With Kevin O’Leary taking on more talking-head duties for CNBC in the U.S., it’s not uncommon to find his chair on CBC News Network occupied by fill-ins. Sadly, Thursday was not one of those days.
O’Leary was on the set of the Lang & O’Leary Exchange and as stubbornly unprepared as ever, probably due to his well-documented illiteracy. The topic at hand was French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which has spurred a much-needed debate in the West about wealth inequality.
Piketty says, rather uncontroversially, that inequality is inherent to capitalism and that without progressive taxation to help even the playing field, wealth inevitably concentrates in the hands of a few, usually those born into their fortunes. And while not everyone agrees with his proposed solutions, most people still recognize his 700-page tome as an impressive piece of scholarship.
But Kevin O’Leary, who doesn’t know anything, thinks Piketty’s book “merits no discussion” even though he admits not to have read it. And why would he, really? The CBC continues to employ him despite his entire persona being based on a crude Gordon Gekko understanding of the economy, in which success is always self-earned while anyone less fortunate than he is a freeloader.
In fact, O’Leary doesn’t even agree with the basic premise that gross inequality is a bad thing. He thinks it’s “fantastic,” and he repeated that same sentiment again Thursday.
In his squabbling with co-host Amanda Lang, he also went back to one of his standby arguments against any suggestions at reform — raising the spectre of the Soviet Union.
“Redistribution of wealth doesn’t work,” he said. “We tried it in the Soviet Union, North Korea — would you like to live there?”
In fact, the kind of tax levels Piketty suggests for top income brackets — up to 80 per cent — used to be the norm in the United States and it helped create one of the largest middle classes in history following the Second World War. And yet, O’Leary seems to think the “evil” idea of rich people paying more in taxes is some communist plot to take his vacation home away.
“I’m very upset. The idea is so foreign!” he whined on national television.
I continue to wonder what producer decided that what the CBC News brand really needed was Donald Trump without the hair and only half the brains.
The full segment below: