A Billionaire Mind in Action

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Jim Justice has had a rough seven months. He took his (kind of vague) ideas to the West Virginia Legislature and they told him “no,” then they told him “no way,” and finally they said: “hell no!” Big Jim hung in there a while. He threw budget plans up on whiteboards, he held press conference after press conference, and he called our legislators every name in the book. But in the end they gave him nothing. When all was said and done and the budget passed, Governor Justice refused to sign it, insisting it had nothing to do with him.

Billionaires expect to get their way.

That’s how they live. See, at the Greenbrier, Jim’s the boss. His employees treat him real nice. When he says “jump,” they jump. When he gives an order, it’s “yes sir, Mr. Justice sir, and thank you so much.” Why would he think being governor was any different? How else has he lived, but as a boss?

But reality is different. You could see it wearing on Jim when he called the legislators’ votes “despicable,” or when he said those who disagreed with him must want to “throw [the people] out in the cold and let them die,” or when he called his fellow elected politicians “dumb.” You could really tell he was out of sorts when he asked one of his servants to obtain actual bull s*** ,so he could make a spectacle of himself, and our state, by displaying it on a silver platter at the Capitol.

Billionaires expect to get their way; and when they don’t, they get kind of ugly.

Jim got angry at the House Democrats that didn’t vote for his ideas — which had to do with raising taxes on regular people to fund tax cuts for rich people like himself. Even the Republicans were on board, so why wouldn’t his employees (that’s what he thought the Democrats were) go along? They must be stupid!
If they were actual Jim Justice employees, he’d have fired them. But someone must have told Jim he couldn’t do that. So big Jim lashed out in the harshest way he could think of — I mean, he got really, really tough with the Democrats, tough in ways only a born-rich billionaire knows how to be tough. He told the Democrats, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore. I’m going to go be the Republicans’ friend now and be friends with President Trump too!”

When billionaires get ugly and then tough, they really let you have it.

So the short romance between some Democrats and the billionaire coal baron ended, and Jim became a Republican again. He probably thought they’d throw him a parade (I mean, someone should be throwing him a parade, right?) He sort of got one in Huntington when President Trump let him talk to his big rally about how he changed his mind and now he is a Republican after all, and wouldn’t things be swell since he’s was back among his friends, ready to show those Democrats that they had better vote for his (kind of poorly-thought-out) ideas next time around?

Well, then he met with the actual Republicans. Senate President Mitch Carmichael is a Republican and so is House Speaker Tim Armstead. They had some things to say to Jim Justice about his application to be their new best friend. Armstead was the most direct. He said he was a Republican back when Reagan was President, and Justice better get with the Republican program, or he’d be just making a change “on paper.” Read Armstead’s statement. It ain’t exactly “hail, Caeser!”

Carmichael met with Jim and told the newspaper that Jim talked about his “bitterness at House Democrats for not backing a proposal to raise the state sales tax while lowering income tax rates” and that “[i]t was more of just a rah-rah session.” Wow. A kingly welcome for Carmichael’s new friend and governor. Jim was probably a little shocked.

Is any of this billionaire behavior beginning to sound familiar?

The West Virginia Republicans are desperate to control the governor’s mansion. It is a powerful position. If Jim had a plan, and needed votes for a bill thought should pass, he could have negotiated for it in advance, and walked into the Republican Party as a conqueror, ready to call a special session, enact his plan and declare victory for the people. But he didn’t think that far ahead. He quit the Democratic Party because he was mad, and walked into the Republican Party with nothing.

I don’t write fan letters to Republicans. But they are obviously no fools, and they see the incredible political weakness on display. Carmichael and Armstead treated Jim like a beggar at their door, because that’s what he is. Speaker Armstead made it clear his caucus didn’t plan to move an inch to accommodate him. For good measure, Senator Shelley Capito emphasized that she was the top Republican in this state, so Jim would be sure to remember that. Even Conrad Lucas (who Jim has probably never heard of, which is no knock on Conrad), condescended grandiosely to the governor about “forgiveness” for Justice’s past “transgressions.”

Maybe the mere company of his fellow billionaire Donald Trump for a night in Huntington makes up for all this humiliation. Billionaires — they aren’t like you and me, so it’s hard for us to know. But Justice now governs between a party he betrayed on the one hand, and one that doesn’t like him, or want him, or care about him one bit, on the other.

Of course, Jim and Donald both inherited millions, and have since made much more — they’ll be okay. But they’re both silver spooners who seem to need to act like they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. They campaigned saying fixing the problems would be easy (once they were elected). Now they both hold high office, but nothing is fixed. Their primary product seems to be excuses. Democrats, Republicans, bureaucrats, the media — it’s everyone else’s fault, but theirs.

Billionaires think differently than regular people. We’ll never understand.

But back here in reality, West Virginians now face 41 months with a governor of the opposite party from the one they elected. America faces 41 more months of a Trump presidency that appears to be going nowhere good, but maybe getting there fast. It’s wise these days to stay out of the prediction business. But I think before these next 41 months are over, most people will have had real second thoughts about turning our government over to these guys who say it will all be easy, because they have such smart minds, and because everyone else, besides them, is so stupid.

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