A Special Request for Margo Howard

Are we living in a new age of robber barons? Our esteemed columnist sounds off

I received the following letter from a reader, which I felt compelled to respond to at length. I’ll be interested in hearing your reactions:

Dear Margo: “This is not about your ‘Dear Margo’ column. I was hoping you would write your thoughts on wowOwow.com about the economy —  not as an economist or columnist, but as a person of means, and as someone who also works for a living when you don’t need the income.

Do you think we are in the new age of robber barons? Are the CEOs and CFOs of billion dollar companies fundamentally corrupt and without moral fiber? Is the deciding factor individual greed? Does their leadership justify their salary, bonus, and perks? Is the exception Warren Buffett, and the rule Bernie Madoff? Are fortunes in the hundreds of millions of dollars a threat to the middle class?

The reason I’m asking is that the few wealthy people I know believe it to have been their actions alone that brought them all that money. They feel entitled, though for the most part they are trust fund babies. With all the hype, and being of limited resources myself, I don’t know what to believe. So I’m asking you: Is too big to fail too big to exist? — Sincerely, Bill Myers

Dear Bill: Good that you don’t want me to write as an economist, because I am not one … but I knew what you meant. Where to start? This very well could be the new age of robber barons, probably ushered in by the tech boom. I am old enough to remember when being a millionaire was to be considered quite rich. I have also been floored (like you, I imagine) to see so very many identified as “billionaires.” And for reasons I find unfathomable, some of these Daddy Warbucksian characters have no qualms about publicizing that “mine is bigger than yours.”

Birthday parties, for example. Steve Schwarzman comes to mind with his multimillion dollar birthday party. I have never met him or his wife, but I would not consider them desirable friends. Would I seem Victorian if I said I thought them vulgar? I find their display of … everything … to be nouveau riche in spades. (Schwarzman’s wife, by the way, previously dated Henry Kravis, suggesting, at least to me, that she had her heart set on a certain lifestyle.) Lloyd Blankfein is another one who comes to mind. I don’t know Schwarzman’s background, but it has been reported that Blankfein came from nothing – which shows – and perhaps explains the (misguided) instinct to buy, overdo, and flaunt. Interestingly, I know one of the Rockefeller cousins well, and one thing I have always admired about her (and she worked, by the way) is that there was never an effort to be in-your-face about her financial wherewithal. But there was also no need to. I probably have particular antipathy to Blankfein for both the uber-conspicuous consumption he and his wife indulge in, along with some of his statements during the investigation into Goldman Sachs. The very best one was that “he was just a banker doing God’s work.” I would say, “That’s rich,” but it would seem too punny in this context. I am wondering how you get to be a person who even thinks like that. Maybe what he meant to articulate was that money was his god? And not to go all John Simon on you, but he physically reminds me of a lawn ornament … which might explain his insecurities and his need to feel important – which many people these days equate with “rich.”

You ask if these lucky (and I believe often accidental) billionaires are “corrupt and without moral fiber.” I would say they are “morally corrupt,” with the help of their hand-picked boards, because they are grossly overpaid, and often for failing. Their golden parachutes, which really should be renamed platinum and diamond-studded farewell balloons, are a disgrace. Many of these top guns are essentially being paid for failing. It is called “failing up.”

There are remarkably few innovators in the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs mold among the fabulously wealthy. The idea that the Goldman Sachs guys and their ilk could rake it in on derivatives that they knew were dicey drek is beyond appalling. One might even call it criminal – an idea the Justice Department is pursuing. You ask if this is greed. Well, it’s greed plus. When you’ve made a certain amount of money, it becomes a game. My father told me this in the 1960s when he sold Budget Rent-a-car to Transamerica. When you’re making way more than you need to live, and live well, you are playing a game, and the money is how you keep score. I do think this kind of funny money is deleterious to the middle class. (Paul Newman, referring to movie business salaries, also out of this world, referred to it as “fuck-you money.” It is so out of proportion that it loses all meaning.)

We are getting to the point where there may be no middle class. I think it is bad public policy, if you will, when the 1% are living an entirely different life than the 99%. There is something new, different and bad going on that is unlike what used to be the norm with “regular” rich people and those on the rung below.

I disagree with you about “trust fund babies.” Today’s big rich have some of those (i.e., the Koch Brothers) but most of the billionaires positioned themselves, either on Wall Street or in real estate, to make it … and often, I believe, by nefarious means. I didn’t used to, but now I think Balzac nailed it when he said, “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” And some trust funders, like Ted Turner, to name but one, started with a large inheritance and increased it a hundred fold. The friends you mention who believe their fortunes accrued through their own actions are in many cases rationalizing – because it would be too emotionally harmful to think of things any other way. Who, after all, wants to acknowledge his wealth by saying, “Thanks, Dad?”

So to your question, is too big to fail too big to exist? I would say the thrust of the question is on the money. (Sorry, again, for an infelicitous phrase.) What’s going on now (i.e., the “Occupy” movements worldwide) will change some basic structures: compensation, among them. It seems that things as they have become finally reached a boiling point, and let us hope the revolution is an orderly one. — Margo, earnestly

45 comments so far.

  1. avatar normadesmond says:

    sounds right to me.

  2. avatar Grace OMalley says:

    While I don’t always agree with every column you post, I have to say that I admire the hell out of you for being so brutally honest.  People may not always agree with your politics, but they can’t fault you for being truthful.  I tip my hat to you Margo.

  3. avatar B.eadle says:

    I agree and disagree. Are the salaries of some of these folks WAY WAY WAY out of line for failure? Absolutely!!! I also know that those people don’t decide on their own salaries. That decision is discussed and voted upon by the Boards of Directors of these various companies. Board members are elected by the shareholders of public companies. They are the ones that should be getting the brunt of all this ill will. They shouldn’t offer up these huge contracts to begin with.

    I disagree, however, with your stance that having a huge party is in some way immoral. While it certainly may seem to be in poor taste, as long as they have the money to pay for it then they should go right ahead and do so. So many of our economic problems were because credit was extended to individuals and corporations that could NOT afford it. If I have a billion dollars and I throw a $5 million dollar party so what. I’m paying my bills and covering costs myself, without a government handout.

    There is also something to be said for taking responsibility for positioning yourself well. Before choosing that underwater basket weaving major in college, maybe you should look around and see if you’re going to be able to afford food on the salary that job is going to get you. I have a regular job, with an average salary in the back office of a company that employs some pretty well of folks. But I don’t resent them for having studied and worked hard in fields that paid more. They positioned themselves well to do well right from the start. If they were smart enough to do that, why should I hold it against them? Most of them didn’t have silver spoon childhoods. They went to local colleges, some of them to state schools. But they selected a course of study that would be in demand and that paid well. If I’m going to be mad at anyone, maybe I should be mad at myself for not following in their footsteps.

    • avatar carol grzonka says:

      since when? most of these big businesses are functioning on government money. whether it was a diectt bailout, huge tax breaks for creating and maintaining jobs (which they promptly outsourced) or importing people from foreign countries via special visas.  i don’t think you can even discount the starvation wages that are being paid so that people have to access gov’t resources for basic survival needs.

  4. avatar Yvonne Faye says:

    Finally, the truth…not the lie.

  5. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Certainly the super rich are totally out of touch with what it takes the rest of us to survive but I don’t think you really have to be all that rich, not to have a clue.  I live in an inner city, working class neighborhood best described as “Little pink houses for you and me” as in the John Mellencamp song.  My brother and his wife live about 20 miles west, in a suburb where the houses are on acre lots.  My sister-in-law recently remarked on how the folks out there really aren’t feeling any pain.  The current economic troubles are just not in their experience and so they don’t have any sympathy.  In my neighborhood, we all have friends and family who are out of work, lost their houses and we all are very fearful, waiting for the next tide to take us away.  Many of us have always lived on the edge of disaster and now see whatever promise of a safety net being blithely yanked away by those who don’t need any help.  I believe that we are seeing only the beginning of political unrest in this nation and unless the haves start to care out the have nots, many of whom used to be comfortably middle class, things will get much rougher in the near future.  Fearful people do fearful things.  Next summer could be very long and hot.

  6. avatar chipgiii says:

    The reason I’m asking is that the few wealthy people I know believe it to have been their actions alone that brought them all that money. They feel entitled, though for the most part they are trust fund babies. With all the hype, and being of limited resources myself, I don’t know what to believe. So I’m asking you: Is too big to fail too big to exist?— Sincerely, Bill Myers

    Wealthy people haven’t corned the market on feeling “entitled.”  That permeates all classes. 
    Many tend to take too much credit for their success, and not enough for their failures.  Perhaps that is just human nature. 

    Those making obscene amounts of money, including Warren Buffett, are rarely worried about the same day-to-day struggles as the rest of us.  I doubt Buffett wakes up wondering if he will be able to make the car payment at the end of the month. 

    And the recent 60 minute interview with the author of Steve Job’s biographer clearly shows that Jobs was a bit of a tyrant in his own right.  Perhaps he didn’t live as a billionaire, but he certainly wasn’t the most warm and fuzzy person either.  Just ask the garage partner he had who Jobs refused to give any stock…. 

    Hollywooders often make obscene amounts of money too: 20 million for a movie made in a few short months?  That’s kinda nice.  And yet they seem to get a pass, as do some very wealthy atheletes.  In fact, the only obscene rich people are those we don’t like politically, or don’t know.  Of course, everyone is leading the “hate the wall street gang.”  I’ve often wondered what people in hollywood think of huge amounts of money they receive for “pretending” to be someone important; or what a ball player thinks of his income for hitting a ball with a stick? 

    Meanwhile most of us fortunate enough to have a job are often doing things much more important than pretending, or hitting a ball. 

    The top 1% certainly live differently than the other 99% – but then the bottom 1% do too.

  7. avatar Lila says:

    Margo, I agree. You touched on several of my peeves, including obscene money for “failing up.” I don’t see why we pay these goons $40 million or so to run a bank into the ground. I mean – I could do it cheaper than that!

    The Bush tax cuts were patently unfair in that they deprived this country of significant tax revenue during the exact same period we have been engaged in two major wars. the supposed reasoning at the time was that – among other things – if the rich had more capital freed up, they would generate jobs and feed the economy. HA! What tripe that has proved to be. In addition to the ultra-rich feeling an often undeserved sense of entitlement, they also see no need to “give back” in the form of taxes, despite the fact that our country and our business environment made their success – or continued income – possible. And then on top of that, there is the class of ultra-rich who have made millions off of losing other people’s money; not just the Madoff scam but all kinds of failed investments, bad loans, and underwater mortgages as well. This pretty much describes parasites, doesn’t it? Thriving at the expense of others?

    We are not quite to French-Revolution status yet but the natives are getting restless. And this kind of inequity between the have-alls and the have-nothings is EXACTLY what brought down the French nobility.

  8. avatar Deeliteful says:

    I have been rich and I have been poor – rich is better. Who can deny that?

    Here’s my position. I grew up lower middle class, but didn’t know that until I was older. I thought my family was average. My father was blue-collar and my mother was a homemaker. We had enough to eat and clothes to wear. My parents saved all year for a 2 weeks vacation for us. I never felt deprived.

    I grew up, went to college, went to work and then got married. My husband and I worked hard. We exceeded our parents in income in mere years of what it took our parents to acheive. That’s part of the American dream. right?

    We had a child. We continued to build our future. Hubby far exceeded our parents’ dreams. Never once did we forget or take for granted our blessings. Thru no fault of ours we lost everything, including our marriage.

    Even if you do everything right, something can go wrong. I spent the last 20 years in recovery; then I lost my job a few months ago. I’m 60 y/o; where do I go from here?

    I’m not looking for sympathy, just understanding. Yes, I was once part of the upper 1% and I gave generously to family, friends and others. I’m not looking for acolades since most was given anonymously. It would take way too long to explain my background. Part of the lower 1% again, I just don’t know how things are going to turn out.

  9. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Well, I have no idea who these people are that Margo thinks are flaunting their wealth too much. I  have never heard of the people she named  but I do think that given the economic times it is pretty foolish and unseemly to be flaunting wealth no matter whether you earned it honestly or just happened to win the lottery in the gene pool or at the local 7-11.  I don’t even know what *rich* is anymore.

    I do know that making someone who is profoundly *rich* poor is not going to make me rich.   I’m sure there are many profoundly rich people whose money is ill-gained but I do know people who have worked very hard and taken risks and become successful honestly.  And it really isn’t my business how they choose to spend their money.  I can and do tsk tsk behind my hand at people who want to flaunt anything, including money, but they are entitled to spend it how they want to.  

    As for those in the suburbs not suffering, I think that we don’t know what is going behind closed doors of many of our neighbors and friends these days.  Admittedly, I only know average Joe types of people but nearly everyone I know has suffered to some extent in this economy.  I can empathize with Deelightful because we are not so far removed from her story as are friends of ours.

    I’m not sure the income disparity has changed much over the years.  Nor have the morals.  There have always been the profoundly rich and the profoundly poor.    Perhaps the media, which has always idealized the wealthy (remember those Cary Grant movies in the depression years) having become so much more saturated and reaching so many more people, makes it seem so.  Certainly the media (and I’m not exempting this website) exalts wealth and fame.  

    I don’t see any upside in speculating about the potential felonies or misdemeanors of the rich. If justice is done, as in the Madoff case, then I’m all for it but I’m not going to assume that every rich person, no matter how much they violate societal proprieties, is some sort of villain.  

    I’m just going to try to keep my own modest nest together and enjoy family and friends while I have the health to do so.    

       

  10. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    The robber barons of yesterday stole from the poor to give to the poor. The robber barons of today steal from the rich to give to themselves.  The robber barons have moved on to the casino and rigged the roulette wheel.  And are raking it in.  As for their “Marie Antoinettes” they have taken vapidness to new levels of vulgarity.  As for justice in the Madoff case, well, there is no justice for those who will get little back. And as someone pointed out not long ago, Bernie Madoff had a stellar reputation for over 30 years. So if you couldn’t trust him, makes you wonder who you could trust. Had made a lot of money for a lot of people until he lost a lot of money for a lot of people and thought he could win it back by playing roulette.  The real crooks are not in prison. The real crooks are serving in the cabinet and on commissions in the Obama Administration.

    • avatar Anais P says:

      The new robber barons are also stealing from the working class by laying off people so they can save on their wages and benefits and thereby make even higher profits. I would be interested to hear if these rich people the writer knows are ever asked how much they donate to help their fellow man or how many jobs they have created, since those Bush tax cuts were to benefit the “job creators.” I’ll bet those rich friends would answer nothing and none. Margo, thanks for your response. These people who are lucky — and that’s what it is, luck, to be a trust-fund baby — enough not to worry about their next meal are morally empty.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Morally empty and mentally vapid. Their entire sense of self-worth as opposed to net-worth can be summed up by the maxim most Americans live by, or hope to live by, which is “I have, therefore I am.”  Even with billions, some are still not.  

  11. avatar chipgiii says:

    It just occurred to me that our First Lady is spending obscene amounts of the taxpayer money on vacations, even listing family as staff to avoid having to pay out of pocket: isn’t that obscene?

  12. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Here are few quotes before I get started: “Various sociological statistics suggest the severity of wealth inequality “with the top 10% possessing 80% of all financial assets [and] the bottom 90% holding only 20% of all financial wealth.” —wikipedia, via Hurst, Charles E. Social Inequality: Forms, Causes, and Consequences, 2007

    And: “The Wealth Distribution In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%. Table 1 and Figure 1 present further details drawn from the careful work of economist Edward N. Wolff at New York University (2010).” –UCSC Sociology Dept. Updated 2011

    I do so hope that everyone can read this for comprehension. These are both based on sociological studies over a number of years. I was careful not to use sources that were heavily biased either way.

    I do not give one damn about the personal excesses of individuals, nor are these things in any way limited to that top 20% of the wealthy. Since we’ve touched on them, can we talk about the following…the simple country folk who are on government subsidy (read welfare), but have a $60,000 truck (polished to a mirror sheen that’s never seen a day of work) a $2000 TV or two, satellite, an extensive firearms collection, and a matched pair of $20,000 ATV’s? Who supports the Tea Party and Revisionist History, and depending on location, has a confederate Flag on everything (there are plenty of this genus up North too), but bitches incessantly about not being able to “provide” for ten kids, or get medical care, or a job…the very things the people he supports will continue to prevent him from doing.

    Let’s talk about Black people (I am not PC, and these are American Black People…or I’m an Italian/Polish/German/Russian/Jewish American…because generationally I’m much closer to Europe than most “African Americans” are to Africa. And Africa is a continent…not a country. Semantically, and geographically, a ridiculous, PC bit of nomenclature, and one not a single Black person I know uses) in a certain segment of society who spend ungodly amounts of money on status symbols such as designer clothing, gold, platinum and diamond “grills” and jewelry, rims, purses and shoes…and consider themselves entitled to free everything because they are oppressed by white people. People with no jobs, and a completely warped society. The people who, after Katrina, turned down perfectly good, brand new underwear for their children because it wasn’t designer. People I knew…people who would be labeled die-hard liberals (like me)…saw this. They’re mad at Obama too, a lot of these Black people. He hasn’t conquered the White oppressors for them.

    Let’s talk about a vast number of my immediate neighbors. Like me, they are far from that top twenty percent. Unlike me, they have $50,000 SUV’s that gets 9 mpg…highway. With two children, no trailer hitch, and no car pool in sight. Jetskis, ATV’s, and that $32,000 Harley Davidson Special Edition Trike that they have professionally hauled to meets so as not to ding the finish. Three wide screens in the house, $400 cell phones for everyone…and a righteous anger if mom with her $200 hair cut and $300 streaks gets pulled over for running a stop sign while she’s texting her daughter about this blouse she saw on sale at Neimans and actually gets a ticket.

    All of the people who gun their motorcycles up and down my quiet street because they feel entitled to do so. All of the people who stop traffic for 25 minutes for a time on main roads on Saturday nights, and Sundays, at least twice a day, because church is letting out, and they’ve done their duty to their god…now they can inconvenience everyone else while they rush home to backyard blow outs and foot ball parties. All of the people who want retain the status quo because they don’t understand that the middle class is shrinking…and suffering…and it isn’t parties, and toys. They’ll vote Republican, even for an insane woman like Michelle Bachman, just to keep things the way they want them, to keep their status symbols and their fun.

    The entitlement is astounding. These people will all suddenly be looking around saying, “Where did it all go?” when they realize that their taxes have crept higher and higher, and their lives have become impossible. Because of their entitlement. Because of avarice. I am not a radical liberal, (no one who believes in both the Death Penalty and the right to bear arms is a radical liberal). I am not a Democrat. I vote independently, based on wading through mountains of information each election, and critical analysis…not media demagogue talking heads, religious fanatics or campaigns speeches written by manipulators. Barack Obama has made mistakes…but he is not a critical failure. The only person who can possibly run against him is Mitt Romney (there isn’t a single, solitary Republican candidate besides Romney who I would not consider at best incompetent, and at worst clinically insane, dangerous and a theocrat)…and I am convinced that there will be a split ticket if he wins the primary, with one of the mad brigade running on a third party ticket. I don’t trust Mormons (Mormonism, per its history, is an enormous cult, based on science fiction, formed by a confidence man and criminal, that bears a striking resemblance to Scientology. Do a comparison sometimes…it becomes quite clear. Beta clear, to coin a phrase), but Mitt Romney is a terrible Mormon, just as Barack Obama is a lousy church-going Christian. Or Muslim. My personal feeling is that he pays lip-service to religion, and is an Atheist. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking.

    In the end, I don’t think we’re actually suffering from outrageous moral decay, just better media coverage. At the Palace at Versailles, the wealthy royalty defecated in the halls, on the marble floors, and waste matter, corpses and rotting food was piled against the outer walls. No one bathed…ever. And games of sexual intrigue that ended in agony and suicide were a popular pastime. In China, the wealthy bound the feet of girls into reeking five inch miniature monstrosities. The stench of bound feet was utterly appalling, but to the aristocratic men, it was considered an aphrodisiac like no other. Everyone knows about the French Revolution…but one really ought to read Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth” to read about what happened to China when people had to watch their children starve outside of elaborate walls for lack of a spoonful of rice…while the rich got stoned on the smell of corruption.

    It IS coming people. I am not an End of Days doom-sayer. But the times are in need of changin”.

    • avatar chipgiii says:

      Not so sure I agree with a lot you write, but this was the most refreshingly honest post I’ve read in ages! 

      “In the end, I don’t think we’re actually suffering from outrageous moral decay, just better media coverage.”

      I’ve wondered that a million times: is it better media coverage?  or, is it the media bring more attention to the specific so to speak?  Remember the rant of Howard Dean?  The media played that so much one would have thought the guys was a loon.  Reallity was that it was a single exhuberant, maybe silly, moment in his political career – that doomed him.  I struggle to know what is media accuracy, overkill, or tantalizing news for viewers….

      • avatar snowwhite4577 says:

        This may sound really ignorant, but you kind of lost my attention when you needlessly shouted out black people.
        There are people of ALL cultures/races/ethnicities, etc. who do the things you mention here. So I am not really sure why you did that.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        “There are people of ALL cultures/races/ethnicities, etc. who do the things you mention here.”—snowwhite4577

        Well, I guess you missed the part in which I specified a certain element of black society, just as I mentioned my mostly white neighbors, just as I mentioned a certain element of rural “poor”. Commonly referred to as “rednecks”, or alternatively, “white trash”. I do believe I also came down without mercy on “boomers” and Generation X-er’s. I was being absolutely honest. I did not use any pejoratives. I was not needlessly singling out any group, nor was any minority my first, or primary example.

        So, based on your reply, either you have knee-jerk reactions to anything that might indicate that persons possibly belonging to a “disadvantaged group” can make insanely poor decisions and be irresponsible and lack accountability, or you have difficulty with reading for comprehension…or you really are ignorant about today’s society as a whole. Having read your later post, I am inclined toward the first. The “poor” are victims, and the “rich” are victimizers. I’ve been so poor that I’ve worked for less than minimum wage, doing a job “that Americans wouldn’t do”, with absolutely no money left at the end of each month. None at all…and no food-stamps or government aid. I was smart enough not to get pregnant (if all else fails, even if you’re married, abstinence is your friend…and I’m no Christian), walked to work because we only had one working car (which I fixed myself…and yes, I’m female), and we ate .69/pound ground beef, cheap spaghetti and .50/dozen eggs for weeks. That kind of poor. I’ve never been rich, but I’ve known plenty of wealthy people, and not all of them were as described here. Quite a few gave, a lot.

        I am what most people would describe as liberal. I fully support absolute separation of church and state, a completely secular public school system, absolute equal rights for the LGBT community (including, but not limited to marriage, insurance, adoption, hospital visitation, etc.), womens’ reproductive rights…including freedom of choice, an actual working universal health care system, and even the legalization of pot. Some of these apply to me, but some do not. But, I did say that “most” would call me liberal. I do not support “gun control”. I am absolutely for the death penalty, and yes, there have been a number of cases in which guilt was indisputable, and I could have pushed the button. I support one appeal only for such cases, and an expeditious carrying out of the sentence. I don’t believe in god, so don’t ask me who I think I am. I already know, and, again, yes, I’m sure. I absolutely think that we need to slow the flood of illegal immigrants into this country: by fining every soccer mom $10,000 for every under-paid and over-worked undocumented maid, cook, yard man and laundress she hires. The same fine should apply to roofers, construction foremen, factory owners, slaughter house owners. I think that $10,000 per person might sting a bit, actually. Yes, Americans will do those jobs. In Texas, thousands of people are bitter and furious because they can’t hire on at chemical plants and construction sites for jobs because they are being filled by undocumented immigrants being paid a third of the usual wage under the table, who are uninsured and receive no benefits. Women will clean houses, and there was once a highly respected society of black gardeners (not just yard men, professional gardeners and landscapers) in Houston that has been destroyed because it’s much cheaper to pay illegal immigrants a few dollars. I don’t blame the people who come across the border…they need the money. So, instead of aiding and abetting the more than corrupt, dehumanizing, terrorizing government of China in making cringing, helpless demoralized dolls out of its people…why not send our factories (if we must outsource) to Mexico? The young people there are anxious to stay and better their country, to stop the infestation of drug cartels, and to destroy the corruption. They are our nearest neighbors. If the jobs were actually there…and rich people stopped hiring for a pittance here…they would stay.

        A better border presence is also necessary…but not for poor Mexican people. Or even drug runners. That would be for the other people who come across the Southern Border. And to stop the Southbound flow of firearms…from here. O, and those Drug Wars? Do you honestly think that those poor people coming across the border are using all of that cocaine, heroin and pot? I’d wager that would be comparatively well-off Americans. Just a guess.

        I don’t base my opinions soley on my own needs, or wants, or objectives. I try to see a bigger picture. If my honesty is an issue, o well. It isn’t just white people, or rich people who can be corrupt, entitled, useless and disgusting. Just my thoughts for the day.

      • avatar chipgiii says:

        Again we are ideologically at odds (pretty conservative here), but this is good stuff!  Agree or disagree it reeks of honesty. 

  13. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Oh Margo I so enjoy reading you. And should I ever get the chance to see you in NYC again, as I did this past year at Michaels, I will indeed introduce myself to you as you invited me to do so. I agree with much that you have written here. I also agree with Baby Snooks regarding the Robber Barons of old versus the current ones. However, and this is a small thing, I do have a problem with dressing down the folks who throw large galas/parties. Firstly, yes, it is vulgar. Shockingly vulgar considering what most Americans, the Count included, are going through economically. However, when one puts on these shindigs, a lot of people are employed. Caterers, florists, waiters, event planners, etc. These people are suffering too, as who can afford their services these days? So I don’t have a problem with them doing it, vulgar as it is. Though I will make one last comment to the men who throw these things to get press: 1) It will not make you taller 2) It will not increase the size of your penis. XOXO

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Gently *slaps* the Count with a slab of sushi.  These people are not hurting. They are still rolling in the dough and not the dough in the kitchen.  Their employees may be hurting, most grateful only for the increase in the minimum wage, but they are not.  Since you brought the subject up I always love the “morning after” society columns about the previous nights “gala of the century” complete with the “net” for the night. Which is rarely the net.  Not everyone has billed so to speak.  As for the million dollar weddings, the anniversaries, and the birthdays it’s their money. And their reputations if they aren’t as equally generous to charity.  And many are not.  And many don’t care what anyone thinks of them. They believe everyone can eat cake as Marie Antoinette put it as she headed for the guillotine. nd certainly don’t believe they should pay for any of it. Charitable giving in this country is down despite incomes in the upper 1% going up. Not a good portent as they say. 

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        @Baby Snooks – I can’t argue with much of what you say here.  I do have several friends who are in the “entertainment” business, ie own catering companies, tent rentals, etc. and they are indeed suffering.  As are the folks they hire to service these shindigs.  But could not agree more on the charity front.  The Count works very hard for two specific charities and it gets harder with each passing year just to keep up with the numbers from the last one.  Never mind trying to get larger ones.  Always enjoy your posts…they make people THINK ! ! !  XOXO

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        One of the top “event planners” in the 80s charged $150,000 or 10%. Her events usually garnered her the much larger 10%. On top of her “fees” which included what she added to the various “subcontractors” like the caterers, florists, and supply companies all of whom were given a “flat bid” they were paid regardless of whether they went over it. She even screwed her own sister on one event. ”It will teach her to stay within her budget.” Which I always found amazing because her “open bid” usually grew and grew and grew as the final day approached. Fabulous events. Until all the bills were paid. True many of the organizations wouldn’t have made a million if it hadn’t been for her “magic” but it cost them two million to make the one million. I found that a little curious. And a little disconcerting. But, well, that’s what the big time is all about in event planning. The big bucks. Even for charity.  Things have changed. But not that much. 

  14. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Dear Ms. Margo, a billionaire’s wet dream is to have an orderly revolution.  They must be providing the pot for the Occupants of Wall Street, while the deadbeats contribution fund has as soared beyond 500K.  The barons who sweep in and out of Wall Street must be full of contempt for the revolutionary incompetents.  Nothing like the presence of a Susan Sarandon or Russell Simmons to give a billionaire the tremors. Even the mayor of New York, himself reaping staggering profits since the great fall, looks kindly on the wayward troops. Balzac and Hugo must be smiling.

  15. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Have never been an Apple or Steve Jobs groupie. Yet amid the hoopla over Steve’s death, I can’t help but feel refreshed upon learning he lived with his family in a very nice, but comparatively normal, ungated neighborhood where they kept the back door open and unlocked by day. It’s said that this billionaire many times over wanted his kids to be able to walk to friends’ houses, and that he was appalled by behavior of so many folks new to wealth. He called their need for way too much stuff absolutely bizzaro. And right he was.

    Margo has captured that view on a broader scale.  
       

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      And yet Steve Jobs did the “philanthropy thingy” only briefly and unless he did some extraordinary anonymous giving gave very little.  Perhaps Zen Buddhism teaches that “let them eat cake” is the proper response to those in need? I was stunned by the revelation that he decided he would cure the cancer himself. And found out, too late, that he couldn’t. How anyone so smart could be so stupid is beyond most people.  Particularly those whose lack of insurance or lack of ability to use their insurance for preventative care results in diagnosis and treatment that comes too late. He merely thought he was above it all. Including his own mortality. None of us are.

      As for his “living simply” that simply isn’t the case. He had other homes. And had commissioned a very expensive yacht that has yet to be completed. He was still one of the rich boys with the rich boy toys. He just hid the toys.

      Bll Gates is not much better. I read once where he uses foundation money in other countries to invest with. So he ends up making more money than he gives away. He thinks he is King Midas. Like Steve Jobs, he got his start by “looting” others as I recall. Taking credit, and often the money that accompanies the credit, for someone else’s work.

      About the only one who really does live simply is Warren Buffett. But he probably has lots of Stouffer’s in the freezer.  That a sure sign in the Midwest that you have it made.  That pearl of wisdom from a great aunt. Who also had lots of Stouffer’s in the freezer.  And would let aboslutely no one in the kitchen, including the maid who usually cooked dinner, or popped it in the oven, when she was preparing the mock turkey. Which, well, tasted better than the real thing. And probably cost more than the real thing. Sorry I just thought I’d throw the memory in there for those who remember mock turkey.  To remind us all that there are more important things in life than money. A good mock turkey recipe is one of them.

      • avatar JCF4612 says:

        Jobs’ wife Laureen is heavily involved in many philanthropic causes, and sits on several education boards. My understanding is that he did a lot of giving anonymously. Not surprised at that. In metro region where I live, many many millionaires and billionaires are quiet in their giving because they don’t want to be forever hassled by more requests. Not all of these benefactors are plastering their names on educational centers or hospital wings.    

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        There really is no such thing as anonymous giving although it sounds good and given all that has been written about Steve Jobs lack of “philanthropic tendencies” including what he himself told the biographer who included it in the book that was just released, someone would have come forward and said “No, that is not true, he was very generous” and no one has. Whether his wife wrote the big checks is another matter. But indications is she did not. When Oscar Wyatt was being portrayed as the ultimate Robber Baron and biggest traitor since Benedict Arnold quite a few came forth and said “No, that is not true, he is a very generous man.” Among those who came forward was Michael De Bakey. Generous and loyal. Particularly to employees who couldn’t afford heart surgery. And generous to lots of charities. He just preferred not to be listed on programs. Or on walls.

        We tend to idolize the wrong people in this country. And Steve Jobs is another example of those we idolize and shouldn’t.

  16. avatar Rain says:

    “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.”  Great quote.  Great article.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Clare Booth Luce once commented that the rich are smarter. I guess so since most are smart enough to get away with it. Or at least smart enough to hire the right attorneys!

  17. avatar snowwhite4577 says:

    You know what….if you worked hard for your money, than you deserve to live it up based on what you can afford.  That is what I was taught.  Hell and I do it myself.  The problem I have with some rich people is that they don’t provide living wages for their employees, they are stingy with health care and any kind of pension, they have robbed their employees of their pensions in some cases, they don’t want to “share the wealth” so to speak. I am not talking about giving out a lexus to every employee, but about simple things; like a livable minimum wage; or guess what AFFORDABLE health benefits. No one should have to choose b/w paying their bills and getting their medication. 

    I have a problem with the people who have told me all my life to “work hard, get an education, live the American Dream,”; however, they are making it increasingly harder to live that dream. Because of their greediness and because of government looking the other way (both parties mind you); thousands of people lost jobs, cannot pay their bills, etc.  And they were rewarded for it.  They made very risky decisions, very DUMB decisions (should have been really simple for many of these Ivy leaguers) and they are rewarded.  And you know what ….had I made those same, dumb and risky decisons….I would have been told/will be told I should take “personal responsibility” for my decisions.  Guess what?  These people still have not taken ANY “personal responsibility”.   

    I have a problem with these people facilitating a public attack on public servants when these rich people have basically screwed every one of us out of any sense of security in our lives. 

    So, if I don’t mind people being rich. And you know, that sense of entitlement is VERY popular these days-in all classes. (Apparently it is the American way). What I mind is you being rich off of someone else.  The owners of Walmart are billionaires, but the majority of their employees are on Medicaid because they are not given full time hours and/or because they make so little.  That is disgusting. The US has lost its manufactoring base because companies are told to go to places with cheaper labor and less restricting labor laws.  That is disgusting.  Employees working hard for 30 years or more and being screwed  out of a pension because the owners were greedy. That is disgusting.  These robber barons flushing our economy down the toilet and being told they are “too big to fail,”.  That is disgusting.  Seeing the “American Dream” that my parents wanted for me  slowly fading….that is disgusting. If you blame one party for it, you are a moron.  If you don’t find it disgusting, don’t be too suprised when we are ALL on the souplines.

    There is my rant for the morning.

  18. avatar B.eadle says:

    So every rich person did it on the blood sweat and tears of others? From the sounds of some of the comments here, it seems that not one single person who is “rich” worked hard and earned it. All these “rich” people are thieving jerks? And how are you defining “rich?” Is there some benchmark I should watch out for so that I make sure I don’t wake up one payday and find out that I am suddenly to be labeled a thieving jerk too?

    • avatar chipgiii says:

      Ahhhh some class warfare here!  When you have it, it is good, when you don’t it is bad.  We cheer the poor person working his/her way to riches, and we jeer them once they’ve made it. 

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Actually, though we are far from rich, I understand your point (are we agreeing on something?).

        Case in point: I spent most of my adult life poor, as in well below the poverty line. Not through frivolity, or excess, but mostly due to circumstance (unforeseen, and inescapable). Such as a planned, normal birth that should have cost $2500 all told (back in 1991…I should have had insurance, but the owner of my business pulled an epic failure)…but ended up as a far from routine, completely unexpected emergency c-section totaling just at $15,000…which I paid off in completely, no aid, no loans, no family help. The same man bankrupted the business a year and a half later by not paying any taxes (None), stealing merchandise, and embezzling funds for personal use. No job for me, sole supporter of my family. I divorced my male baggage a year later, and supported my son and myself on my own, never was late on a bill, and never took a penny in government or personal aid. I was way below that year’s poverty line of $16,000.

        Presently, my husband is an IT administrator for a petroleum exploration company that is looking rock solid ( of course, things can change in a millisecond). We are not rich. He drives a ten year old Honda Accord with over 200,000 miles on it, and I drive a 7 year old Kia Rio Cinco. We own one TV, no mobile toys. My cell phone cost $45, my son’s, $19. We live well, but by our own standards. I will have to get a different car soon, as mine is slowly failing, and my son and his friends barely fit in what I have (large, leggy 14 year old boys, all growing rapidly).

        And yet, there are people in my life who are bitter and envious of how I live, and what I have. Even though we worked hard to get here. I stopped working when Number 2 son was born, because my older son was having so much trouble in school, and because my post-partum depression turned into a nightmare breakdown. We cut back hard to make it. Our house cost $80,000, compared to the $300,000 homes many people in a similar salary range were purchasing. We still have ours…after 14 years. Some people consider us rich. I had former co-workers give me the “It must be nice not to be working” with a snide, bitter tone of envy and self-righteousness. It was…I loved finally having a chance to be with my children…and it wasn’t. I worked full-time from the day I turned 18, and never saw a bit of help from my family (upper middle class with all of the bells and whistles), or asked for it. I was 38 when my younger son was born.

        I didn’t “deserve” anything…but it hasn’t been easy, and there is always the chance that it won’t be again. Not everyone who is rich started out that way. I have known astoundingly wealthy people…and a few of them were amazingly kind, generous and decent…and never, ever announced their benevolent acts to the world. Not everyone is the Pitt/Jolie type, who have to make certain that the cameras catch their best angles every time they commit to an act of charity. When the earthquake devastated Haiti, I came across a list of contributors on a small, non-media website. Hidden in the list were a number of celebrities, the wealthy, and some unexpected names who had not loudly publicized their donations…and who had given far, far more than the neon lit Jolie/Pitts.

        Right now, our country is in desperate need. The Republican party is stonewalling every effort to improve the situation. Worse, millions of dirt poor Americans are not understanding that they are supporting the very people who are keeping them from adequate, affordable medical care, employment, reasonable credit and financial aid. They are as much a part of the problem as the rich, because they believe in that pipe-dream of an America-that-never-was that the Right is selling them. If I were rich, I would pay higher taxes without a thought…and I mean that from the bottom of my heart…which does not bleed much for anyone. It’s a practical thing. I am only as strong…even a cynical, iconoclastic, non-joining loner like me…as the society that surrounds me. If the middle class fails…the rich will fail too. It is inevitable. China. France. Russia.

        Let the past inform the present.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        To be fair the Democrats had an opportunity in 2009 and 2010 to “balance things out” and didn’t do so. It wasn’t John Boehner who decided to extend the Bush Tax Cuts. It was Nancy Pelosi.  You can look at her and her husband’s “net worth” to fully understand who she represents. And it isn’t “the people.” And if our elected officials were required to disclose just exactly which companies they invest in, well, I suspect Nancy Pelosi and her husband have invested heavily in the health care industry the past year. A sure thing as they say. Thanks to her.  Divide and conquer. We were divided along racial lines, then religious lines, then partisan political lines, now along lines determined by our “net worth.” Thems that’s got shall get. Them’s that don’t can just find a freeway underpass.  Divided we remain. And conquered. We are going to hell in the proverbial hand baskety. Quickly. At least those of us who live on Main Street. I doubt there is one member of Congress who lives on Main Street.  K Street has made sure of that.

        Margo mentioned the “middle-class” which of course is going the way of the dinosaurs. Both parties the past 20 years have taken the approach that the middle-class can pay for both the rich and the poor.  Who is going to pay when the middle-class no longer can pay because they are all living under a freeway underpass?

        Bill Clinton signed the legislation that turned Wall Street into the world’s largest casino. And yet it was already a casino.  Which is how Bernie Madoff apparently got started. Although he of course really hasn’t said.  I never learned the art of balancing a checkbook. But I still am smart enough to know that he didn’t pay out more than he took in. So where did all the money go?  He lost it at the casino. But his loss was someone else’s gain. Same problem with Enron. No one really asked where all the money realy went. Someone made a lot of money off it all. And someone is on Wall Street laughing everyone. And no one seems to understand that. Or particularly care. Except the people who lost all their money. But no one really cares about them either.  Someone told me again the other day that I lost everything because I trusted other people to handle my money. Thought trust was important in our society.  And of course “between-the-lines” I deserved to be defrauded. Not because I was stupid. Because I allowed myself to become prey instead of becoming a predator like everone else. That really is what’s wrong with this country. We revere the predators while reviling their prey.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Baby, I don’t revere anyone. I dislike Nancy Pelosi and both Clintons intensely, and have no use for any of them. I do not condemn people who were caught by con artists such as Bernie Madoff. Or who were caught out by the defrauders at Enron. I will say that I am an individual who manages most of my money personally, and that the only investments (other than our home…which we bought to live in, at a price we could afford, with sustainable payments and interest, and which we have personally refinanced once, completely to our advantage) we have is my husband’s 401K, which did take a beating, even though it is very not in the least bit adventurous.

        We had one epic fail, and a bankruptcy, completely due to our own poor management. It is not going to happen again unless something extreme and completely beyond our control occurs (and I have survived such events before without bankruptcy, defaulting on loans, welfare, food stamps, family help or living on the street…more than once). I am a fast learner. I am also not at all a trusting person. My parents were upper middle class. They lived up to that status, a brand new car purchased for cash every three years, my mother’s diamonds and clothing bought at Saks, Nieman’s, Marshall Field and I Magnin…I wore hand-me-down clothes, K-Mart specials, got $25 to purchase my entire school wardrobe in 76-78, my senior year in high school (and made it work, to my mother’s disappointment), made straight A’s and graduated with honors, 31st out of 900 students, accepted at Rice, Oberlyn, Knox, Lawrence, Wesleyan and Yale…but my parents wouldn’t spend a dime on my education…which they informed me of two weeks before graduation…because they’d decided to build their dream house. I didn’t live during a time, or in a place that allowed high school students to make money for college tuition…unless you were poor and on work release. All scholarships, even academic, were based on financial need. I ended up paying for my own tuition at a state university, working full time, learning to balance a checkbook on my own, create a budget, and survive. I don’t trust anyone to manage for me…my husband and I discuss everything.

        But I don’t revile anyone who has suffered, or the poor, or the middle class. Hell, Baby, I am middle class, solidly. And I LIVE like I’m middle class, modestly. No mega vacations, no $40,000 V8 vehicles, one TV, no stupid status toys, no diamond industry driven anniversary, push, mother’s day presents, no ludicrously expensive cell phones…none of that. I also grew up in a very politically aware and involved family (which is actually a source of some disgust for me…I don’t discuss politics with my remaining relatives). I don’t react to charm, political promises, hot air, charisma, talking heads, media rants, rallies and drum beating. I voted for Barack Obama because I thought I saw the potential in him for an actual change in attitude and policy. He has not come through. He has lost the courage of his convictions, and he gives ground far too easily. He is hesitant, and he reluctant. I want him to plant his feet and push back, hard.

        I will vote for him in 2012, however, because his administration has not been a failure. Some things are improving. It took decades for this country to turn into the seething pile of manure it is, and Obama isn’t Hercules. He can’t divert the ocean and wash it clean in one term as President. He isn’t a god, or a magic man. He is being stonewalled…and he needs to become a tank and break down those walls, not speak kindly to those who put them up. I will also vote for him because the alternatives are beyond disgusting. They’re abominations. We are not divided along religious lines…we are in imminent danger of a theocratic coup. We are not divided along economic lines…most of the supporters of the the rich and shameless (and again, I do not count ever person of means in that category, because I know they don’t all belong there) ARE middle class, or lower middle class…or below the poverty line, out-of-work, living on welfare and food stamps…but goddam supporting that American Way, yessiree Bob, wave that flag and cheer for willful ignorance, reactionary politics, revisionism and sheer stupidity. They’re hoist by their own petards.

        I am sorry for those who have lost all in scams. I am sorry for those whose medical care is impossible. The health care incentive has helped so many people that I know, or know of, but Obama gave way too much, and the Republicans formed a shield wall to stop any effort to help those in need. Why support your own society, after all? I am not sorry for idiots who help those who want to undermine society. I try to understand why you are bent on reviling Obama…but I can’t, Baby. You never give a logical answer to my oft asked question, “Who would you have as seated president, of the available options, if not him? Perry? Bachman? Gingrich? Romney? Caine? Hillary Clinton?”. Most of these people are certifiable, some are criminals. There aren’t many viable options.

        As I’ve said before, the inmates are out, and I’m afraid they’re running the asylum.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        The column and the commentary is about the Robber Barons and “accountablity” of which we have seen very little.  Instead of at least slapping their hands, Obama seems to have put a few of the Robber Barons in his cabinet and on his commissions.  I voted for him in 2008. I have no intention of doing so in 2012. Fool me once…

        The people are angry. Because the people know too much. Obama to the rescue. Now he is proposing the Patriot Act be changed yet again with regard to “Freedom of Information Act” requests. Under his proposed changes the government can simply lie and say the information you are requesting doesn’t exist. So much for the change. And the hope.

        The Bush Dynasty seems to love him. So no dobt no matter who the Republican candidate is they will see to it that another “Sarah Palin” is added to the ticket to ensure some Republicans join the stampede at the polls to vote for Obama along with the Democrats. Welcome to the dynasty. Welcome to the olilgarchy.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        “Under his proposed changes the government can simply lie and say the information you are requesting doesn’t exist.”

        Baby, the government already does that. No, I am not a conspiracy theorist at all. I just keep up with current events. Such as the declassification of all of the documents relating to what went on in Korea…all of those things that our government said never happened, and that there was no information relating to, anyway. Now, the entire horror show has been revealed, and it is even worse than what was suspected and lied about. It was ever thus, and will continue to be so. Do I agree with it? Hell no. Am I surprised? Not at all. Is this the greatest of my concerns? Far from it.

        “The Bush Dynasty seems to love him. So no dobt no matter who the Republican candidate is they will see to it that another “Sarah Palin” is added to the ticket to ensure some Republicans join the stampede at the polls to vote for Obama along with the Democrats.”

        Michelle Bachman is running. So is Rick Perry. Perry is a Buffoon. Bachman is frightening, and I doubt even the Bush’s would endorse her and her psychotic husband. If the Republicans split the ticket, it won’t be because of hoards of them rushing to vote for Barack Obama. I think you might be just a hair out of touch with just how vitriolic moderate Republicans are toward him…not to mention so many Democrats who are very similar in their unrealistic outlook to yourself (I mean no insult at all…but your reasons for constantly repudiating your former first choice are still unclear, and unsubstantiated). The Republican ticket will be divided if the moderate sector chooses to vote for Mitt Romney in the primary…outweighing the the reactionary, Uber-Conservative candidate…and the latter then chooses to run on a third party ticket. The Tea Partiers, fundamentalist, fanatical Christians, xenophobes, revisionists and extremists will split the vote by choosing the third party candidate.

        It might be possible for a Mitt Romney to win if this didn’t happen. I sincerely doubt that the Bush League (sorry) is endorsing Michelle Bachman…not because I like or trust them (I am no ingenue)…but because she is just too much of a psychotic freak to keep quiet about them if they were doing so…and they are too moderate to quite be able to get close to a circus geek like her. Sarah Palin is not as smart, nor nearly as compelling (in that mad tent-show, holy-roller sense) as Mrs. Bachman. She also wasn’t nearly as wealthy or sophisticated.

        Again, Baby, all you give are negatives. And, again, I am sorry that you, personally, have had such a terrible time of it, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. But who would you vote for? You just won’t answer, you offer no solutions, and you remain entrenched in a very narrow slice of life that has no view of any larger picture. I think you’re far too intelligent for that.

  19. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    Steve Jobs never invented anything his partners did. Steve Jobs was an ultimate salesman.

  20. avatar Briana Baran says:

    After reviewing all of the comments on this thread, I would like to post two specific quotes: “Bll Gates is not much better. I read once where he uses foundation money in other countries to invest with. So he ends up making more money than he gives away. He thinks he is King Midas.”

    And: “It just occurred to me that our First Lady is spending obscene amounts of the taxpayer money on vacations, even listing family as staff to avoid having to pay out of pocket: isn’t that obscene?”

    All right, then. I am not citing the members who posted these. I can’t cite the sources for this information, because it wasn’t given. I suspect that the information is not particularly verifiable, and, in any case, I don’t care. Bill Gates has done an enormous amount of work, with the help of Warren Buffet, in combating disease and improving world health, here and abroad, through immunizations programs, and against HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, malaria, Japanese encephalitis and more. He doesn’t have to have a camera crew following him everywhere to get this accomplished. If he’s making money while doing this somehow (and I was up last night…insomnia, my long time companion…and spent a few hours on a lot of websites trying to substantiate that, with no success), I’m not sure I care, because the benefits are so staggering to so many.

    As for Michelle Obama, I did the same with that claim. All references to it were found on Far Right Websites. No moderate Republican sites, or neutral sites, mentioned this. I didn’t peruse the Liberal sites…waste of time. And, I would like to point out that Nancy Reagan once spent in excess of $10,000 replacing the White House china with something more to her taste. That was over 20 years ago. Imagine what the comparable cost would be today. That was not the greatest of her excesses. Hillary Clinton stole numerous items from the White House upon the termination of her husband’s tenure as President, and was culpable in his acceptance of campaign funds from China.

    Somehow I find these excesses more disturbing than Mrs. Obama taking her children on vacation, especially given the unprecedented vitriol and sheer number of threats leveled specifically at herself and and her relatively young daughters. And with a very ugly election year looming, that may present no safe and practical opportunities for escape.

    However, I find it interesting that the first quote comes from someone who cannot give a person of means one single bit of credit for decency, and the other from a man who can…but apparently not if that person is on the…wrong side of the fence.

    I am disheartened by President Obama’s lack of the courage of his convictions…but I’m not going to blame his wife for his administration’s, or his personal political failings. She is outspoken, but unlike Hillary Clinton, I do not believe she is seeking a political career of her own, and I think that her agenda and ideology are in the right place for the most part. Unlike Nancy Reagan, she is not a blithering, dim-witted, Society Wifey. Even her actions were not “obscene”. I do believe that only Hillary would qualify for that epithet, for hypocritically supporting her lying, perjurious, loathsome, rapist husband, and engaging in thievery, campaign fraud, and bedding down with China all to further her own political ambitions.

    An interesting factoid: one of my best friends is a born-again Christian, a staunch Republican, and ultra-Conservative. My other best friend (and by best friends I mean people whom I would trust with my son’s life…which says enough, I think) is Christian-mellow and Independent with some Conservative leanings. I am an iconoclastic agnostic, independent (no capital “I”), far more liberal than conservative. None of us are rich, and we each come from a very different background. I don’t judge an individual by their religion, politics, race, ethnicity, or degree of wealth. Growing up, my best friend was Japanese…her parents were first generation Americans, and met in an interment camp during WWII. Her grandparents spoke no English, and her grandpa used to trot through the house with a gentle smile on his face. He always spoke to me most kindly…and he never wore anything but his underwear. Which was okay with me…he sometimes would lay on his bed completely au naturale reading an enormous book…and my friend would just sigh, roll her eyes and close the door. I’ve know the sweetest, kindest, most overwhelmingly generous rich people, and the nastiest, most entitled (imagine spending $100 three nights a week at a male strip club, but telling your 11 year old, developing daughter that you won’t get a larger apartment so that she can have a room separate from her two brothers…because you need your fun. Then imagine bringing those dancers home and having unprotected sex with them…with your children in the apartment. Because it’s your right) poor people. And every combination from both ends of the spectrum and in between.

    I’m not going to JUST take a poke at a Nancy Reagan to support Michelle Obama…not when there’s a Hillary Clinton out there too. I’m not going to say EVERY rich person is a useless, malevolent, uncaring King Shite of Turd Mountain because I’ve had money problems in the past, because the middle class is struggling, and because I’m disgusted with the Republican Party’s current ideology and methods. I’ve voted Republican in the past, and we’ve had good Republican presidents. Even Reagan did some good…elsewhere. He forgot he had a homeland to run. I detest sweeping generalizations, and I try very hard not to make them.

    I will question. I will debate…intelligently. I do get passionate, but I try to remain rational. I will not converse with those who have nothing substantive, intelligent, or in any way rational or sustainable to say. Some of the latter, on this site, have called me too crazy to post. I think that says it all.

  21. avatar Jerry says:

    Barbara Walters had a special with billionaires. Is she flying the libearl Obama chicken coop? Ya know liberals hate millionaires and billionaires that fly around on private jets.

    Its funny, because Obama himself not only has the largest and most expensive private jet in the world. It takes a small aramy of helicopters, transport planes, the BEAST, and a very long row of vehicles for him to see Jay Leno. Nobama 2012.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Umm, Jerry? Let me quote you, “Its funny, because Obama himself not only has the largest and most expensive private jet in the world. It takes a small aramy of helicopters, transport planes, the BEAST, and a very long row of vehicles for him to see Jay Leno. Nobama 2012.”.

      You do realize that any sitting POTUS (I’ll translate, President of the United States) would have access to the BEAST, complete with the same security measures: fully armed helicopters, transport planes, armed guards, armored cars. I mean, you did know that these are not privately, personally owned by Barack Obama, correct? You’re not a moran, right? When George W. Bush was President, he used the same sort of transportation and security sources and forces. If a candidate more to your liking was elected, perhaps Michelle Bachman with Newt Gingrich (I just vomited in my mouth, but managed to swallow it back)…they would fly around in the BEAST (which would be very aptly named at that point), and have lots and lots of scary people with guns, and menacing helicopters, and armored limousines in their convoy too.

      “Ya know liberals hate millionaires and billionaires that fly around on private jets.”

      How astute of you. I am not a millionaire, much less a billionaire. I have known a few of the former…and, even though I am a liberal (I don’t know what a “libearl” is. Is it the same as a “moran”? You seem the sort who would carry a sign about “morans”. “Muslins” too) in many things (but not gun control, or the death penalty, or few other significant ideological areas)…I liked the millionaires I knew for the most part. Nice people. Quite a few such people work very hard to get where they they are. Others inherit, receive a lot of help, or really are “trust-fund babies”. I don’t resent them for their wealth, or “hate” them. Hate is extremely personal. I don’t loathe people who actually purchased their very own, personal, private, luxury Leer Jets. With their very own money, for as long as they want them. Unlike whomever the current President is, who has to give his, or, potentially, hers back at the end of a term.

      You are really a very silly person, using very sweeping generalizations, and specious arguments to prove your point…however inconclusive and incoherent that might be.

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        @Briana Baran – Kind of you to leave out the part where VP Cheney commuted to the Capitol and back from his home on Marine 2. The Count used to have a place at the Westgate, and at 5:00 on the dot, you could see the VP aboard Marine 2 sweeping down the river, headed home. Wonder how much that bill was ? ? ?

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        Sorry Westgate = Watergate. Wrong city.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Ah, Count, I am doing my best not to be as pointy fingered as some. Mr. Cheney, one of my very favorite practitioners of governmental squandering.

        I found the comment regarding millionaires and billionaires soaring high in private jets whilst offending the Liberal masses quite amusing actually. A vast majority of said luxury air transports are owned by musicians, actors and others who are of such a Liberal persuasion that they are continually threatening to evacuate the country in droves should another Bush, or potentially even more Conservative candidate, win the Presidency. Extremely Liberal individuals. Pro legalization of marijuana, Pro-Choice, Pro-Same-Sex Marriage and Equal Rights, Pro-Gun-Control, Pro-Obama, Pro-Government-Aid-For-Abortions, Pro-Woman’s-Reproductive Rights and Government Funded Birth Control, Anti-Scientific Creationism, Intelligent Design or New Earth Theory being taught in public schools…why on Earth would any Liberal hate them?