Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rich is hard

One of my favorite movies is Black Widow with Debra Winger and Theresa Russell about an FBI agent, who is more of a geek than a field rep, and a woman who changes her appearance to trap and marry wealthy men and then kill them without leaving a trace. Her favorite poison, I believe it was methadone, is injected into bottles of liquor they would drink and they shuffled off their mortal coil in their sleep. Only one victim was murdered with penicillin; he was allergic and she was in a rush because she knew Debra was onto her.

What really struck me is what she said to Debra when they were together. "Rich is hard." I suppose anyone who is rich would think that rich was hard, but it doesn't seem like that to those of us outside the 6-, 7-, and 8-figure bank balance club. For us, rich would be very easy. No worries, able to buy what you want when you want, the ability to help friends and family, and live lavishly. Rich is easy for us -- until you get there.

The whole trickle down theory of economics was based on the idea that when you're rich you employ people, putting money into the economy and filled jobs on the roster. You have money that you spend so that other people can have money to spend and the economy booms. Not so with the current class of the wealthy who seem to want to find every possible way to keep their money while still buying whatever they want through tax loopholes and shell companies and all sorts of financial shenanigans. They aren't playing the game the way it is supposed to be played. After all, "Where is the noblesse oblige?" one friend asked me. That's what I'd like to know.

I believe in the idea that when you're wealthy you spread it around. There is no sense in having millions or hundreds of billions if you don't spend it. With that kind of money, it would be a major task to spend even the interest on the principle and still not have millions or hundreds of billions left. You can leave some of it to your children, but the best way to immortalize yourself and your money is to put it back into the economy. That's what it's for -- spending.

I'm of the opinion that should I be worth millions, I'd still live simply, but with some help around the house, and a little bigger house than the one I live in now. A housekeeper would be necessary and a gardener for the yard, and a handyman to take care of things around the house and grounds (and by grounds I mean a fairly substantial yard, but without the hedge maze, trout stream, and haha). A couple of cottages on the grounds to house the help if they want to live on the premises, someone to come in when there are guests and tend to their needs, and people on tap in the town nearby to service cars and do maintenance on any number of things that need taking care of. I would spend prodigiously on books and be able to help friends and relatives and still live comfortably. I'm not the ostentatious type and wouldn't need bodyguards, but I would need first class accommodations for travel and I would be traveling quite a bit. I have places to go and the world to see so I can have something to write about.

The point is that the people who have millions and hundreds of billions are stingy with their wealth as if they're afraid of spending too much money. They don't stint with paintings by masters and the finest food, furniture, and clothing, not to mention the odd Lear jet and fleet of cars, but they do stint with putting money back into the economy -- the U.S. economy. They wriggle and writhe and manage to get more than they spent back from the government that allowed them a bit of latitude in order to urge them to put money into the economy. How much of $200 billion dollars could they spend in a lifetime, really?

Trickle down economics doesn't account for stingy and greedy people who are determined to keep making their wealth grow because they're not sure they're really rich unless they can buy and sell a senator or two and buy options in presidents and governors, and buy mayors and judges, all so they can keep their money -- and some of yours, too.

What happened to noblesse oblige? They obliged themselves of more of our money and decided to keep it for themselves by buying homes in foreign countries and keeping their holdings in Swiss and off-shore banks so they don't have to report it. They fund few business and no manufacturing and strangle the economy with their morning coffee and croissant over the Wall Street Journal and coffee while planning a day of golfing and a trip to Ibiza with the latest mistress they have showered with furs and jewels, who is busy bedding the cabana boy while waiting for the fatted calf to arrive.

Instead, they should be buying up failing businesses and making them run again, hiring Americans to work on their various properties, and funding medical research, or even helping NASA to realize their goal of sending up something other than probes to Mars and the outlying planets in search of mining and terraforming opportunities. They should be funding shuttles to the moon and building space stations and finding a way to make the land grow food and support the poor instead of living it up on your and my dimes while we languish for lack of jobs and opportunities, while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. They should be shoring up the middle class and spending some of those hundreds of billions of dollars on something other than themselves since they didn't make the money without the help of billions of people in the first place.

Rich isn't hard. Nor is greed, selfishness, and self-serving meanness. Rich is easy. Spread it around and make yourself and the world around you richer. Trickle down economics works, but only when the wealthy stop hoarding all the money and sending it offshore to hide their worth. Put it back to work and send the economy booming again. It's not hard. It's easy.

The problem with being rich is that when things get really hard, the rich fat cats are first on the poor's menu. The hard part will be saving your life when the ravening hordes come crashing through your gates for a day of the locust.

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