The Wealthy Cry
Yesterday’s Paul Krugman piece in the New York Times references an amazing article that was published in New York Magazine last year.
“The Wail of the 1%” details the beginning of the prolonged tantrum being thrown by the parasites on Wall Street over having part of their bonuses taken away. This, in light of the taxpayers bailing them out to the tune of billions of dollars.
These are not people who are about to be homeless, or facing medical bills they cannot pay. They do, however, possess a hubristic sense of entitlement — and are ready to go to war for their “principles.”
A typical expression of outrage from the Wall Street set?
“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.
The condescension toward working Americans is choice. Read the article. It’s incredible.
They felt picked on and embarrassed at the looks they got when wearing their expensive suits in public.
They were outraged and betrayed that the former Wall Street executives in Obama Administration didn’t go to bat for them.
Another passage that illustrates the mindset:
The argument that Obama has in fact done a great deal to help Wall Street—to the tune of trillions of dollars—doesn’t have much truck with these critics. “If you really take a look at what Obama is promising, it’s frightening,” says Nicholas Cacciola, a 44-year-old executive at a financial-services firm. “He’s punishing you for doing better. He doesn’t want to have any wealth creation—it’s wealth distribution. Why are you being punished for making a lot of money?” As a Republican corporate lawyer puts it: “It’s the politics of envy, and that’s very dangerous.”
Great argument. Wealth creation. So, if you follow that logic, since these giants of moving paper around in shadowy markets made inordinate amounts of cash, we should all be doing great, right? After giving the bankers billions of taxpayer dollars, the level of gratitude is amazing.
Now, Krugman writes, this chutzpah has spread outside of Wall Street:
For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.
At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.
The popular sentiment is that “it’s my money, and I have the right to keep it”. Oh, and they deny they are rich, despite annual salaries of $400,000 to $500,000.
There’s no sense that taxes are the price to pay for all the infrastructure and stability that allows them to ply their trade.
So, when you hear their fevered complaints of class warfare, remember that they are on the ones bringing it. To keep things in perspective, ponder this: The whiners are winning.
Update: Robert Reich has a post from yesterday about framing this debate: “The Defining Issue: Who Should Get the Tax Cut – The Rich or Everyone Else?”
It’s a winning issue for Democrats, and it makes good economic sense:
The rich spend a far smaller portion of their money than anyone else because, hey, they’re rich. That means continuing the Bush tax cut for them wouldn’t stimulate much demand or create many jobs.
The rest is well worth reading.
- Op-Ed Columnist: The Angry Rich (nytimes.com)
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