Posted by: Jim | September 21, 2007

Movin’ On Up!

Good times for the very very rich. The collective net worth of the nation’s mightiest plutocrats rose $290 billion to $1.54 trillion.

Read about it here.

Or, cry your eyes out here.

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Responses

  1. I don’t get it. What’s the prob? “The rich” are usually as such because they have more talent when it comes to making profits in business.

    I guess I don’t feel the anger because of my personal political views, but I understand why others are pissed off at the mega-rich. This comment is poorly worded, but I think you get the idea.

    -Tommy

  2. You surprise me, Tommy — that’s the sort of naivete I would expect from ol’ Todd, not you.

    The rich are usually as such for a LOT of factors, including but not limited to:

    1) Being born into it
    2) Getting a big leg up by being connected to the right people in some other way — i.e.; your dad’s college chum is a senator
    3) Being born into it
    4) Having incredibly good looks (luck of nature)
    5) Having the “talent” to game the system and use people to your advantage
    6) Being willing to do anything for money, regardless of the ethical implications
    7) Being egotistical and self-absorbed and ruthless
    8) Being born into it
    9) Marrying into it
    10) Stealing — usually of the ‘legal’ variety
    11) Having a great idea that subsequently sells
    12) Working hard, then getting lucky, and not realizing you got lucky so you claim to be self-made
    13) Being at the right place at the right time
    14) Being really really smart in a way that happens to coincide with a current trend or a need unfulfilled (see #12 and #10)
    15) Did I mention being born into it?

    * ‘Born into it’ includes not only the children of the rich, but also the children of smart middle class folks who are prescient enough to send you to the right schools and instill the values that turn into the ‘talent’ to succeed. Maybe you’re personally worthy of it in the end; maybe you’re not, but you still got the leg up that many of your classmates — or kids born in the ghetto — didn’t get. But you probably won’t see it that way. And therein lies the problem.

    I believe it was Andrew Carnegie who said, “there are no self-made men.” For you or your family to be successful, there was a long line of people who worked in factories for poverty wages because they had no choice. There is an entire society that toils to make — and buy — your widgets or whatever. And in seeing this, Carnegie became a great philanthropist and believed strongly in giving back — replenishing the soil, as it were.

    With a few notable exceptions here and there, today’s rich are generally insulated from the civilization that makes their wealth possible, and they usually see no connection between them and the lowly factory worker, who is easily replaced by another.

    They don’t see, as Carnegie (and Henry Ford, among others) did, that the success of a NATION depends not on the wealth of a few, but on the overall well-being of the many.

    So it’s not that ‘we’ hate the rich — in fact, we have a strange love/hate relationship with them, as most Americans strive to be counted among them. But most will fail, and not for lack of trying, but for lack of foresight — and hindsight — on the part of those who think somehow God Himself blessed them with riches because they are so fucking superior.

    The French did not rise up and behead The King and The Bourgeoise because they were rich. They killed them because they dined on caviar while their subjects starved. It’s not the wealth that mattered; it was the stunning disparity between unimaginable wealth and all-too-imaginable poverty. This is a lesson that should be understandable to even the most staunch Conservative — and in fact it apparently is, as they lock themselves away in gated communities for fear of the eventual descension into poverty of what’s left of the lower middle class, and the backlash that they know will inevitably come from their blatant excess in the face of others’ suffering.

    Too bad they’re learning the wrong lesson.

    * * *

  3. Bri – I am not sure which lesson is the ‘wrong lesson’ you refer to.

    I agree that many of the rich are born in to it as you say but I do not think that is the exclusive way to become rich. The American Dream implies that anyone with the willingness to work hard and take a chance upon themselves has the potential to succeed.

    The working hard part happens for most Americans. They show up for work on time and go home when their shift is over. They work hard. But do they sacrifice to get ahead…go to college, work a few extra hours, volunteer for responsibility at work, learn English?

    Taking a chance on yourself is where most do not succeed in fulfilling the American dream. Many small entrepeneurs fail every year for a variety of reasons but at least they took a chance on themselves. They were willing to risk their financial stability, work the extra hours and bet on themselves and sometimes the bet pays off. They were not born into it.

    Now not all American defines the dream as being wealthy, although most do based on lottery ticket sales. I am willing to bet though that most self made individuals do not buy lottery tickets, they worked too hard for their success and understand the value of the sacrifices they made. I also agree that luck plays a part in every succesful business venture.

    While I agree with your post in many ways Bri, it comes across as negative and that the rich have the wealth handed to them through familial ties or luck. I beleive there is a lot more work and sacrifice made by the wealthy to achieve that wealth then you are giving credit for.

    I believe working hard and believing in yourself is a great lesson to learn.

  4. If you click here: http://www.forbes.com/lists/2007/54/richlist07_John-Abele_111R.html

    You can scroll through and see how many of the Forbes 400 are actually “self made.” It’s practically all of the dozen or so that I’ve scrolled through. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t group up “with means.” It would be interesting to find out how many of them truly grew up with nothing.

    But the point of the post wasn’t to disparage the rich, as any of us would get rich if we could. The point was to say that the rich are getting richer. I’m implying we have a corporate-friendly administration who helps the wealthy class.

  5. OK; so we’ve established that at least 15 of the Forbes 400 weren’t born into wealth. Of course, they could have been born into any of the other situations I described that gave them an advantage, but we won’t likely know without any deep research, and who wants to bother with that? Hey — just having parents who care enough to send you to college, and can afford to pay for it, is an advantage — and these days that’s a critical advantage. But find me someone on the Forbes list who was born in a housing project in Detroit and managed to claw their way out, and that will still be just one out of 400. And besides, even THAT guy had help at some point, whether it was a sports scholarship or something set up by some unusually enlightened rich guy who realized we’re all connected. Like I said, there have been some of them — they just don’t appear to be the majority. Like the song says, money changes everything.

    And I’ll say it again: NOBODY is ‘self-made’. Leave a baby on the sidewalk and see if it survives by itself.

    MY point was not to disparage the rich either; it was to expound upon the implied meaning of the original post — which was that, as the rich get richer, the rest of us get poorer. My addition was to say that money, like power, blinds and corrupts — and in a world where some yakov in Bel Aire has three Ferraris just because he can, there should be nobody anywhere starving. And if there is, then something’s wrong.

    And fuck that ‘invisible hand’ crap. We can all see the hand, and it’s a fist. With one finger raised.

    Those of you who worship at the cult of wealth and power, who fall all over yourselves to defend people who would watch you drown because they didn’t feel like removing their $800 loafers, are just fooling yourselves. You are the cogs in their machine, and the fact that you don’t see it just makes it all that much more ironic.

    * * *

  6. “But the point of the post wasn’t to disparage the rich, as any of us would get rich if we could.”

    I do not want to be rich. However, for many in our consumer societies, to be rich = to be successful. And yes, I would like to be successful. But money is not how I measure this. When I had my short story published in the Granta anthology this year, I got $800, not a lot, but nevertheless, I felt I had scored a major success. That feeling is what I want to repeat and dreams of having lots and lots of money do not figure in any of my plans. I don’t mind having to work to get by, because I am always going to work anyway.

    One change that has come with age is that I would see a beautiful sports car and think “I want one” – whereas now I think, “Wow, I’d like to have a drive in one of those” – that’s what appeals to me now, the experience, rather than the fact of possessing something.

  7. My anecdotal experience with people that have money- say a net worth of several to tens of millions dollars- is that of theses many millionaires I know personally, I only know one that has inherited their wealth, and this dude is a kick ass businessman that has is also well known in Kansas City for his charity work. All of the others come from humble middle-class backgrounds (and one is a former gang-banger from Miami) and have both have a nose for business and have earned their money working 18+ hours a day for years and years building their personal empires. Sure most are Type-A assholes and asshloettes, but they are willing to make the sacrifice, and that sacrifice and talent is rewarded. Most of us are not willing or able to make that kind of commitment. And most of us do not have the talent to achieve anything other than comfortable mediocrity. So what?

    To speak on the issue of sports and entertainment stars, the same applies. These people probably work harder than anybody, with the possible exception of drug-dealers.

    I don’t know any of the blue-blood American aristocracy, so I can’t comment on that.

    -T

  8. For the record, I believe the term “asshole” is gender neutral. 😉

  9. And I should add, the term “asshole” can help in some grammatical quandaries.

    For example, if you’re ending a sentence with a preposition, you can always say, “Your time is up, asshole.” It removes all ambiguity.

    Sorry for the diversion.

  10. Thanks for the tip, Jim. I was going to write “power-suit corporate dominatrice,” but I was trying to be politically correct 😉

    -Tommy


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