Let Them Eat Cake

let-em-eat-cake

In a wonderful ironic turn, my colleagues in the sustainable consumption (a bit of an oxymoron) world have been circulating a Bloomberg news story about the hardships of many Wall Streeters who, this year, are getting lower bonuses than has been the past practice. You really should read the whole article to catch the full impact, but here are a few snippets.

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

Talk about insularity and noblesse oblige. Alan, how about all the people that struggle every year to pay their bills and have had less each year, without dreaming of bonuses, for about the last decade? To be fair, the article points out, “The percentage of Americans living in poverty climbed to 15.1 percent, the highest in almost two decades.” Nothing more is said about this.

This was followed by the sad tale of woe of Richard Scheiner, 58, a real-estate investor and hedge-fund manager. As I was writing this post I became concerned that my tears would short out my keyboard.

Scheiner said he spends about $500 a month to park one of his two Audis in a garage and at least $7,500 a year each for memberships at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester and a gun club in upstate New York. A labradoodle named Zelda and a rescued bichon frise, Duke, cost $17,000 a year, including food, health care, boarding and a daily dog-walker who charges $17 each per outing, he said.

Now for the heart-rending part. “Still, he sold two motorcycles he didn’t use and called his Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet ‘the Volkswagen of supercars.’”

The story goes on:

Scheiner pays $30,000 a year to be part of a New York-based peer-learning group for investors called Tiger 21. Founder Michael Sonnenfeldt said members, most with a net worth of at least $10 million, have been forced to “re-examine lots of assumptions about how grand their life would be.” While they aren’t asking for sympathy, “at their level, in a different way but in the same way, the rug got pulled out,” said Sonnenfeldt, 56. “For many people of wealth, they’ve had a crushing setback as well.” He described a feeling of “malaise” and a “paralysis that does not allow one to believe that generally things are going to get better,” listing geopolitical hot spots such as Iran and low interest rates that have been “artificially manipulated” by the Federal Reserve.

I felt the same way reading this article as Rick Santorum described his response to JFK’s clear and compelling words about the place of religion in a free country. I know Bloomberg is the news magazine for the financial community, but I would think they might have had a bit more sensitivity to the irony of what they wrote about, especially in the shadow of Occupy Wall Street, and the obscene role that money is playing with our politics. If you think I am going overboard, please clink on the link and read the whole article. I shed no tears for the fellow who drove out of Manhattan all the way to Brooklyn to buy salmon at a discount. Perhaps, there is some psychological difference between the shock of not getting some money you have been accustomed to get, and the every day suffering of those living with too little money to start with, but I think most of us would accept the Wall Street kind of suffering, rather than to spend everyday wondering where the next meal is coming from.

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