooooh. Touché!
Biden has a similar bro-beef going with Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, who called Biden a “damp sock puppet” in a January tweet. Musk’s biggest gripe with Biden is that every time Biden talks about electric vehicles, one of his pet projects, Biden highlights the work of Ford (F) and General Motors (GM), rarely mentioning Tesla. Yet Tesla is years ahead of its Detroit rivals, and arguably the most important EV maker on the planet. Biden disses Tesla because it’s a nonunion employer and because Musk himself is anti-union. Biden has grudgingly acknowledged Tesla’s EV dominance, but also thrown continued shade at Musk, such as his June remark tersely offering Musk “good luck” on some future trip to the moon.
Biden acts as if there’s nothing he could possibly learn from people who built some of the most valuable businesses in the world. Really? To get a sense of how lost Biden and his team are on inflation, consider what Biden economic adviser Brian Deese said on CNN recently when asked what he has to say to Americans who can no longer afford to pay $4.85 for a gallon of gas. “This is about the future of the liberal world order,” Deese answered. “We have to stand firm.”
To translate, Deese was saying high gas prices are the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the civilized world needs to keep sanctions on Russia to assure the barbarians don’t win. But “liberal world order” is a phrase understood by eggheads in Washington, D.C., and nobody anywhere else. The word “liberal” on its own probably has a negative connotation to millions of Americans who associate the word with Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. If Democrats think they are the party of ordinary working people, they sure don’t talk way. There’s no union shop steward in America urging his rank and file to get out there and work hard for the liberal world order.
Deese is one of the smart people who’s supposed to help Biden figure out what to do about $4.85 gas and 8.6% inflation. So far, bupkis. Biden needs a lot more help than Deese or any of the policy expert Ph.Ds at the White House have been able to provide, and the proof is in Biden’s dismal approval rating, now just 39%.
Bezos has a decent credential. He built what may be the world’s most dominant retailer from nothing. People think of Amazon as a marketplace, but its real specialty is logistics and supply chains. When COVID messed up the global economy, Amazon kept the goods flowing. Guess what continues to be one of the leading causes of inflation? Kinked supply chains and demand-supply mismatches, which are, like, the first 39 bullet points on Bezos’s resume. Maybe Bezos is one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet for a reason.
Biden is proud of his ability to work with Republicans, who would destroy his presidency if they could and seem to exult in a conservative Supreme Court selectively repealing personal liberties that Democrats hold dear. Yet Biden shuns any billionaire opposed to labor unions. There are certainly some “good” billionaires in Bidenworld, such as the dozens of ultrarich Americans who helped Biden and his fellow Democrats take power in 2020. You don’t hear much about them. What you do hear is the party’s liberal progressive wing mumbling over and over, “billionaires bad, billionaires bad,” as they prowl for villains they can exploit in a lame class war most Americans aren’t interested in.
Biden ran as a moderate when he won the presidency in 2020, which is why he beat Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primaries in the first place. But as president he seems to have concluded he can’t buck the same liberals he beat in 2020. So he can’t reach out to moguls like Bezos and Musk, even though most Americans would probably think it makes perfect sense.
Bezos is something of a political cypher, but his company, Amazon, is one of the country’s most popular brands, and that’s despite the company’s anti-union efforts. Musk can be an adolescent bomb-thrower, but his company, Tesla, has spawned a type of brand loyalty that borders on fanatical. Both men are business geniuses who have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. And neither bears any me-too baggage or disqualifying behavior that we know of. If these are your enemies, you’ve chosen the wrong enemies.
Biden, meanwhile, needs friends. There’s no policy solution in the Democratic playbook of overcomplicated government solutions that will lower gas prices or ratchet down inflation down any time soon. The left would howl about union-busting and tax avoidance if Biden ever met with the likes of Bezos or Musk, but Biden could say they don’t agree on everything and he’s just hearing them out. If Biden actually learned something, he wouldn’t even have to admit it.