The rich truly are different from you and me, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote in The Rich Boy, and their ignorance is dangerous for our country.
The attention on the richest 1% of Americans (actually the one-quarter of the 1%) brought about by their recent public moves to openly take control of the government with massive amounts of spending, has inadvertently revealed how out of touch they are with 99% of Americans and, for that matter, how out of touch they are with reality itself.
The problem originates in the combination of their wealth and their isolation. Their differences from you and me, show up most clearly in the lives they live. It's easy to imagine that you and I would be different, too, if we lived the life described below.
They live to get more money, and as focused, even obsessed, as they are, they're generally good at it. They employ people who can get them more money, and they don't pass a second thinking of ethics or patriotism.
(It should be needless to say, but isn't, so I'll say that not all of the ultra-rich are like this, but it's also clear that these characteristics are very widely shared.)
How Are They Different From You And Me?
With the ability to do anything, buy anything, and go anywhere the only thing that is really outside their control – as long as they keep a low-profile and don't throw their money around in politics – is time.
And they can buy time, to some extent.
They rent people to do the things that common people have to do. The cleaning, cooking, yard work, packing and unpacking, booking trips, and often the driving and piloting, are done by people whose time is less valuable.
People are hired to pay the bills, answer the mail, deal with the staff, manage the money, buy their clothes, figure out how to avoid taxes, do the research on which they base decisions, and keep the bank accounts in order and topped up.
The rich make good use of their time, infrequently watching TV and only occasionally seeing movies in their home theaters. Those things are entertainment distractions for the lower classes, the digital versions of the circuses of ancient Rome. Something to keep the common people busy while the rich go about running the world.
The rich don't regard regular people as significant, perhaps not even quite of the same species. They are detached from them, and their impressions of them are created by the only regular people they encounter: their servants, specialized vendors and senior employees. (Which may be why they get so incensed at people who don't kowtow to them. It's not "right.")
They regard the 99% as unimportant, as "less", as numbers, as things that have, unaccountably and improperly, some money that rightfully belongs to the 1%.
Except on rare occasions you don't meet someone from the true upper class. If it wasn't for the political activism of some of them it's unlikely that the average person would even have heard of them. Who knew the Koch Brothers or Leon Cooperman before they got into politics? (In any big enough group there's always the outlier such as Donald Trump.)
But they know each other. They meet at the venues of the ultra rich – the boardrooms, the charity balls, dinner parties, the cream of the crop country clubs and restaurants and resorts. They're constantly introducing members of their closed club to other members, tightening the circle, circling the wagons, under a strict set of etiquette rules.
They keep to themselves. Their friends and neighbors are other one-percenters. They even interact with the same professionals and tradespeople, the same yatch architects, the same security companies, the same doctors, the same judges.
There is a group of expensive, exclusive resorts. They can be flown there in their private planes so they don't have to mingle with the 99% in airports.
There are exclusive members-only clubs, and exclusive and secluded geographical areas all over the country, all over the world for that matter – not the pretentious gated communities that makes the upper-middle class strivers feel special, but the semi-rural enclaves filled with estates – where the economy consists of builders, security companies, sales people and servants, not to mention city councils and zoning boards which are dependent on fulfilling the wishes of the ultra-rich.
There are often entire small towns nearby (Palm Beach - West Palm Beach) where the facilitators of the rich live.
They socialize with each other. They move in a private world designed by them and their forebearers, which exists and operates only for them, almost as a parallel universe that occupies space in the normal world but is largely unseen.
You can cross off Dixie Cups and Brawny paper towels from your shopping list, but that won't bother the multi-billionaire Koch brothers who operate a company that sells primarily to other companies owned by other members of the ultra rich, as many of the companies of billionaires and mega-millionaires do.
Or they sell to the federal government, like Ross Perot and Halliburton and Bechtel, who, while deriding the federal government, make their billions and millions directly off the taxpaying 99% through government contracts.
There are members of the 1% who founded or own Loctite and New Balance and Home Depot and Coors beer and Papa John's and Domino's Pizza and thousands of other brand names, but the public would be hard pressed to name them or imagine their wealth and would have assumed they were smart, certainly not knowing anything about their political and economic naiveté. Until now. Now they've jumped up and exposed themselves.
Because being rich is the overwhelming factor in their lives they tend to live similar lives.
They shop at stores that are too expensive to be frequented by other classes — some of them are only open by appointment, and appointments are only given to those who can afford their wares. Sometimes the items are brought to them by salespeople – the cloth, the tailor, the designer dress retailer, the shoe makers, all pack up their wares and make appointments at estates. Shirts and shoes and suits are ordered by assistants who keep track of the needs of their masters, based on custom measurements, and are delivered so the rich doesn't have to bother buying socks and underwear and shirts.
They buy snatches of time, extending their lives by living healthier and longer because they have better doctors and clinics. (And, it must be admitted, better will power even if it's only because it's controlled by massive egos.)
They live lives with less mental stress, and never do any physical labor. Not that they let their bodies go. They are in love with themselves, place a very high value on themselves, and so they take good care of their bodies. They floss.
Obituaries for the rich almost always list ages that are beyond the average life expectancy.
The rich don't eat junk foods. They play tennis, work out with trainers, go sailing, eat the best foods prepared by the best cooks, and otherwise make sure that they are in peak physical shape through the duration of their long lives.
When someone is described as having "a soft life" it is literally true for the very rich. Their clothes are softer, their carpets softer, and their linens and upholstery are softer. Everything they touch or that touches them is softer.
Sounds are softer, too. Being very rich means you're rarely exposed to harsh, blaring sounds. No one yells (unless it's at underlings, who can not yell back), no horns blare, no construction equipment growls, and no neighbors play their raucous music too loud. The homes of the rich are isolated and have thick walls. Isolation and thick walls can be a metaphor for their entire lives.
They live an insulted life – insulated from us. The hard edges and rough surfaces of life have also been smoothed and softened by their wealth, so they live the soft life figuratively, too.
The rich travel, but in a class of their own, the First Class, or on private or corporate/private jets or charters belonging to their families or friends or companies. Customs offices sometimes have special agents in special places to quickly ease the rich through official nonsense. Rules and laws are for the lesser classes.
So it is with regular civil and criminal laws. The vast majority of lawyers are Republicans, and many want to be judges. The rich employ them for civil matters, finance their campaigns, and when appointments to higher courts become available they are influential is making those appointments. Should their attorneys lose a civil case they simply appeal higher up until they get a judge from their social family. In that way they seek and receive favorable treatment and outcomes.
Even the weather is also controllable in a way. The rich own more than one house; sometimes as many as five or six residences so they always own a house, with staff available, wherever the weather is best. The rest of us wonder how they can ever have a sense of "home" in a condo or house they visit for a month out of the year, but they often have one large estate as "home", while the other places are "our place in St. Croix" or "our place in Vail."
Those places are there to enjoy and to own and to use as a method of stating their level of wealth among their peers. Besides, "home" (and sometimes even "family", who are regarded as a trained extension of their personality) don't mean the same, or as much, to them as to us.
The very rich place extra attention on comparing themselves to other ultra-rich people because they have so little else in their lives. The insane prices paid for art have little if anything to do with the intrinsic value of a painting, and everything to do with rich people showing off their money to other rich people. They have arbitrarily decided that being on the board of the leading charity, or an important museum, or the symphony is a mark of social standing (they have to have something) and spend millions of dollars and many man-hours of manipulation to achieve those positions.
As isolated as they are, there is no one but each other against which to measure their worth.
They talk about bubble things: who bought what, who married who – almost always marriages within the group because who else do they know? Who else would fit in? The newly rich have to learn an entirely new and rigid set of behavior that is all-encompassing. A faux pas is talked about for weeks.
They also confer with each other, almost exclusively. They tell, brag, about what they are doing and others in their class use the information to make themselves richer. They seek partners for joint ventures from among their closed class, and in that way get richer and make other rich people richer.
They don't like to see their money – their personal money or the money of their class – leak out into the hands of lesser people.
As economist Lester Thurow wrote, "Those of great wealth are important, to be courted. They are deserving of respect and demand deference."And they get it, from the media, from the envious, from those who don't understand how the rich got so rich.
The rich are different, and think of themselves as such, and
Thurow's fawning evaluation is something they take to heart, which nurtures arrogance and a separation from reality.
In order to maintain the fantasy the rich avoid the rest of us. They refer people in their class to others of like status, so that a company CEO wanting to establish, say, a large web presence gets referred to another rich CEO who owns a company that does that. They keep the money in the family. "Contacts" are one of the great financial advantages of being ultra-rich.
And all of this they keep as private as possible. There are always a few exceptions among the truly rich, who make the news, mostly among the young and newly monied, but by and large the public doesn't know who or where they are, and that's fine with them.
A lot of this may sound attractive, and the rich enjoy your envy.
During the Reagan years, the beginning of The Me Generation, the wealthy decided to show off. Stories about great wealth were in every magazine; the television program Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (1984-1995) made the middle-class drool, even though many of the manses and vacation homes were on the show because they were up for sale and the program provided free real estate advertising (much like the "inside looks" at homes of the rich in Architectural Digest and other upscale magazines).
Few ever consider or know what it takes to get that rich.
Now that billionaires and mega-millionaires are exposing themselves through politics, in their ego-driven lust to create the entire country as a world that serves no purposes other than their own, we're seeing that getting rich usually requires no more than an obsession with money, a conscience that borders on the sociopathic, an ego beyond sanity, a willingness to skirt the edges of legality, a lack of ethics, arrogance and plain old luck.
We're also learning that the ultra rich, in large part, don't create anything. Especially jobs. In fact, the Romney style vulture capitalists often destroy jobs in order to enrich themselves. Others, from $2,000,000,000 (two billion) a year hedge fund owners to mega-millionaire Wall Street salesmen, shuffle paper, renaming and "repackaging" money in order to redistribute the wealth from the middle-class into their pockets. They are the supreme "Moochers".
During the Reagan era the public started to learn a little too much about the rich. They appeared to enjoy the adulation at first, then the wiser among them cautioned them and they pulled back into the shadows whenever possible.
During and since the 2012 election, since the U. S. Supreme Court did their bidding in the Citizens United case and vast amounts of money has flowed into political campaigns, they have exposed themselves to a greater degree than before, and it turns out they are insecure, small-minded, thin skinned, ignorant and needy. Not, in fact, an admirable group at all.
Because these things run in cycles if they lose the 2014 elections (unlikely) they will probably retreat back behind their cloaking device. but if the win, their previously reluctant comrades will expose themselves and openly join the public plutocracy.
They have shown themselves too openly, and people are laughing at them. It turns out that they're petty and not so bright. They're not special and unique. But most of all they've been revealed to be clueless and very gullible.
And they're not patriotic. They float in a world above loyalty to country. They like a place where they can make a lot of money, where the masses support them but they don't have to mingle with them, and where their wealth is worshipped. But they'll sell out American jobs to Chinese workers in a heartbeat if it means more money in their pockets.
It turns out that getting a lot of money is a skill best practiced by the money-obsessed, and leaves little time for learning anything else. They appear as shallow and immature, a one-note band, ready to lead the country into a Depression while thinking they're establishing a Neo-Feudal state, with each of them wearing the Crown.
Their political involvement has uncovered them, brought them out of their bubble, showed them as whiners, and rather than being people worthy of respect, they are worthy only of pity.
Isn't politics grand.
A Southerner in Yankeeland