Zakaria's Soros interview: Thinking like a billionaireFebruary 13, 2012 2:41 PM
A prior engagement on the West Coast meant I couldn't get to the AALDEF dinner in New York City last week. So let me give my own award to AALDEF honoree Fareed Zakaria for an excellent interview Sunday with George Soros on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS show.
It's not every day you see someone elicit such candid talk from a billionaire.
And let's face it, when it comes to fixing this country's economy, to paraphrase Hillary, it takes more than a village.
It takes a few billionaires.
Unfortunately, Super PAC guys like the Koch Brothers play to stereotype and give billionaires a bad name. So it's refreshing that others in their tax-bracket like Warren Buffett and Soros have displayed a more egalitarian sensibility.
In the GPS interview, Soros was critical of the broken political process that "is leading the country into a dead end."
He said the economy was improving, but he worried that the politics of the election "would put a lid" on the recovery mostly because the Republicans don't want to see a recovery going into the November election.
"So they will push for austerity and no new taxes, therefore cutting off services, which will depress economic activity," Soros said, painting the GOP's cynical facade which he sees suddenly changing in the event of a Republican victory.
"If the Republicans win, they will undergo a miraculous transformation where they discover that actually we can afford to have some stimulus," he said.
And that's the problem with our country and the political process, which isn't functioning the way it used to. "The political parties are more determined to destroy each other," Soros said.
He was critical of how the Republicans have established the idea that government can't pay for itself or do anything well. "It's a politically inspired campaign which is self-fulfilling, if you believe government is bad, you can do a lot to make sure government is bad. This is where the political process has led the country into a dead end, and that is what we need to somehow get out of."
Unlike many billionaires, Soros believes that the private sector created the imbalances that led to our financial crises and the need for the regulation that most billionaires decry.
But Soros is a billionaire who wants fairness and is thinking of you.
"The super (financial) bubble resulted in a great increase in inequality," Soros said. "Now we have the after-effect where we have slow growth. But if you can have better distribution of income, then the average American would be better off as a result."
And that means Soros is all for paying taxes, though he admits he'd pay more than the 14% Romney paid because of his philanthropic activity.
"But I'm willing to pay more," he said. "If everybody who made as much money as I do gave as much as I do, I wouldn't advocate it. But I think the free-riders should also pay."
Damn those free-riders.
Soros thinks Obama hasn't done quite as much as he could, but he's going to vote for him anyway.
But no word yet on a George Soros-backed Super PAC.
"I haven't decided," Soros said. "But I think it's a big issue. Citizens United has unleashed private money for political purposes that can be used anonymously. This has created an unequal playing field, which will further destroy the political system."
Soros says he's always given money "on principle" and not for "private interests."
"I've always done it very openly, saying what I'm doing," Soros said. He said he'll state what he's doing when he decides, but for now was fairly blunt. "I am distressed by the problem Citizens United has created."
You see, we all have more in common with billionaires than you think.
See Emil's take on Lin-fomania this week at www.amok.com, and follow him on Twitter, @emilamok.