Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pity The Poor Rich Man

Recently someone posted a fake restaurant check that supposedly exposed the callous greed of a One-Percenter. There was no concrete evidence of such a check in the story so it is no surprise that the story was a fake or a plant. Sometimes a post or article seems too good to be true, too close a fit to one's preconceived beliefs, to perfect an expression of one's philosophy of life. Therefore let us look at what most assuredly must be a tantalizing bit of troll-bait purportedly written and posted by Mrs. Megan McArdle with a healthy scepticism. There is no way this could possibly be real.

Just look at the title!

Are the Rich Completely Undeserving of Sympathy?

Give me a break! After instigating an unbelievable amount of flack for her ceaseless support for the very rich, especially the bankster class that has done so much to destroy our country's economy due to their massive greed and callous disregard for the rest of humanity, we are supposed to believe that McArdle actually wrote an article begging us to weep for the wealthy who are forced to cut back on private school tuition because of the crises they helped create?

I saw a fair amount of chortling this morning about this Bloomberg piece on wealthy financial-industry types who are having to cut back because of plummeting bonuses. And to be sure, some of the cuts are in the "Call me a Waaaah-mbulance" category: can't go to Aspen any more? Had to cut back that three-bedroom summer rental to only one month? Why yes, that is the sound of the world's smallest violin playing a dirge.

See? McArdle doesn't have sympathy for the rapacious rich. She doesn't care if the 1%, who spent so much time telling the poor that they are poor because they are immoral and lazy, are less rich than they used to be. That would be hypocritical and, frankly, stupid.

And yet,

Oh, crap.

some of the difficulties that people are complaining about are genuinely, well, difficult. Yes, your kids have been absurdly privileged, getting to attend expensive private schools with lots of amenities. On the other hand, all my parent friends seem to think that it's actually really hard on kids to yank them out of school and move them somewhere else, particularly in the middle of a school year. I doubt that it gets any easier because your parents used to be able to afford stratospheric tuition.

You thought you pitied the child who was forced to camp in a tent or in cheap motel  until you met a child who could no longer afford Choate.

Let's not forget that these are kids we're talking about--we shouldn't take joy in uspetting them, even if their parents happen to make a lot more money than we do.

Kids who grew up to be Megan McArdle or Ross Douthat or Luke Russe[r]t, the next generation of arrogant, privileged jerks who look down on the poor. Nobody owes them a seat at the head table. They can just muddle along like the rest of us in public schools. At least they are still very comfortable.

Likewise, when middle class people take out a mortgage that's perfectly affordable on the income they've been enjoying for years, and then lose the house because they suddenly saw that income cut in half, we don't feel a delicious sense of joy because they finally got what was coming to them. We recognize that this it is really terrible to be forced out of a home where you've built loads of happy memories and dreams--and not incidentally, to possibly be forced to yank your kids out of the aforementioned schools.

We warned the upper class a long time ago that they were not the true elite, they were vulnerable to the whims of power just like everyone else, and that when the shit hit the fan, they too would suffer. They didn't listen because they were making too much money and were too arrogant to listen to people with less money.

Why are people supposed to shrug off the exact same thing because they're rich? It's still really awful to lose your house. I hardly think it's whining to worry about this when your income drops and your fixed expenses don't.

She's wrong, but she should be used to that by now.

Of course--like many middle class families--wealthy families have taken on many more fixed expenses than they should. In America, at least, we tend to get this stuff backwards.

Yes, the rich are just like middle class families, who are losing their retirement and home and chance to give their kids a college education.

I believe that Elizabeth Warren has made this point--when people get into financial trouble, they often say, "Well, I didn't take fancy vacations or go to restaurants all the time or buy 17 pairs of Jimmy Choos." But (with the exception of some really compulsive spenders) this isn't the stuff that gets people into trouble. It's the big house with the stretch mortgage that you convinced yourself you had to have because it was in a good school district and you needed a yard and a bedroom apiece for the kids. It's that brand new SUV (or Volvo station wagon) you persuaded yourself to buy because it was important to have a safe car. It's the school activities or travel sports teams that cost thousands of dollars, which you let your kids start in ninth grade because you didn't know that you'd have to break their hearts by pulling them out in their junior year. The divorce decree you signed because you didn't realize your income was going to drop by a third.

It takes a person with balls of brass to use The Two Income Trap to support her argument after famously trashing (one of) its author.

Pricey vacations can be cut back. Mortgage payments can't. It's not the luxuries that usually get people into trouble--it's paying too much for "the basics".

And in New York, it's really, really easy to pay too much. One of the guys in the article makes $350,000 and lives in 1200 square feet with three kids. This is the way the lower rungs of the lower middle class lives in the rest of the country. New Yorkers face an overwhelming temptation to push their housing budget to the limit, because what's available on a conservative budget is really inconvenient unless you either make a whole lot of money, or lucked into a great deal in a down market or a transitional neighborhood.

This, from the woman who tells us that she is not here to pay for others' lifestyle choices, and that living in New York is a lifestyle choice. New York real estate prices are why God created New Jersey.

That's not to excuse the folks who spend too much on housing--apartments in vibrant New York neighborhoods are a consumption good, not an entitlement, and people who find the privations unbearable should move to the suburbs. But I certainly understand it--especially because people tend to take cues on what is "safe" or "reasonable" from the behavior of the people around them. Virtually every single person I know in New York spends well over a third of their income on housing. Which is one of the reasons I no longer live in New York.

Another is her lack of success in breaking into the banking industry and the need to move closer to the DC wingnut welfare infrastructure.

I could understand the laughter if the people in the article had been moaning about how terrible and unjust it is to be forced to suffer along on $350,000 a year. But in fact, none of the affluent people he speaks to hold out their experience as somehow equivalent to that of a famine-stricken child in Somalia--"they aren't asking for sympathy", says one source; "I wouldn't want to whine", says another. The closest we get to a "poor little me" is M. Todd Henderson: "Yes, terminal diseases are worse than getting the flu," he said. "But you suffer when you get the flu."

The fact is that no matter how much you make, seeing your income fall below the expenses you've committed to is difficult. Obviously, people whose expenses are closer to the minimum deserve more of our sympathy, and our help. But I'm not sure that this means we're supposed to be happy when it happens to someone richer than we are.
One of the people mentioned in the article McArdle read actually created CDOs. Another spent $17,000 a year on his dogs. Now they are forced to bargain shop for salmon. One poor rich family has to wash their own dishes--or maybe the maid does; these people seem to have a far different idea of poverty than most people.

But on the up side, at least now they have a lower tax bracket and are much less likely to go Galt. No doubt they will be inspired to work even harder, since all rich people became rich through hard work and clean morals. Practicing austerity will make them better people; sacrifice is good for the character. And we have some final advice for the newly less-wealthy: all they have to do is go to school, work hard, put off having kids, get married, and no doubt they'll be back to skiing in Aspen and renting summer cottages in the Hamptons in no time.


Ben Wolf said...

I'm looking forward to Megan's first blog fundraiser once the nitwits running The Atlantic realize she's grossly overpaid. For sure we'll hear all about how it isn't her fault the mortgage on a low-rent D.C. townhouse suddenly doubled in size relative to her income and that we should have sympathy for those in need of another kitchen redesign.

Anonymous said...

The nitwits don't think she's overpaid. Propagandistic shills for the overclass are paid well because they serve a purpose.

Also, susan, it's russert, although that son of privilege does look and think like a potato.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Russet is perfect!

Time for a photoshop.

Anonymous said...

page click troll gets page clicks. and her sycophants rejoice.

Anonymous said...

Isn't McMegan basically making the (liberal) case here that wealth and poverty are relative?

Downpuppy said...

No. She's saying that the rich are a separate species, who live in a different world, and have much greater needs and more delicate feelings than the spongers & moochers who don't appreciate them.

Patrick Phelan said...

Why does no one respect the wiping tears away with all that money any more?

Susan of Texas said...

She's saying we should pity the wealthy who are no longer quite as wealthy, but we should blame the poor for their problems.

Anonymous said...

Was that Part II of the Elizabeth Warren takedown?

Surly Duff said...

I'm supposed to feel sympathy for someone who bought cheap salmon? I'll wait to weep salty tears for them when they have to stoop to buying a can of tuna.

OBS said...

Quelle surprise! The free market fetishist doesn't understand that the glorious free market has no sympathy!

Lurking Canadian said...

Actually, Susan, I suspect that few of the poor dears Megan is talking about have moved tax brackets.

$500K/a to $250K/a is a 50% reduction in income, but it doesn't move you into a different tax bracket.

If it makes you unable to afford your house payment...well, I agree that it will be hard for Makynzy and Kayden to say goodbye to all their friends but probably you bought too much house. I think I'm saving my charity dollars for the family sleeping in that rusted out Impala over there.

pseudonymous in nc said...

"The rich are different from you and I: they have slightly less money than they used to have."

roy edroso said...

"Less likely to go Galt"? No, this *is* going Galt -- at least, it's the version the good Lord sent, in his customary humorous way. They are no longer feeding the moochers and looters. With any luck, they will soon be living in an actual gulch. And they will then have the opportunity to show us what they're made of -- rising again to the top of the food chain armed only with their wits and a battered Rolodex of old school chums who won't return their phone calls.

Jane Galt should tell them how lucky they are.

Anonymous said...

it's as if blenderella's commenters believe that if they rhetorically punch the moochers hard enough, the beneficient galtian overlords will let them in the gulch. when they're outside the gate, listening to their heroes laughing at their mistaken belief that they were "in the club", where will they turn?

fish said...

Likewise, when middle class people take out a mortgage that's perfectly affordable on the income they've been enjoying for years, and then lose the house because they suddenly saw that income cut in half, we don't feel a delicious sense of joy because they finally got what was coming to them.

Bullshit. That is exactly what she does. Completely ignoring the fact that she is doing the same thing. The only difference is she is secure in her belief that the libertarian welfare will keep on coming.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...


Golf clap for that one, Nonny.

Anonymous said...

ZRM: unapologetically stolen from a TBogg commenter whose name escapes me because i was laughing so hard.

zuzu said...

Wall Street headhunter Daniel Arbeeny said his “income has gone down tremendously.” On a recent Sunday, he drove to Fairway Market in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn to buy discounted salmon for $5.99 a pound.

“They have a circular that they leave in front of the buildings in our neighborhood,” said Arbeeny, 49, who lives in nearby Cobble Hill, namesake for a line of pebbled-leather Kate Spade handbags. “We sit there, and I look through all of them to find out where it’s worth going.”

I used to live near there, and shopped frequently both in Cobble Hill and at that Fairway. It's not exactly the corner bodega.

Then there's 1200 square foot dude who also lives in Cobble Hill, a wealthy neighborhood with involved parents and an excellent public school. And he's whining that he doesn't have 1800 square feet and a starter brownstone. Hey, maybe if you didn't send your kids to an elementary school that costs more than many law schools and cut out the vacation home, you might be able to have what you're whining you don't have.

Anonymous said...

OMG. the update about how poor people who lose their job and their house can simply move back in with their parents and go on welfare.

she is unbelievable.

Batocchio said...

If you heartless social justice types won't think of the needy rich, won't you at least think of their poor children?

Just not poor children, obviously. They don't count.

(I do love her citing Warren after baselessly attacking her. What a scumbag.)

Also, Anonymous is correct. You really do need to go back over there and read her update about lucky ducky poor people. The woman has no shame, self-awareness, or awareness of anything outside her dogmatic, self-aggrandizing glibertarianism.

Professor Fate said...

Susan - I think your point that these folks are not the true elite is important here. it's never really been the 1% vs the 99% it's been more like the 0.1% vs everybody else- these fine folks making 300K plus are now being squeezed by the system for the same reason Willie Loman robbed banks. they are the only ones with any money left to steal.
Welcome to way it's been for the rest of us for years. You'll hate it.

Louie Welch said...

Wow. Still stalking McWhatever her name is huh? Nice to see your pathology is intact. Warren is a liar but she's a Cougar so let's give her a pass!

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

McMegan is consistently horrible and it is consistently noted. How is this stalking?

And..."cougar?" Seriously WTF does that even mean? Do you even know or are you just argle-bargling about Warren? Do you HAVE any substantive critique of Warren?

Kathy Whitmire said...

Dear Slayer: Susan's a Houstonian so she knows what I mean. Ms. Warren went to undergraduate school at the University of Houston. Their mascot is a Cougar.
In terms of stalking you must not have read Susan's prodigous output over the years. I have. Ever read Susan's unhinged ramblings regarding McWhatever's kitchen utensils? It's a certain kind of blogosphere pathology that is akin to stalking.
In terms of your own ignorance about Ms. Warren, you're either a true believer or a fool. So far it looks like the latter. Although your use of WTF is cute.

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

Isn't it?

Megan is awful. There are many facets of Megan that are awful. I'll reiterate: THESE HAVE BEEN NOTED.

And it appears that Mr. Welch is ignorant of Warren since he still hasn't come up with a substantive critique. Nor have you. I'll mark that down as another argle bargle.

Mr.Wonderful said...

Prof. Fate--

It's Willie Sutton. Not Loman. Although Arthur Miller might have been amused by the idea of Willie Loman robbing banks.

I haven't read McMegan's whole post, but it seems like she's conflating the-suffering-1%-are-entitled-to-feel-sad-when-their-income-drops (they are), with therefore-they're-entitled-to-solicit-the-sympathy-of-others.

Which they're not. There's a difference between your private travail, and your private response to it, and your right to expect me to pity you.

Susan of Texas said...

Anonymous (I'm sorry, that's too common a handle--would you mind if I just picked out a name at random?)

Peter, thank you for your years of reading. I appreciate the hits very much. Tell your friends!

If you are a fan of stalking you must also enjoy McArdle's decade-long attempt to hoist herself up the media ladder by attacking Paul Krugman.

I would love to debate McArdle's actual work with you; it's so much more entertaining than running up, ringing the doorbell, yelling "Stalker!" into the mailbox slot, and running away. Would you like to discuss the suffering of the rich, the perfidity of the poor, or the use of fake statistics for supporting one's arguments about health care?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

. Ms. Warren went to undergraduate school at the University of Houston. Their mascot is a Cougar.

That doesn't make any sense. Susan is giving Warren a pass because of her college mascot?

The only way that original comment makes any kind of twisted sense is if the dipshit is using the word cougar in the sexual sense, which points out his own twisted character more than anything.

But no, no substantive criticism of Warren. But the wingnuts are fucking terrified of her, because their bankster masters told them to be. or else because she's an intelligent, opinionated, well-informed and competent woman, which makes their thingies shrink and is terrifying in a whole other way.

Susan of Texas said...

I think that I'm supposed to identify with Warren because we went to the same school, which automatically means that we are in the same group and therefore like or dislike the same things, support the same leaders, and hate the same enemies. Because I'm so authoritarian.

Besides, if that were true I'd be praising Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler instead of Elizabeth Warren. Go Phi Slama Jama!

Lurking Canadian said...

To be fair, Drexler was awesome in the open floor.

I don't know his positions regarding credit default swaps, though.

Downpuppy said...

Smooth, but not too crisp -