The Rich

February 2, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

In the February 2011 edition of Harper’s Magazine (in an article titled “Easy Chair: Servile Disobedience“), Thomas Frank offers a sharp challenge for The Rich. Now he’s not talking about all those who are rich. I assume he’s focusing on The Rich who proudly own and control Congress. There’s something different about those rich people…

One 2009 study in Psychological Science found that, in conversations with strangers, higher-status people tend to do more doodling and fidgeting and also to use fewer “engagement cues”-looking at the other person, laughing, and nodding their heads. A 2010 paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “lower-class individuals” turned out to be better performers on measures of such a “prosocial” virtues as generosity, charity, and helpfulness. A third study found that those of higher status were noticeably worse in assessing the emotions of others or figuring out what facial expressions meant. All of which is to say, The Rich are different from you and me. They are ruder and less generous. They don’t get what others are thinking. And apparently they don’t really care. If you stop and think about it for a second, you understand that all of this makes sense. People don’t craft poisoned collateralized debt obligations by calling on what they learned in Sunday school.…

Image by Fintastique at Dreamstime (with permission)

[T]he billionaires with the strongest sense of class solidarity have another plan for the disposable income: activating their lobbyists in Washington, building grassroots movements to march on their behalf, and using their media properties to run experiments on human credulity. Even their giving is a form of taking. For example, Charles Koch, of Wichita oil fame, recently circulated to his “network of business and philanthropic leaders” an invitation to a meeting at which-if their last meeting’s agenda is any indication-they will discuss strategies for beating back environmentalism and the “threat” of financial regulation. This is a kind of philanthropy that pays dividends.…

Americans are born to serve and assist the wealthy; it is our inalienable duty.… We cater to the wealthy in our work lives and we glorify them in our leisure.… We take up collections for the public schools because we feel the fortunes of the rich ought to go unencumbered by that burden.

Frank’s article should be read out loud, word by word to be fully appreciated. It paints a somber picture of America’s class struggle, but the first step toward change is forcing one to open one’s eyes. I only hope that we are in the midst of a mere class struggle and not at the end of a great experiment that culminated with Citizen’s United. I can just imagine many wealthy politically active people protesting, “The fact that I am rich didn’t make anyone else poor.” That argument still works for me for those people who are not showering Washington DC with big money in return for special privileges that siphon off my tax dollars and impinge on my civil rights. Who can any longer contest with a serious face that The Rich, including big corporate interests (telecoms, health insurers, military contractors and bankers), can get whatever they want from Congress. Where is this lesson in grade school government textbooks?

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Category: American Culture, Politics, Social justice

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. rosa says:

    I really like that post, if fidgeting and doodling is something the rich do I must be a billionaire, lol. I do this all day long, but I do read other people's emotions, sometimes I misinterpret them, but usually with a little conversation I can figure out if i am right or wrong.

    you know it is funny, you here people talk about what if they got wealthy overnight or something like winning the lottery? they would travel more spend time with family doing things together, and try to change the world for the better. the problem is they find out the world changes them.

    it as it says in the bible, if I may comment on this book, it says that which is clean that touches something unclean cannot make the unclean clean but becomes unclean himself.

    you cannot change bad people into good people by living and assoicating with them with the intent of changing them, your chances are really good they will change you into someone like them. as they say in the legal community always operate with bad people (comparitivly bad people) at arms length.

    anyway it really saddens me when the super wealthy could do so much to help make life better for poor people, and I don't mean handouts, but in policy and corp practices, it just boggles my mind why they dont. you know better wages, better enviromental practices more help in training people to be more able to lift themselves up out of poverty. instead they end up exploiting them instead. real sad. bassically allowing them to restructure their own societies as they see fit for economic growth instead of using the power of money or the state to hinder their progress via enviromentalism, socialism, military occupation you get the picture.

    it is the case of I got on the top of the mountain and will kick off others trying to get to the top too.

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