Greed, Excess and America's Gaping Class Divide
by Matt Taibbi
Courtesy of good friend and Supreme Court of Assholedom justice David Sirota comes this revolting list of Marie Antoinettoid moments from recent years, in an article called "The New 'Let Them Eat Cake!'"
Some of the moments on the list are easily recalled – Berkshire Hathaway gazillionaire Charlie Munger's famous "suck it up and cope" quote, coming from a guy whose company was heavily invested in bailed-out banks, was an obvious inclusion – but others are quite shocking.
For instance, I was completely floored by the New York Times' pseudo-ironic take on the government's response to the financial crisis, a piece entitled "You Try to Live on $500K in This Town."
This came at a time when President Obama was considering curtailing compensation for bailed-out bankers at $500,000. The piece was sort of meant to be taken half as a joke, but it is not hard to detect an element of demented earnestness in the fashion section article, an honest argument that with mortgages and private school tuition and co-op fees and taxes, it really was very hard for a certain kind of New Yorker to get by on half a million a year.
The proposed salary cap -- remember, this cap was only going to be for banks that had fucked up badly enough to need a federal bailout -- became the cassus belli for a propaganda war launched from the general direction of Wall Street, where the notion that the government should restrict the salaries of exactly the irresponsible greedheads who caused a global financial crisis was met with blunt outrage.
Sirota's list highlights another bizarre aspect of the $500k story. During the debate over the proposed cap, one of the things we started to hear from the Antoinette class was a general sense of wonder at the notion that anyone considered them rich. It turns out that a great many of the people who make big six-figure incomes consider themselves middle class. A University of Chicago professor arguing against the repeal of the Bush tax cuts made waves by saying he was "just getting by" with his $250,000 income, while ABC's Charlie Gibson and CNN reporter Kiran Chetry in recent years suggested that $200-$250,000 is middle class (Chetry's exact quote was that "in some parts of the country," $250K "is middle class").
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