“You may have noticed that our friends on the left [socialists, communists, progressives, collectivists, statists, etc.] have begun to refer to the Koch brothers and other rich conservatives as ‘oligarchs.’ Like calling evangelicals ‘jihadists’ and the tea party ‘racist,’ this comparison to the billionaires in Vladimir Putin’s circle is meant to stigmatize and marginalize these men politically and socially. This latest Saul Alinsky tactic got us thinking about who really qualifies as an American oligarch.” The Wall Street Journal editorial
This latest Saul Alinsky tactic got us thinking about who really qualifies as an American oligarch. If the definition is someone who becomes rich by association with government power and policies, and then assists those in power, the Kochs would barely make the list. Their companies are usually harassed by government.
With that standard in mind, we thought we’d offer liberals a list of some other American billionaires and where they rate as oligarchs. We’ve also created a ranking method we’ll call the Timchenko Scale after Gennady Timchenko, the Russian billionaire pal of Mr. Putin who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury.
George Soros. The hedge-fund billionaire made his biggest score and his financial reputation shorting the British pound in 1992, but that was a free-market bet. He now funds a myriad of left-wing causes, but then it’s his money. His support for statism in the U.S. is also offset to some degree by his support for transparency in dictatorships abroad. Oligarch rating: Half a Timchenko.
Tom Steyer. Another liberal who made his riches in the capital markets, the San Francisco activist now opposes the kind of fossil-fuel investments he once profited from as he was building his fortune. After criticism last year, he promised to divest from the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline company, and there’s no doubting his sincere belief in climate change and in using government power to stop fossil fuels. Rating: One Timchenko.
Al Gore. The former vice president has become rich investing in green energy firms that benefit from the policies he has long advocated. He’s a principal in Kleiner Perkins, the venture firm that once created high-tech wealth free of government but took a detour into politicized green energy and enlisted Mr. Gore in the effort. Mr. Gore also founded a cable TV venture that he sold to Al Jazeera, the anti-American network that was built with Qatar oil money. Rating: Three Timchenkos.
Elon Musk : The Tesla CEO has turned green-energy subsidies, electric-car tax credits, and solar-energy mandates into a gold mine. One oligarch mitigation factor is that he earned his initial fortune by founding companies without government aid. He is also now suffering at the hands of the government-supported state auto dealer cartels that are blocking his plan to sell Tesla cars directly to consumers. Rating: Two Timchenkos.
Carlos Slim. The Mexican parlayed government-supported monopolies in telecommunications, cement and other industries into one of the world’s greatest fortunes. In 2007 Forbes estimated that his wealth was roughly equivalent to 7% of Mexico’s annual GDP. He single-handedly rescued the New York Times in 2009 with a $250 million loan when it was losing money. The Times is leading the charge against the Kochs as “oligarchs.” Rating: Four Timchenkos.
Our Timchenko Scale of oligarch riches isn’t trademarked, so feel free to use it at home. As a tool for explaining the modern state economy, and especially liberal politics, it beats Monopoly.