Why a Billionaire Should Never Cry, “Class Warfare!”

A surfer takes his chances down the beach road.

I wrote earlier about a court case being tried in San Mateo County over coastal access to a place called Martin’s Beach. This case pits tech-billionaire Vinod Khosla againt, well, almost everyone except his own lawyers, but the plaintiff of record is the Surfrider Foundation. Arguments in the case, aptly titled Surfrider vs. Martin’s Beach LLC, came to a close today and the judge has 90 days to issue a ruling. Bloomberg does a great job of summarizing the latest action.

Khosla, previously, had a public reputation as an environmentalist, an investor in innovative technology and a political progressive. He’s a big fundraiser for President Obama and for California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. He’s also a billionaire several times over and a venture capitalist with offices on Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto. Here’s his side’s closing statement today:

“[The Surfrider Foundation] has refused to collaborate and they’ve refused to negotiate. All they offer are threats and litigation and the cynical rhetoric of class warfare — when all they really want is to permanently and irreparably upset the balance between public access and private property rights in our state.”

Really? Class warfare? Originally, that was anti-communist rhetoric of the Better Dead than Red crowd back in the 1950s and 60s. Guys like J. Edgar Hoover used it as a slur to describe intentions of their commie foes. These days, it’s  the rhetoric of the Republican Party. A day hardly goes by without House Speaker John Boehner  or Congressman Paul Ryan throwing around “class warfare”. But even they appear to believe that the political policies they oppose may have negative repreccusions on mainstream Americans. That’s the “class” that people care about.  Referring to his personal tangle with the general public as class warfare just makes Khosla look out of touch. It’s the opposite of the message he should be trying to send.

Sticking up for public access is the opposite of class warfare. Nobody is angry at Mr. Khosla because he’s rich. They’re opposed to his actions because he’s made it his stated purpose to cut the public off from a beach that we own. If it’s class warfare, he’s in a class of one, and he’s the one waging. He’s ABLE to behave so poorly because he’s rich and can buy a $34 million property plus spend millions more on litigation and lobbying to make his point, but it’s the behavior, not the money that is the problem.

 

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