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Tuesday: The Rich have feelings too

O.M.G.  This piece, The Rage of the Priveleged Class, in New York Magazine is a must read.  It’s all about the trials and tribulations of the movers and shakers on Wall Street who are starting to feel the pinch both economically and socially.  It is hard to find a piece of journalism that is this unbalanced by the subjects themselves.  These people need a major attitude adjustment.  Here are some choice excerpts:

In a witch hunt, the witches have feelings, too. As populist rage has erupted around the country, stoked by canny politicians, an opposite rage has built on Wall Street and other arenas where the wealthy hold sway. Its expression is more furtive and it’s often mixed with a kind of sublimated shame, but it can be every bit as vitriolic.

“AIG pissed some people off, and now you’re gonna screw everyone on Wall Street?” rails a laid-off JPMorgan vice-president. (Despite the honesty of the conversation, many did not wish to be quoted by name.)

“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.

RD here.  I am familiar with the Wharton Whine.  You will probably not be surprised that this claim of superiority has trickled down to the pharmaceutical industry as well.  I met a Wharton graduate whose job is to change the labels according to FDA rulings.  No doubt, this is very important and requires following instructions with great attention to detail.  But as value goes,  it hardly compares to the labrat who invents the drugs in the first place.  Not according to her.  The labrat doesn’t have an MBA from Whaaaaarton, therefore, they don’t get paid the big bucks. It’s the natural order.  These people are nasty.

Let’s continue:

Their anger takes many forms: There is rage at Obama for pushing to raise taxes (“The government wants me to be a slave!” says one hedge-fund analyst); rage at the masses who don’t understand that Wall Street’s high salaries fund New York’s budget (“We’re fucked,” says a former Lehman equities analyst, referring to the city); rage at the people who don’t “get” that Wall Street enables much of the rest of the economy to function (“JPMorgan and all these guys should go on strike—see what happens to the country without Wall Street,” says another hedge-funder).

LOLOLOL!  Yes, PLEASE, JP Morgan, go on strike.  Do not pass go, Do not collect $2,000,000.  Go directly on strike.  It is always astonishing to me that these people can be so oblivious to the rest of us out here who have seen our measly 3% raises get eaten up by inflation and property taxes.  And the reason our raises are so lousy and our employment prospects so miserable is because of entities like JP Morgan who worship the investment crowd to the detriment of the rest of us.  Wages are low and the merger mania has lead to RIFs and outsourcing.  But JP Morgan thinks we should be grateful that they have created a class of servants who will buff the cars and serve the antibiotic free lamb chops with organic baby vegetables.

“You can’t live in New York and have kids and send them to school on $75,000,” he continues. “And you have the Obama administration suggesting that. That was a very populist thing that Obama said. He’s being disingenuous. He knows that you can’t live in New York on $75,000.”

Au Contraire.  There are lots of people who live in Manhattan on less than $75,000.  And while their lives are kinda tough, there are worse places to be in terms of culture.  The City has some of the best museums in the world, there are nice magnet schools and even the street entertainment is good.  I love watching the people go by on a warm summer day in Central Park.  Good culture is relatively inexpensive or free.  You just have to be willing to mingle with the great unwashed masses from New Jersey. And speaking of NJ, it’s hard to live here on less than $75K or even $100K.  I live a very modest lifestyle here even though my salary would make me well off in Kansas City.  Sure, I’d LOVE to be able to send my kid to a private school but I don’t have the money.  So, I improvise, just like the newly emancipated Wall Street folks will have to do.

The hidden nugget in this piece, and one of the most important reasons why we have to kill this out of control greedy mindset once and for all, is the account of the Goldman-Sachs vet who says that last fall, G-S employees were panicky and dismal over the value of their company.  They thought they were done for and were going to go the way of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.  Then the government and AIG stepped up to the plate with cash infusions and now they’re partying again like nothing ever happened.  This is what Adam Posen was referring to when he talked about Gambling on Resurrection with respect what happened to Japanese banks in the 90’s.  As long as there is money around to be used to make risky investments, the bankers will use it.  They may have lost everything but give them enough cash and they will put it all down on some high risk/high rate of return bet.  And they will keep doing this until someone holds them accountable and takes their money away.  In other words, the bankers, as bad off as they are right now, have not learned their lesson and won’t until the Obama adminstration summons up the courage to get tough with them.  Until that happens, expect no recovery of any consequence.

Just go read the whole piece.  It’s cathartic.  They really are as bad as we thought they were.  The comments are a hoot too.  Some of the ones from insiders who finally “get it” are refreshingly frank.  The moneyed class is finally going to get their rude awakening to find they’re not so valuable after all and it can’t come soon enough.

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83 Responses

  1. Wow! Suddenly, I’m feeling in a much more populist mood then ever before. These useless morons can go take a flying leap as far as I’m concerned. If they can’t afford to live in NYC, let them move to Jumpback, Alabama for all I care.

  2. Boomer, those of us South of the Mason-Dixon line doi not want them either. After passing go, these monopolists may take a ride on the Short Line off of an even shorter pier.

  3. Yeah, BB, why are you picking on Alabama? I think we should send them to Utah. That’s where all the rugged individualist, natural Ayn Randian’s feel at home.

  4. Ah humor in our time of trauma. Bless you, RD & Co.

  5. This is great.

    “I’m not giving to charity this year!” one hedge-fund analyst shouts into the phone, when I ask about Obama’s planned tax increases. “When people ask me for money, I tell them, ‘If you want me to give you money, send a letter to my senator asking for my taxes to be lowered.’

    • Completely forgetting that charitable donations lower your tax basis. I doubt it’s important to Obama as their tax return showed a lower percentage of don ation than the national average.

    • “When people ask me for money, I tell them, ‘If you want me to give you money, send a letter to my senator asking for my taxes to be lowered.’

      Aren’t these people the “tea-baggers”, at least some of them? I really viewed a significant number like a bunch of simpletons whipped up by gazillionaires like Hannity, Malkin, Limbaugh, and their ilk to scream about high taxes(!).

      • I seriously doubt if the superrich were at the tea parties. And can we please drop that degrading anti-female, anti-gay term?

        • I didn’t use it in either way and never intended to. This was a misnomer brought to us by the organizer, just like the anti gay-marriage group who called itself 2M4M. They deserve to be mock on that mercilessly without having other groups feel insulted.

          Of course the superrich were not at the tea parties. My point is that the people who were there complaining about taxing DO NOT pay high taxes, compared to other developed countries, there are no such things in the US.

          The people who STILL want their taxes to go lower are the superrich but they always manage to find a bunch of lackeys to go whine for them.

          • MABlue,

            I’m aware of that, and I have not been in an way associated with the “tea parties,” which is what they are called.

            I’d just prefer not to have to read that particular term here. After the displays I saw on the MSNBC videos last week, I want to dissociate myself as much as possible from that kind of language. I’m speaking only for myself, and can’t stop you from using it.

            I had to explain the meaning of that word to my 83 year old mom last week. I didn’t enjoy doing that.

          • I went to the tea party in Ft. Lauderdale, Blue. I’m not complaining about paying taxes, but I’m damned sure not happy with what we are doing with our tax money. I am a lifelong democrat, and I am noone’s lackey.

          • Never intend to? Of course you use it to denigrate and mock. If you don’t want to be insulted, it would be nice to stop insulting others.

            That term was brought to us by the organizer? I wasn’t aware that Maddow or Olbermann were sponsoring tea parties.

          • I went to my local tea party too and don’t appreciate the smears.

          • MABlue, I really wish you wouldn’t insist on enlightening us on the nature and character of those who attended teaparties, and their reasons for being there, since you didn’t attend, and likely don’t know many of those people.

            I do know lots of those people – tons of them. Trust me, they are not the privileged class, and were not there to whine that their taxes are currently too high.

      • MABlue,

        Please refrain to use the term “tea-baggers”. You know how offensive this is.

        • Wait a minute. Since when is tea-bagging an offensive term? It isn’t any more offensive than any other sexual slang. I also fail to see how it’s anti-female or anti-gay, and especially how it could be both at the same time. Give it a rest. The adolescents like to smirk at sexual slang, but that’s about as deep as it gets.

  6. And we’re entrusting our money to these people?!

    • And therein lies the rub.

    • We are entrusting our money to THESE people:

      52 million dollars in personal wealth, and makes it the old fashioned way: in politics.

      “EXCLUSIVE: Senator’s husband cashes in on crisis

      Feinstein sought $25 billion for agency that awarded contract to spouse

      “On the day the new Congress convened this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband’s real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms. “


    • No, thank God. I began to believe Paul Krugman late last summer and moved my 401K from stocks into stable value and a conservative bond fund. Krugman saved me from what would have been a 40% or better loss.

  7. “In a witch hunt, the witches have feelings, too.”

    Something about this analogy strikes me as “off.”

    Guess I always sympathized with the witches.

    • Oh I get where the author is coming from. Blaming the breakdown of banks on Wall Street types is merely a witch hunt. Right, it was my fault for saving and investing in their institutions. The problem is really taxes. Sorry so slow. 😕

      • I’m pretty sure the author is writing tongue in cheek–at least I hope so.

  8. OMG! This article is a laff riot!

    “This whole narrative that the downtrodden were the victims and the money guys were the perpetrators really doesn’t stand up to rational challenge.””

  9. Only one suggestion: don’t follow the Yves example and do “RD here.” It’s annoying. I don’t know why she does it. Even if she had someone else co-writing a post, it wouldn’t make sense. Besides, we have blockquotes!

    And yes, I read that NY Magazine article. Insane! I’m not surprised though. Plenty of my college friends went to work at Wall Street, especially Goldman Sachs, and a few of them stayed on. They’re not as crazy as these people. They’re moving on with their lives, but they do still suffer from severe entitlement issues.

  10. More class warfare while politicians line their pockets and destroy civil liberties. Great.

    “A house divided cannot stand.”

  11. “Liddy ………… was, if not exactly one of them, at least someone who understood the rules of the game as it had been played—and who understood what they were entitled to under those rules, even if those rules were unspoken.”

    Rules, rules where have I heard that before?

    ” When AIG employees had arrived at their desks that morning, they found a memo from Liddy asking them to return 50 percent of the money. ……..The money had been promised, was the feeling. A sacred principle was at stake, along with, not incidentally, their millions.

    Everyone on Wall Street is prepared to lose money. Bankers have expressions for disastrous losses: clusterfuck, Chernobyl, blowing up … But no one was prepared to lose money this way. This felt like getting mugged.”

    “A sacred principle was at stake… This felt like getting mugged.”

    That sounds familiar too.

    Perhaps this is the age of disillusionment all around. The rules they are a changin’

    • I could have sworn that the rules of the game were that if you did a good job, you were rewarded; if you did a bad job, you were not. Silly me.

      • That’s just the propaganda the superrich make sure we are taught in the public schools. They let us have our idealism for awhile before they clamp down.

      • The rules as RD has denoted “Wharton Whine” are that some people are more entitled than others. That’s why these whiners hate government entitlements as we know them. Entitlements are not supposed to be for everyone.

        • Exactly. The ‘downtrodden” deserve their lot in life.

          • Heh, yeah they’re “lazy” doncha know. Nevermind that there is a whole batch of Americans working 2 jobs and still needing federal assistance.

      • That’s the rules for the average shmoe. The guys and gals who don’t go to “Wharton.”

      • Yeah, isn’t that the way capitalism is supposed to work?

  12. Oh by the way, do guys still remember Jack DeSantis? The executive from AIGFP who had a spectacular resignation from the company and even sent his letter of resignation to AIG?
    The guys we were also supposed to be feeling sorry about because he only received “received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes”?
    The guy who famously wrote Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

    After all that brouhaha, the standing ovations he received from his colleagues, the celebrity status he acquired, guess where he’s now: He found another job. Not!

    Jake DeSantis–Still on the Job at AIG-FP

  13. “Clink” – a ha’ penny for their thoughts.

  14. Thanks for the recommendation, SOD.

  15. yeah, I am one of those New Yorkers with kids, living on way, way under 75,000 a year…and without moaning and groaning. It’s why the Chase Morgan consultant looking at my numbers sighed and said: “you should speak to my wife”(to teach her how)
    Meanwhile, I run into
    conversions, from B0bots and B0’s(2 legged) fans left and right

  16. Well Virginia already has its own batch of knuckleheads with overinflated egos(otherwise known as Congresspeople) so please don’t send them here(I know technically they are in DC but close enough).

  17. I still have to read through all the comments but I just wanted to tell you that I loved this post Riverdaughter… Right from your illustration from Metropolitian: perfect choice (and the film was edited by my much-loved brother-in-law)

    As someone who actually lives in Kansas, I understand the pressure those of you who are dealing with higher costs-of-living…. I don’t know how you do it, in fact. The pressure would kill me.

  18. One of my college friends went on to Wharton where somehow she was transformed from mildly holier-than-thou into unbearably supercilious. Maybe she got over that, but I don’t know since I dropped the connection. I’m sure there are great people who come through Wharton usefully with their feet on the ground and with new skills to offer. Not sure my college buddy was one of those.

    Anyway, they (investment banks, derivatives traders, mad leveragers, you know – hedge funds) do suck, but that doesn’t mean my pitchfork is only sharpened for them. There’s a tine for Treasury and a tine for Congress and a tine for the rest of the executive branch too.

  19. C-SPAN right now is showing live TARP Oversight hearing with Secretary Geithner.

  20. All the whining, and especially the “threat” that Wall Street workers should go on strike, makes me think back to the time when Pres. Reagon sent pink slips to all the striking air traffic controllers and all the hand wringing about how the system was going to fall apart without them, etc., etc. Well, it didn’t. And, I would rather have kept them around than all these Wall Street “schexperts.”

    Don’t they know that no one is indispensable? And, when “real” people work at companies that fail, they get NOTHING plus no job! Where’s my violin?

  21. Oops: “schmexperts.”

  22. To :WMCB, on April 21st, 2009 at 10:29 am.

    I didn’t insist on enlightening anybody on these parties, whatever you want to call them. I just gave MY perception because I saw many complain how the gvt was taking too much from it and spending it on things they didn’t approve of (as if we usually approve of what the government does with our money).

    In addition I made a point to mock the “tea-baggers” because they came up with the silly name themselves, although I understand BB’s point that MessNBC beat that beyond death.

    Once for all, I didn’t say the superrich went to the “parties”, only that lots of people who pay low to no taxes got pushed their by many gazillionaires.

    • MABlue, I agree with you on most stuff, but I think you have a blind spot here. No, most of the people there were not fools and rubes, mindless sheep “pushed” there by scheming gazillionaires. And yes, to basically say that a group of people are too stupid to have their OWN very sensible reasons for protesting, and to dismiss them as poor dears who have no idea how they are being used, is insulting to those people.

      I don’t fault you for disagreeing with them. I fault you for dismissing them as dumb and backward and unaware.

      • WMCB:

        You may be right about my blind spot. I don’t totally dismiss the people who went to these “tea parties” (Was that good BB?).

        My main problem are the people who carried the megaphone for the parties: Big Rightwingers, the entire Fox News, people like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, the Big RightWing blogs. These people actively promoted these parties and actually directed some of them and many of these people are vile.

        Btw, how did these same people treat the pro-immigration demos just 2 years ago? As a reminder, the pro-immigration rally in LA alone had twice as many participants as ALL the tea parties combined.

        We don’t even need to get into the way these people treated the antiwar demo in 2003.

        • Then direct your scathing remarks at them, not at the people attending. I understand your frustration, and don’t think you are meaning to sound elitist.

          Most of the attendees I’ve talked to were very cynically well aware of the media’s bias on either side. They are not stupid. They just decided NOT to sit down and shut up because of how either Fox or MSNBC was inevitably going to portray them.

          If you buy into the media’s narrow views (on either side), and repeat THEIR narratives, you empower that same media. Screw the corporate media megaphones. Listen to and give respect to what the PEOPLE were saying. Empower THEM as citizens, whether you agree with all of them or not.

  23. Awwwwww, poor babies. Look, I’m truly not an “eat the rich” kind of person. I think it’s grand if people work hard (or even just get lucky) and make a bundle. Go for it. Fabulous! Viva la competition and good for you! And I don’t want a society where people are punished for doing that – I think people ought to get to keep the lion’s share of their efforts, even if it makes them richer than others. Engineered total redistribution of wealth is anathema to me.

    But these assholes are trying to wrap themselves in that (entirely correct IMO) philosophy, when it has NOTHING to do with what is happening.

    This is not about being rewarded for hard work (a very American and good concept). This is about pure entitlement, and a feeling that even when shit hits the fan, and the entire country is suffering, I should be exempt

    Because…..because…..well, just because I’m intrinsically better. I should be exempt even when it is MY actions and greed that have helped bring about this nationwide suffering, because….because…..well, I’m so important, dontcha know.

    Watch them. They will huff and puff and whine about “keeping the fruits of one’s labors” (which I have no problem with) – all to distract from the REAL issue, which has nothing to do their desire to reap the benefits of capitalism, and everything to do with the desire to be exempt from the flip side of capitalism, which is taking the lumps for one’s own stupidity.

  24. I suppose the French aristocracy in 1788 wasn’t really happy about what was beginning to happen then, either.

    • Good analogy. Eventhough the vast majority of French gentry was not as fancy and rich as History let it be percieved, the common thread was that they were not productive but managers. They managed the wealth, but did not produced it. (I over simplify, but you get the point).

  25. Over they years I have fine tuned my approach to the Wharton gang who (like so many Ivy leaguers) seem to have to work the fact that they went to Wharton into just about any and every conversation. One of my favorites is to point out to those about me who might not know “it’s just the business school at Penn”. This then leads into at least one person responding “Penn State?”. Just the thought that someone might think they went to such a lowly institution often leaves Wharton Whiner speechless (and turning a lovely shade of red). They spend the next hour trying to give any one who will listen, a detailed history of Wharton and its significance. Needless to say most people drift off as fast as possible. A similar approach also works on parents of said Wharton Whiner who seem to have to brag about their offsprings specialness.

    I came across another trait of the Wharton type when interviewing for jobs. I went to Pitt for both my undergraduate and master’s. But I have found that the Wharton type personality will just give you a blank stare if you use the “common” name for the university. You have to say “University of Pittsburgh” for them to be able to comprehend. (It helps if you say it very very slowly). They then make a point of letting you know that your education is deemed reasonably acceptable. At this point in the job search process I always stop and think – do I really want to work at a place where this happened in multiple interviews with different people (all of who obviously did not read the resume where it does indeed state “University…”). You also know you will always be considered “the unfortunates” for having such a pedestrian education. Fortunately I have always found another alternative for employment. Our funding has been very soft this past year or so and I do not relish having to go out deal with theses types yet again. In the DC area they are everywhere.

  26. FAB PIECE! xxoo!

    RD. RD…..
    You are not going to believe this one — I was up all night — this is why I have no faith anymore. All these years. All those votes for women I wanted to see advance in politics. Unbelievable.


  27. Fabulous piece RD!

    I kinda got the feeling that Sherman is putting Obama as somehow the defender of the lower classes who was celebrated for “intense intelligence” and Wall St feels betrayed because of his real populist bent despite his being a legacy of Harvard.

    “But it was easy to ignore his occasional lapses into populist rhetoric and focus on his intense intelligence and Ivy League education.”

    It’s interesting to me that to make Obama look good, he must be compared to these greedy Wall St types!

  28. Thank you for this post. I’m afraid the events of past few years have removed my reservations about converting these entitled snobs into Soylent Green. They may as well serve some useful purpose.

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