Lifestyles of the rich and clueless

Posted: December 8, 2007 in clueless, power, silly, wealth

In case you were looking for a story that will inspire absolutely no sympathy, look no further. This week’s Newsweek has the ultimate:

Ah, the Secluded Life

We should all have such problems. The world’s plutocracy were already becoming increasingly isolated from the “rest of us”, and now they’re back to doing it intentionally.

It used to be that the rich tried to pass themselves off as being “regular guys”. We all knew it was bullshit, but at least the pretense was nice to see. Now they’re not even trying. Rich bitches like Paris Hilton flaunt their wealth and uselessness, CEOs of lending companies abscond with millions while their corporations implode, leaving the “regular joes” to pay the consequences. And now they’re buying into gated, guarded communities populated only by their fellow plutocrats. They shop, dine, and do pretty much everything privately, or at least comfortably sequestered well away from the real world.

I don’t see how this can be a good thing. Separation leads to division, which leads to envy and strife. The further they distance themselves from the “common” people, the less likely they are to be sympathetic to their needs. The rise of these wealthy “members-only” communities will only exacerbate the problems of class and poverty the world has today.

I can understand how it would be difficult to relate, when your net worth is in the hundreds of millions, to someone making $20 an hour. And I can certainly understand how it would be difficult for a CEO making $1.5 billion annually to look his secretary in the eye when the salary difference is probably four decimal places. But I don’t think the answer is to return to the robber-baron capitalism of the 1920’s. What we really need is a more reasonable distribution of wealth.

I’m not talking about Marxism or socialism. Neither of those systems worked very well – there will always be the social elite who think they deserve a bigger slice of the pie than anyone else, and have the political and social clout to get it. In other words, to paraphrase Jesus, the rich will always be with us, whether we want them or not.

No, I’m talking about an attitudinal shift. Those who occupy the stratospheric layers of society need to change their outlook from the current “I’ve got mine and screw the rest of you” to something more socially responsible. After all, they may have the wealth, but chances are very good it was the work of thousands of much lower-paid people who made their lifestyles possible. For every multi-million dollar CEO there are thousands of middle- and lower- income workers struggling to pay the bills and find affordable health insurance.

The economic conditions of today, especially in the United States, are almost identical to those of the 1920’s, or even pre-Revolution Russia. We have a wealthy, detached, selfish and basically useless corporate aristocracy, a struggling but losing middle class, and a near-permanent underclass. We all know how that worked out. 70 years of tyranny in Russia, and a complete economic crash in 1929.

The next crash will be spectacular in its ferocity and destructiveness. The first signs have already been happening – the housing bubble, rising gas prices, foreclosures, spiraling consumer debt – and the effects are only beginning to be felt. It’s only a matter of time before even the super-wealthy can’t hide from the country’s problems.

Pride goes before a fall. And we Americans have been very, very proud.



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