Columnists, Featured, Jon Caldara, Politics

Caldara: How rich Dems made their money helps explain political values

The four wealthy individuals who bankrolled much of Colorado’s progressive takeover by investing in political infrastructure over the last 15 years (their plan was well described in the book “The Blueprint”) have something in common, besides being rich leftists who know how other people should live.

They all made their money fast in tech, versus slow in brick-and-mortar.

There are deep pockets on the left and right. The right’s demonized Koch brothers manufactured and sold physical things from roads to carpet to glass. The left’s Tom Steyer and George Soros didn’t make any physical things, but made hedge funds.

With a whole lot of room for exceptions, you’ll find that the left’s rich guys haven’t had to deal with the same level of government intrusion and interference during their working years compared to those who fund the right.

That could help explain the difference in their political values.

While creating a software triumph takes endless hours of stressful hard work and risk, it doesn’t have the same ceaseless number of EPA regulators and OSHA inspectors and other armies of acronym-bearing bureaucrats from city, county, state and federal governments knocking at
your door.

I’m not suggesting the alphabet soup of regulators and inspectors with their fines, reports and clipboards isn’t needed. I am suggesting that when a guy builds a business of factories, farms and facilities, he quickly learns how much time and energy arbitrary regulation and “code enforcement” takes away from being productive. Just ask any small businessman who owns even one building.

A small business owner I know wanted an outdoor patio for his little brewery, so the city told him where he had to put the railing to separate it from the sidewalk. After it was set in cement, a different inspector told him to tear it all down and move it by an inch.

He could have fought the second inspector and the city but didn’t because even if he won, it would have cost more in time and money to battle city hall than just to take the loss. There’s a reason why they say you can’t fight city hall.

Here’s today’s example from my own office at the Independence Institute as I write this, literally: The water department came for a surprise inspection. Nothing has changed since our last inspection but for some reason we must now remove a valve on our fire suppression system because, as we were essentially told, “If there were a flood causing the valve to be under water and somehow it mysteriously broke while the city magically turned off the water pressure” there could be a back-flow problem.

It will cost us a few hundred dollars to “fix” it. Cheaper than fighting it. Here’s the kicker though – there are another four similar valves to the same water supply even lower and more susceptible to a flood. But we don’t have to remove those. It’s completely nonsensical.

Then there was the time we wanted to take down an interior office wall that was put up just a couple of years earlier. To get permission to do that, we were required to install a handicapped-accessible drinking fountain, even though it’s in an area wheelchairs can’t reach. To install the fountain, the city required us to do a “water mitigation study” because the fountain would, get this, drain into a drain. To pass the water mitigation study, we had to fix a crack in the sidewalk — outside. I can’t make this up. It cost us an additional $18,000 just to remove a few sheets of drywall.

And we’re just a dinky little think tank with geeks tapping at computers and making phone calls.

Imagine how enterprises like factories and farms, mining and drilling, warehouses and retail get kicked around and imagine the scale. Those who built up those operations must have a different view of the power of government.

The four large funders of Colorado’s left didn’t really have to deal with that. Jared Polis created an online greeting card company. Tim Gill created graphic design software. Rutt Bridges created software for the energy industry. And Pat Stryker made her billions the old-fashioned way. She
inherited it.

Good for all of them. But Colorado would look a lot different today if they had to get their hands dirty building wealth in the physical, over-regulated world they are now creating.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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