A billionaire and Silicon Valley pioneer, Tom Perkins, warned of a "dangerous drift" in American thinking from the left in a letter to the Wall Street Journal.
Perkins writes, "I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany, to its war on its one percent, namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the rich."
The venture capital firm he co-founded quickly distanced itself. On Twitter Saturday, the company said, “Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree."
“There has been some rhetoric before. Steve Schwarzman has equated some issues around taxation with the Holocaust,” said Hobson. “I would encourage Mr. Perkins to study his history because the Holocaust had nothing to do with economics. It was about ethnic cleansing. He should look to things like the French and Russian revolutions, where the masses tried to overthrow the rich.”
Hobson said part of the reason this issue is coming up in this way is that corporate leaders in the United States are, in some ways, treated like celebrities and they are paid much more than the average worker.
“There’s a lot of attention on them. The Internet age has put them front and center and the big issue has been their compensation” she said.
She said that in today’s society the typical chief executive officer makes 354 times more than the typical worker in his or her company. However, she said that if you look back to 1980, the difference was only 42 times.
“It’s been that kind of income inequality that that has started a lot of backlash and chatter, and I think put CEOs in the hot seat,” she said. “But, they make the big bucks for a reason and I think they have to have a thicker skin around these issues.”
Also, Hobson discussed the possibility that income inequality will be discussed in the President’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday. Obama calls it “one of the defining challenges of our time” and Hobson said she would call Obama’s message “positive populism.”
“The business community, I think more-or-less, will be neutral in how they receive it,” she said. “What they hate is uncertainty. When they don’t know what will happen to them, that’s when they get nervous.”
To watch the full interview with Mellody Hobson, watch the video in the player above