The violently changing economic isn’t going down very well among those who previously enjoyed life of privilege and luxury. Well, that’s obvious. Nobody likes to go from rich to poor.
Gabriel Sherman at NYMag takes a look at the “Rage of the Privileged Class” as it loses its status. What really burns these people is not just their declining wealth, but the way in which the collapse is shattering their illusion of what they deserve and what they’re entitled to.
“No offence to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.
“I’m not giving to charity this year!” one hedge-fund analyst shouts into the phone, when I ask about Obama’s planned tax increases. “When people ask me for money, I tell them, ‘If you want me to give you money, send a letter to my senator asking for my taxes to be lowered.’ I feel so much less generous right now. If I have to adopt 20 poor families, I want a thank-you note and an update on their lives. At least Sally Struthers gives you an update.”
It is difficult to sympathize with these people, their comments laced with snobbery and petulance. But you can understand their shock: Their world has been turned on its head. After years of enjoying favourable tax rates, they are facing an administration that wants to redistribute their wealth. Their industry is being reordered—no one knows what Wall Street will look like in a few years. They are anxious, and their anxiety is making them mad.
Their anger takes many forms: There is rage at Obama for pushing to raise taxes (“The government wants me to be a slave!” says one hedge-fund analyst); rage at the masses who don’t understand that Wall Street’s high salaries fund New York’s budget (“We’re fucked,” says a former Lehman equities analyst, referring to the city); rage at the people who don’t “get” that Wall Street enables much of the rest of the economy to function (“JPMorgan and all these guys should go on strike—see what happens to the country without Wall Street,” says another hedge-funder).