Home Depot Co-founder: Populist Liberals Adopting Nazi Rhetoric

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A culture of envy has taken hold of the economic debate between the haves and have-nots, the super-rich have started to claim. But Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone took the argument to new heights, telling Politico that populists attacking over income inequality are adopting Nazi cant.

Many argue that while capitalism is the least evil, it needs curbs and constraints. The super-rich have tended to respond that their detractors are haters. Langone seems to belong to that camp, telling Politico that he hopes the populist rants won't work.

“Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy," Langone told the website on Tuesday.

His frankness was preceded by venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who – a multi-millionaire, not a billionaire, he says – alerted the world to the evils of attacking the 1 percent: "Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?" wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal this January. His own firm disclaimed his broadside.

Larry Summers, former secretary of the Treasury and a business baron himself, agrees on the perils of populism but put it less controversially: “Reducing inequality is good, but it’s 50 times better to do it by lifting those up who are low than by tearing those down who are high,” he told Politico, adding: “The better politics are the politics of inclusion where everyone shares in economic growth.”

In Israel, where the term 'Nazi' has become routinely slung by political (and other) rivals, the idea arose to ban use of the word in a derogatory sense. The bill has passed its first of three readings into law.

Kenneth Langone, arguing in April 2013 on Bloomberg Television that Jamie Dimon should be chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase.Credit: Bloomberg

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