LOS ANGELES — It is Academy Awards weekend in the nation’s entertainment capital, and the 1 percenters are out in force. Wealth displays are running riot; robust consumption is the philosophical standard.
I am staying at the legendary Hotel Bel-Air, a place where a cheeseburger and fries costs more than $30. Business is good. For most guests, money is no concern. They have it; they spend it. Life for the swells is sweet — or at least they want you to think it is.
President Obama has little use for these wealthy people, but strangely, many of them fervently love him for despising their circumstances. Unlike Bill Clinton, who couldn’t get enough West Coast “hospitality,” Obama takes their political donations and gets out of town faster than Wile E. Coyote. He knows show business is a shallow pit where almost everyone is disposable.
Above all, the president is a social justice man. And despite all the liberal celebrity blather, social justice is not exactly a top priority in the elegant salons of Beverly Hills, where hair treatments can run a thousand bucks. It must be hard for the president to cozy up to people who spend $20,000 on a weekend vacation after his experience in the South Side of Chicago. True compassion for the underprivileged must extend further than celebrity fundraisers at Spago, and the president knows it.
It is certainly difficult for good, selfless people to defend the excesses of capitalism, and Obama has capitalized on the resentment. He has seized the greed to fund his dream of a level playing field by demanding the wealthy pay “their fair share.” The president is going to take as much money from the affluent as he can before he leaves office. He has turned the White House into Sherwood Forest — taxing the rich and redistributing the cash to the less well off.
But the unintended consequences of the money grab have escaped the president. The folks who drive the economy don’t trust him. Banks continue to sit on billions in cash that could be loaned to expand the economy. Many small-business owners are actually cutting back their payrolls because of the massive Obamacare regulations.
So instead of encouraging the private marketplace to create opportunities for Americans, Obama is actually strangling upward mobility. This defeats his purpose of economic justice, and the rising debt he is championing may, in the end, crush the underclass.
All of this is far too complicated for many show-biz types to absorb. It is much easier to feel than to think. And they feel much better about their $100,000 cars when they cheer for the social justice president.
But like Hollywood itself, America’s current fiscal situation is primarily smoke and mirrors. And believe me, there is no wizard behind the curtain.