Why is there so much anger and whining from the biggest winners in society?:
Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times:
Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of the American International Group,
said something stupid the other day. And we should be glad, because his
comments help highlight an important but rarely discussed cost of extreme
income inequality — namely, the rise of a small but powerful group of what
can only be called sociopaths.
For those who don’t recall, A.I.G. is a giant insurance company that played
a crucial role in creating the global economic crisis... Five years ago,
U.S. authorities, fearing that A.I.G.’s collapse might destabilize the whole
financial system, stepped in with a huge bailout. ... For a time, A.I.G. was
essentially a ward of the federal government, which owned the bulk of its
stock, yet it continued paying large executive bonuses. There was,
understandably, much public furor.
So here’s what Mr. Benmosche did in an interview with The Wall Street
Journal: He compared the uproar over bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South
declared that the bonus backlash was “just as bad and just as wrong.”
In 2010..., there was
a comparable outburst from Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman of the
Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms...
This is important. Sometimes the wealthy talk as if they were characters in
“Atlas Shrugged,” demanding nothing more from society than that the moochers
leave them alone. But these men were speaking for, not against,
redistribution — redistribution from the 99 percent to people like them.
This isn’t libertarianism; it’s a demand for special treatment. It’s not Ayn
Rand; it’s ancien régime. ...
The thing is, by and large, the wealthy have gotten their wish. Wall Street
was bailed out, while workers and homeowners weren’t. ...
So why the anger? Why the whining? And bear in mind that claims that the
wealthy are being persecuted aren’t just coming from a few loudmouths.
They’ve been all over the op-ed pages and were, in fact, a central theme of
the Romney campaign last year.
Well, I have a theory. When you have that much money, what is it you’re
trying to buy by making even more? You already have the multiple big houses,
the servants, the private jet. What you really want now is adulation; you
want the world to bow before your success. And so the thought that people in
the media, in Congress, and even in the White House are saying critical
things about people like you drives you wild.
It is, of course, incredibly petty. But money brings power, and thanks to
surging inequality, these petty people have a lot of money. So their
whining, their anger that they don’t receive universal deference, can have
real political consequences. Fear the wrath of the .01 percent!
Posted by Mark Thoma on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 12:24 AM in Economics, Income Distribution |