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Billionaire's ad warns about non-existent threat of socialism (Thomas Peterffy)

Time for another edition of Billionaires Know Best.

This edition features an ad that Thomas Peterffy of Interactive Brokers (net worth over $4 billion) will spend $5 to $10 million running in swing states. In the ad (video below), the Hungarian-born Peterffy complains about, among other things, the non-existent threat of socialism.

First the transcript of the ad, followed by a discussion of why it's wrong:

I grew up in a socialist country. And I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom, no pride in achievement. The nation became poorer and poorer. And that's what I see happening here.

As a young boy I was fantasizing about one day going to America… Making a success of myself. The American Dream.

America's wealth comes from the efforts of people striving for success. Take away their incentive with badmouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy. Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer. But the poor will also be poorer. People will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs. I think this is a very slippery slope. It seems like people don't learn from the past. That's why I'm voting Republican and putting this ad on television.

I am Thomas Peterffy and I am responsible for the content of this advertising.

Note that everything in the ad is about money. Areas controlled by the Soviet Union had secret police, secret prisons, restrictions on religion, restrictions on speech, restrictions on movement, and on and on. Certainly, just because Peterffy doesn't mention those downsides doesn't mean he supports them, but it's curious how some emigres like him tend to only concentrate on fiscal matters. For instance, severe restrictions on speech might turn some emigres into very strong advocates for open debate. Peterffy might be separately taking actions to encourage speech, but at least in this ad he's only concentrating on fiscal matters. His only stated reason for coming to America (which he did in 1965, and the age of 21) is to make money not, for instance, to be able to speak his mind or openly practice his religion.

As for "badmouthing success" and the threat of socialism taking root in the U.S., has Peterffy been watching too much Glenn Beck? Is he trying to channel late night radio ads for eBooks about energy independence? Obama and the Democratic Party haven't been "badmouthing success", unless one means by that claiming that they want to keep malefactors in check and claiming that they want to tax the rich at rates lower than they've been taxed in fairly recent decades. And, if simple "badmouthing" is enough to prevent Job Creators from doing their jobs, we need new Job Creators.

Obama and the Democrats are quite friendly to corporations and do support free enterprise; Nancy Pelosi's even got her own vineyard and everything. The things that Obama has done that are called socialism by the Beck types and the Tea Parties are for the most part just sops to contributors and to voters in special interest groups. Whether Peterffy cares about that or not isn't known, but once again it's not in his ad.

Obama certainly supports a form of redistribution, and he and those in his sphere have definitely said some far-left things. However, he's had four years to put the U.S. on the path to a socialist country yet he hasn't done it. No Job Creators have had their assets nationalized, there haven't even been any new make-work programs. Four years later, Obama hasn't even put us on the path to Sweden or one of the other European countries which are currently generally successful despite having far more socialistic policies than we have in the U.S. If Peterffy thinks Obama is pushing the U.S. towards socialism, then one can only imagine the meltdown Peterffy would have been going through during the FDR years.

There's plenty to oppose Obama and his allies over: see Obama immigration, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Tom Vilsack, National Council of La Raza, Cecilia Munoz, Eric Holder, Sonia Sotomayor, Obama cabinet, and on and on and on. For just one of the hundreds of examples I could present, is Peterffy opposing Obama over his plan that will harm American workers? No, Peterffy is just warning about a non-existent threat.

Of course, the above takes the ad at face value. There's a beyond good chance that Peterffy isn't serious but just wants to lower his taxes. He claims he's "paid $1.9 billion in taxes" over his lifetime ( peekURL.com/zwasePq ), and if Mitt Romney could reduce his tax bill by over $10 million then his investment will have paid off for him.

See video
Other tags: gop · libertarians

Sat, 10/13/2012 - 13:10 · Importance: 4