National Review points out that Senator Elizabeth Warren, left-wing darling and scourge of the heartless mortgage industry, made a tidy sum with the sort of predatory house-flipping she nominally despises, taking advantage of an elderly woman to purchase an elegant property for a bargain basement price and selling it just five months later for a $115,000 profit:
Warren rose to political prominence in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis as a crusader against big banks and a dispenser of common-sense economic advice. She campaigned for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, intended to shield people from the predations of the mortgage and credit-card industries, among others. In her 2006 book All Your Worth, co-authored with her daughter, Amelia, Warren lists as a top myth the idea that “you can make big money buying houses and flipping them quickly.” She has made a career out of telling people how to behave in financially responsible ways, and out of creating laws that will make it illegal for them to do otherwise.
But Warren bought and sold at least five properties for profit at a different time in her life, before the cratering economy and a political career made her a star. Her life story has been the subject of much interest, and her 2014 memoir, A Fighting Chance, chronicled her rise from humble beginnings in small-town Oklahoma and her struggle to make ends meet. It didn’t much mention, though, the early 1990s, years when her children were teenagers and she was once again happily married. These are years when she wasn’t yet the multimillionaire she is today, and, she has said, she was voting Republican.
CNN Money notes that Warren has an average net worth of $8.75 million, putting her comfortably in the horrid “One Percent,” and a great deal of her money is wrapped up in mutual funds that make the sort of stock-market investments she nominally views as exploitation.
The rich stink of hypocrisy rising from millionaire “populist” Warren won’t much trouble her devoted followers, because liberals are long accustomed to demonstrating servile obedience and loyalty to their high-living anointed leaders. There will still be bobbleheads smiling and nodding the next time Hillary Clinton, acutely conscious of the potential Warren threat from the left, launches into a tirade against allegedly overpaid corporate CEOs who work much harder than she does, for a fraction of her immense and shadowy income.
The end result of socialism is invariably a small, super-rich, overwhelmingly powerful aristocracy ruling over a populace much poorer than it needed to be. The suckers go along with this because they’ve internalized the notion that their dear leaders are superior people who are entitled to wealth and comfort on the merits of their wisdom, even when they become millionaires without engaging in any healthy job-creating entrepreneurial activity.
Liberals need to believe in the existence of those better, wiser people. They respond to hypocritical One Percenter excess from their class-war champions the way the optimistic child in the old story looks at his room full of horse manure on Christmas morning: there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.
But it would be nice if liberals would take the story of Elizabeth Warren’s real-estate profits, or perhaps even Hillary Clinton’s far more outrageous financial adventures, as a warning about the danger of granting our rapacious political class power beyond the law. They already have far too much power within it, but Americans seem to be growing comfortable with watching their rulers decree that perfectly legal activity is subjectively malevolent, and must be taxed or regulated to the satisfaction of the political class, even though no one getting the fuzzy end of the social-justice lollipop did anything wrong.
There doesn’t seem to be anything illegal about Warren’s real estate transactions. National Review took the time to solicit commentary from the family of the grandma who sold that $145,000 property to Warren for $30,000, and they seemed to think it understandable that the home would sell for less than top dollar, although they felt it was a mistake to let it go quite so cheaply. (They seemed aware of Warren’s hypocrisy on the matter as well – “what’s said and what’s done in politics are two different things,” as one of them put it.)
Does anyone think Elizabeth Warren would hesitate for a moment to thunder against her political adversaries for making such a perfectly legal transaction? Most of the hot air pumped into our cultural atmosphere by the Left involves them treating voluntary economic activity as a crime, without benefit of trial, need for evidence, or the slightest interest in extenuating circumstances. The notion of free-market capitalists making “excessive profits” works them into paroxysms of social-justice rage, inspired – although few of them will admit it openly – by Karl Marx’s view of profit as the theft of workers’ surplus labor value. Kangaroo courts for ordinary people accused of “inequality” and “privilege” are scheduled for now through the end of time.
But when the profits are reaped by famous liberals with solid Party credentials, suddenly the guns trained upon inequality and privilege fall silent, and it’s none of your business how obscene amounts of money are raked in, or which shell companies they pass through on the way into a lefty superstar’s bank accounts.
Many successful investments and purchases look like exploitation with hindsight. There are people who counted themselves lucky to get a certain price for a stock they sold yesterday… only to watch it skyrocket in value tomorrow. Every minute of every day, people are voluntarily agreeing to business transactions they will later regret, and kicking themselves for missing opportunities that look retrospectively obvious. We shouldn’t allow the political class to prey off these resentments and milk us for envy votes, especially when they’re so blatantly willing to enrich themselves through the very methods they claim to loathe.
Our tax and regulatory systems should be prudently administered to protect property rights and the free, honest flow of commerce. Instead, we’re subjected to value judgments and accusations of bad faith from politicians who refuse to entertain such criticism of themselves.