Tim Pawlenty Blurs the Distinction Between an Entrepreneur and a Rentier

By Marshall Auerback

In a private email exchange, Michael Lind of the
New America Foundation drew my attention to a recent speech by Republican Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Like those of us who blog on this site, Pawlenty thinks we need to cut taxes.  But, as Jon Ward at HuffPost argued, Pawlenty’s justification for tax relief “took him into unusual — and scatological — rhetorical territory.” 

Pawlenty said that about five percent of the population belongs to the entrepreneurial class and that “if that five percent become six, seven percent, we’ve got a very bright future. And if that five percent becomes four, three, two or one percent, we’re in deep doo doo. We are in deep crap.”

He’s given away the Rentier mindset.  He talks about “entrepreneurs” but he’s really talking about rentiers.

About 10 percent of the US population is self-employed, the majority of them lawn mowers and such.  Clearly Pawlenty’s tax cuts aren’t aimed at expanding the group of self-employed lawn mowers by one or two percent of the population. He’s talking about expanding the richest few percent.

He’s talking about capitalists, not entrepreneurs.  There’s a certain overlap, but most capitalists are not entrepreneurs and vice versa.  Most capitalists are passive investors in businesses they know nothing about and most entrepreneurs are unable to fund their businesses without borrowing. 

The rentier right wants to blur this distinction, so 2-year-old Junior Moneybags, whose trust fund is earning money while he barfs on the family maid, is an “entrepreneur.”

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