Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Perhaps you recall Paul Sullivan's mewling plaint a couple weeks ago about how the rich are barely able to eke their way through life these days. Well, he's back, posturing and pouting at the response he received, as if he truly expected something else. "Gosh, thanks for opening my eyes, Paul! I mean, I got laid off from my job six months ago and haven't been able to find anything, and my ARM just went haywire so I'll probably be living under a bridge by Christmas. But just knowing that somewhere out there is a hard-luck family in Greenwich that might have to keep a more watchful eye on how the trust funds are distributed, that has to hedge their commercial real estate investments because taxes might go up a few points, that's just wrong." Is that what people were supposed to say after wading through that self-serving piffle?

Apparently so, and certainly Steve has already conjured up a perfectly good roaring-populist response, so I won't go there right now. There are a few things worth pointing out, such as the individuals whom Sullivan chose to interview for his follow-up:

Eric Dammann, a Manhattan psychoanalyst

Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist in Hawaii and a co-author of the forthcoming book, “Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health”

Robert Clarfeld, president of the wealth management firm Clarfeld Financial Advisors

William Woodson, managing director at the Family Wealth Management group at Credit Suisse

Lyle LaMothe, head of wealth management in the United States at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Quite a topical cross-section, no? To put it in Simpsons terms, this is like profiling Homer's mindset by interviewing Mr. Burns, Smithers, Rich Texan, and Rainier Wolfcastle. And of course Sullivan, and the bookmaking lackeys he interviews, would rather blame the victims for their unhealthy outlook than admit the possibility that there's a deeper cause for resentment here.

There are millions of people who work at least as hard as the wealthy, and not even get by, much less get ahead. But that's part of life, and most of them, unfortunately, accept that lot. What the peons resent is the lack of accountability on the part of the banksters and their henchmen, the refusal to accept any responsibility for what they've done, and what they expect everyone else to pay for. They played with other people's money (OPM), made stupid bets with it that didn't even work on paper, and then got more OPM to cover those losses and more OPM to play with again. And no new jobs are coming of it, and all they're doing now is re-inflating the previous bubble.

The line from my last column that prompted the most responses was about how the wealthy weren’t sleeping well either. The vitriol in the e-mail showed just how deep the anger against the rich is.

Yet put simply, this is not healthy. After all, if you’re wealthy and no one likes you, you still have lots of money. But if you spend your free time obsessing about the rich, you could end up in worse shape emotionally, personally and financially.

Ah, no. You're the one writing tedious mash notes about the rich, sporto. It just never occurred to you that, in a country where 1% of the population already controls over 40% of the assets, that a majority of the people out there who hear nothing but a giant swirling sound creeping up on their lives don't give a shit about a bunch of trust-fund babies and hedge-fund profiteers.

These swells expect to be absolved because they fund symphonies and scholarships, but the symphonies are basically for themselves, and scholarships just underline the fact that higher education (not to mention textbook publication) is increasingly a scam on par with the health-care system. The implicit threat is that they'll take their ball and go home if the plebes don't give them sufficient respect, and they're bound to do it anyway, if only to preserve their toehold in the vertically-integrated economic strata. The main thing is that they prove to everyone else that they feel no guilt about their XKR, even if it was earned merely by percentage-point diddling and spreadsheet manipulation.

When Paul Sullivan bothers to talk to someone who makes less than $100K/year, then maybe the bewildered herd will take him seriously. I think we all get that (apologies to Upton Sinclair) it is in his interest not to understand that rather obvious idea. But he is being deliberately obtuse if he can't see why his toadying and cheerleading is received with hostility.

1 comment:

Sharkbabe said...

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