Millionaire businessman John Raese is running on a hard-right “pro-business, anti-regulation and anti-tax platform” as the GOP nominee for a Senate seat from West Virginia. Despite having been rejected by the state’s voters three times — including once for the same Senate seat just four years ago — Raese is hoping to capitalize on the right’s current anti-government hysteria.
A self-described “flamboyant businessman,” Raese enjoys the finer things, owning over 15 cars, boats and motorcycles, and a home in Florida where his family lives full-time. But Raese is humble too, acknowledging that he didn’t earn all of that: “I made my money the old-fashioned way. I Inherited it,” he joked in a recent interview. “I think that’s a great thing to do,” he added.
Indeed, in a separate interview with right-wing radio host Laura Ingrham, Raese credited his grandmother with starting Greer Industries, the steel and limestone producer that he now runs. Raese looks back on the business climate of her era at the turn of the century with great fondness, saying he wishes we had the “opportunity in this country to bring back capitalism in the way my grandmother had” it. Raese bemoans that current regulations mean it “would take a lot more effort” to start his grandmother’s business today than it did at the “turn of the century”:
RAESE: My grandmother. It is what she created and what she did at the turn of the century, it still resonates today, if we would have the opportunity in this country to bring back capitalism in the way my grandmother had those fruits and really enjoyed it. … [C]apitalism the way it should be. [...]
INGRAHAM: Could you grandmother start her business empire today, in this climate?
RAESE: Well, it would be a long long time to do it, and a lot of expensive permits to do it, but knowing my grandmother, she could do it. But it would take a lot more effort that it would at the turn of the century.
Of course, while rolling back a century of labor, environmental, and civil rights regulations might make it easier for Raese, it would be absolutely disastrous for every working American. “Capitalism the way it should be,” as Raese dubbed it, included regular use of child labor, widespread repression of organized labor, virtually zero regulations on workplace safety or fairness — including racial and gender discrimination– and unchecked environmental degradation. “At the beginning of the century, workers in the United States faced remarkably high health and safety risks on the job,” a Center for Disease Control history stated, noting the “large decreases in work-related deaths from the high rates and numbers of deaths among workers during the early 20th century.”
Regardless of whether Raese is actually advocating a return to 1900, warts and all, his nostalgic remembrance of the era reflects a larger conservative attempt to discredit the progressive reforms of the last century that made this country stronger and more equitable.