Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day: "It's Hard Being Ultra-Rich"

In honor of Labor Day, here is an excellent article by Barbara Erenreich, author of the award-winning Nickeled and Dimed. In it, she satirically takes up the cause of beleaguered CEOs. But, there are some deadly serious stats in there, as well... such as:
The CEOs of large companies earn an average of $10.8 million a year, which is 362 times as much as the average American worker, and retire with $10.1 million in their special exclusive CEO pension funds.

But, she goes on, tongue firmly in cheek:

The real point, which the CEOs and their usual defenders are strangely reticent about making, is that it's damn expensive to be rich, and extravagantly expensive to be super-rich.

Before you start playing your air violins, consider the costs of maintaining up to five different homes, some of them up to 45,000 square feet in size, most with swimming pools, tennis courts, guest houses, and wine cellars requiring constant supervision.

The poor whine about having no home at all, or maybe a two-bedroom apartment for a family of six. They should just think for one moment of the tribulations involved in running four or more mansions, each with its own full-time staff. There's the problem of getting between them, for example. A friend of mine, of very modest means himself, consults for a billionaire couple who commute between London and Los Angeles by private jet, with their dogs following in a second private jet.

But much of what we know about the extreme costs of wealth comes from Wall Street Journal columnist Robert Frank's recent book Richistan. The ultra-rich, who are drawn largely from the CEO class, require staffs of about 40-50 people, including not only cooks, maids and nannies, but "lifestyle managers" (to set up the entertainment schedule) and -- in a throw-back to the original gilded age -- butlers.

We have to ask ourselves: What are the implications for American democracy when so few control such a vast amount of the nation's wealth? Inequality is at the levels of the 1920s and nearing the historic levels of the 1890s "Gilded Age."

In addition, this disparity begs another question: Given this obscene gulf between CEO pay and the average worker, why doesn't it translate into political action - revolt?? - from the working-class?

To read the full essay, click here:
Erenreich, "It's Hard Being Ultra-Rich"

No comments:

Post a Comment