Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate activist and doomsdayer, stopped in Denver recently to visit with like-minded local activists and strategize about their war on fossil fuels and the shift to renewable energy sources as the fix for our planet’s imminent destruction from global warming.
Steyer is also a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, although he hasn’t made the cut to participate in the debates. Since the 1980s, he’s spent hundreds of millions financing political campaigns for Democrats and funding progressive causes. He founded NextGen Climate, an advocacy group and Political Action Committee that contributes to Democrats for public office; and NextGen America, an activist group that mobilizes young progressives to register young people to vote (presumably, for Democrats). Steyer is also vehemently committed to the impeachment of Donald Trump, pledging to spending $20 million on television ads, alone, toward that effort.
His net worth is estimated at $1.6 billion, enough to do a lot of good, or bad depending on one’s values and priorities. Hey, it’s his money and he can spend it on whatever he wants.
Ironically, Steyer earned his fortune as a capitalist. Working for investment firms like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. In 1986, he founded a hedge fund, Farrallon Capital that included holdings like private prisons and coal mines, incurring the wrath of UnFarrallon, a student activist group that attacked him for investments in companies that damage the environment.
In 2012, Steyer cashed in his Farrallon stock accumulated over 26 years and left the world of capitalism for politics, especially climate change activism. I say his career as a capitalist is ironic because of the things he said during his Denver visit. Predictably, as he seeks the party’s presidential nomination, he’s embraced the familiar progressive campaign themes of his rival Democrats on immigration, health care and gun control. But Steyer seemed to be channeling the radical anti-capitalism of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren when he declared he’d intimidate big corporations, like energy companies and financial institutions, into cooperating with his climate change agenda. “We need to scare them,” he said, claiming our country’s fundamental problem is the excessive influence of corporations, and that “We have a broken government. Corporations have bought the government.” His remedy is to prohibit corporate influence on policy.
Huh? Is it possible Steyer was secretly kidnapped by those UnFarrallon student radicals and brainwashed? That might explain his conversion and, perhaps, a guilt trip that now motivates him. I expect this kind of demagogic idiocy from Bernie, Lizzie or Ralph Nader but you’d think Steyer should know better.
How and why, should businesses be “prohibited” from having a voice in government and public policy? And he thinks this is our this nation’s “fundamental problem?” No, we have real problems. The engine of American prosperity and our standard of living has been our economic system functioning within a republican form of government. The Founders’ ingenious balance of democratic institutions tempered by constitutional safeguards, paired with a market economy propelling private enterprise and entrepreneurship with incentives and rewards for success and consequences for failure.
Government has its role, and the private sector has its. Sometimes they combine marvelously as in World War II. Wise regulations on business, like anti-trust laws and public safeguards are productive. Excessive government control can be counterproductive and stultifying.
Businesses that start small can prosper and become big. That’s a good thing. Some may incorporate in order to issue stock, file their taxes and legally limit their liability. That’s a practical business decision. Leftist Democrat demagogues weaponize the word “corporation” as if it’s inherently evil, when what they really oppose is private enterprise which they’d place under government control. Some are even socialists.
If corporations have “bought the government” then how did Barack Obama become president and how do Democrats who hate corporations now control the US House? And how did corporation-hating Democrats take control of the governments of California, New York and virtually all of the nation’s largest cities?
Corporations and other businesses employ 80 percent of the nation’s workforce. The bigger and more intrusive government gets the more necessary it becomes for businesses to have a say in government policy. Labor unions, government employees, plaintiffs lawyers, identity-politics minorities, LGBTQs, educators, greenies, illegal immigrants advocates, the ACLU, AARP, NOW, NRA and countless other organizations and activist groups have massive influence on government policy. Collectively, much more so than corporations. But Tom Steyer and others of his ilk believe that corporations should have no say at all? That’s crazy!
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.