By William Urban
Old-timers will remember reading Little Orphan Annie, a regular in the Sunday comics everywhere for many, many years. I could never follow the plot line, which seems to begin anew each week, but it had one thread that never varied: Annie was in trouble and Daddy Warbucks was about to get her out of it. Next week. I rarely found out how.
The origins of Daddy Warbucks seem to lie in public anger against the "merchants of death", who in 1924 were widely held responsible for getting the United States into World War One. It had only taken half a decade before "the War to End All Wars" and the War against Militarism to become a capitalist plot to make millions. (Millions — the dollar was worth a lot more in those days.) But that hardly fit a man who would care for a homeless red-headed child and her dog, so the name was kept, but its negative origins were never mentioned again.
Today the Orphan Annies of America have a new Daddy Warbucks. His name is George Soros. He is not the richest man in the world — being only worth nine billion dollars and change — but he is widely disliked and widely admired. He is disliked in those quarters where he made his money — in 1992 he "broke the bank of England" by betting against the pound, in the late 1990s he wrecked the economies of several Asian countries by currency manipulation. He is, you see, the most skilled currency speculator in the world. And if you want to know the future of the American dollar, you would do well to talk to George Soros.
On the plus side of the ledger, everyone who lost money to him did so because of unwise financial policies. They set themselves up to be taken, and he took them.
George Soros did not become super-rich by being a philanthropist. Escaping penniless from Hungary, he made his initial money the hard way, then put together funds that multiplied the impact of his own savings. Daddy Warbucks had done the same. Both were self-made men, and both had a deep interest in protecting the public and the democratic process.
This made George Soros a major player in the anti-Communist movement. While western governments were often paralyzed by their leftist or pacifist factions, Soros put money into pro-democracy groups; after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he funded the establishment of the European university system that provided high quality, low cost alternatives to the national universities.
He became a player in American politics, too. He believes that our war on drugs has failed utterly, creating chaos in Colombia, Mexico and other places, while making drug lords and dealers here wealthy; police have been corrupted, gangs have taken over neighborhoods, and our youth have become cynical. Opposing the war that overthrew Saddam Hussein, he put money into the efforts to defeat Bush in 2004. He is currently funding Moveon.com and other anti-Bush, anti-Republican movements.
In the way that reality has of bringing out contradictions, we see many Americans denouncing the role of great wealth in our politics, decrying the use of money to destroy communities and countries, and muttering about secret groups that are manipulating us. Rarely is the name of George Soros mentioned.
The bottom line seems to be — our rich guys are good, yours are bad. Who cares how Daddy Warbucks earned his money? We are the Orphan Annies of the world, and we need rescuing.
Monmouth Review Atlas (August 7, 2008), 4.