In defence of the 1%: US tycoon urges staff to vote out Obama
Timeshare boss David Siegel explains why his staff owe their livelihoods to his hard work and dedication
CREEPING ahead in the polls after his victory in the first of the televised debates, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has received another vote of confidence in the shape of a bizarre email sent by the flamboyant multi-millionaire David Siegel to his 7,000-strong staff.
Siegel, owner of the timeshare giant Westgate Resorts, one of the world's biggest resort developers, was careful not to say 'Vote Romney'. But he made it abundantly clear to his employees that if they hope to keep their jobs they should vote Barack Obama out of office.
Siegel and his wife Jackie, 30 years his junior, were recently the subject of the award-winning documentary The Queen of Versailles, telling the story of the couple's bid to build a 90,000 square feet palace, the most expensive single-family home ever built in the States, in the teeth of the recession.
Despite telling Reuters in July that "we're the most profitable we've ever been", Siegel used the email, sent out on Monday, to moan about being "demonised" as a member of the super-rich one per cent by the Obama administration and to boast of the sacrifices he made to build up his company and give his employees the livelihoods they now enjoy.
Gawker.com has received confirmation from Siegel that his "truly amazing" email is authentic. Here is an edited version:
To All My Valued Employees,
In spite of all of the challenges we [at Westgate Resorts] have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another four years of the same presidential administration.
Of course, as your employer, I can't tell you whom to vote for... However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.
The current administration and members of the press have perpetuated an environment that casts employers against employees. They want you to believe that we live in a class system where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. They label us the "1%" and imply that we are somehow immune to the challenges that face our country.
This could not be further from the truth. Sure, you may have heard about the big home that I'm building. However, what you don't see or hear is the true story behind any success that I have achieved.
I started this company over 42 years ago. At that time, I lived in a very modest home. I converted my garage into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. We didn't eat in fancy restaurants or take expensive vacations because every dollar I made went back into this company... Even to this day, every dime I earn goes back into this company.
Just think about this – most of you arrive at work in the morning and leave that afternoon and the rest of your time is yours to do as you please. But not me - there is no "off" button for me. I eat, live, and breathe this company every minute of the day, every day of the week. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour.
I know many of you work hard and do a great job, but I'm the one who has to sign every check, pay every expense, and make sure that this company continues to succeed.
Now, the economy is falling apart and people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn't. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for.
Unfortunately, the costs of running a business have gotten out of control, and let me tell you why: We are being taxed to death and the government thinks we don't pay enough. We pay state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, sales and use taxes, payroll taxes, workers compensation taxes and unemployment taxes. I even have to hire an entire department to manage all these taxes.
The question I have is this: Who is really stimulating the economy? Is it the Government that wants to take money from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not, or is it people like me who built a company out of his garage and directly employs over 7,000 people and hosts over 3 million people per year with a great vacation?
Obviously, our present government believes that taking my money is the right economic stimulus for this country. The fact is, if I deducted 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, that's what happens to me.
Here is what most people don't understand and the press and our Government has chosen to ignore – to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Instead of raising my taxes and depositing that money into the Washington black-hole, let me spend it on growing the company, hire more employees, and generate substantial economic growth. My employees will enjoy the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries.
Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate business, not kill it. However, the power brokers in Washington believe redistributing wealth is the essential driver of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth.
So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.
So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn't? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job.
I can no longer support a system that penalises the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.
Signed, your boss,
- For a full-length version of Siegel's email, visit Gawker.com