Wednesday, February 04, 2009

David Brooks of the NYT again earns his moniker of “Bobo” by defending multi-million dollar bonuses.

At least, I think that What Brooks is doing. This column is really confusing, so I am not certain what point he is really trying to make. Maybe you can figure it out.

The essence of the problem is this: Rich people used to set their own norms. For example, if one rich person wanted to use the company helicopter to aerate the ponds on his properties, and the other rich people on his board of directors thought this a sensible thing to do, then he could go ahead and do it without any serious repercussions.

But now, after the TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus package, the Fed rescue packages and various other federal interventions, rich people no longer get to set their own rules. Now lifestyle standards for the privileged class are set by people who live in Ward Three.

For those who don’t know, Ward Three is a section of Northwest Washington, D.C., where many Democratic staffers, regulators, journalists, lawyers, Obama aides and senior civil servants live. Thanks to recent and coming bailouts and interventions, the people in Ward Three run the banks and many major industries. Through this power, they get to insert themselves into the intricacies of upscale life, influencing when private jets can be flown, when friends can lend each other their limousines and at what golf resorts corporate learning retreats can be held.

The good news for rich people is that people in this neighborhood are very nice and cerebral. On any given Saturday, half the people in Ward Three are arranging panel discussions for the other half to participate in. They live in modest homes with recently renovated kitchens and Nordic Track machines crammed into the kids’ play areas downstairs (for some reason, people in Ward Three are only interested in toning the muscles in the lower halves of their bodies).

Nonetheless, many people in Ward Three do have certain resentments toward those with means, which those of you in the decamillionaire-to-billionaire wealth brackets should be aware of.

In the first place, many people in Ward Three suffer from Sublimated Liquidity Rage. As lawyers, TV producers and senior civil servants, they make decent salaries, but 60 percent of their disposable income goes to private school tuition and study abroad trips. They have little left over to spend on themselves, which generates deep and unacknowledged self-pity.

Second, they suffer from what has been called Status-Income Disequilibrium. At work they are flattered and feared. But they still have to go home and clean out the gutters because they can’t afford full-time household help.

Third, they suffer the status rivalries endemic to the upper-middle class. As law school grads, they resent B-school grads. As Washingtonians, they resent New Yorkers. As policy wonks, they resent people with good bone structure.

In short, people in Ward Three disdain three things: cleavage, hunting and dumb people who are richer than they are. Rich people have to learn to adapt to the new power structure if they hope to survive.

Yeah… So, like I said, I think that Brooks is on some sort of “stream of consciousness” rant (Cleavage? Aerating one’s pond with a private helicopter?) about how some people that live in a place called “Ward Three” don’t really appreciate how fat cats on Wall Street and other the financial institutions of this country get multi-million dollar bonuses for running their companies into the ground by utilizing really stupid business practices and then coming to the government to get huge taxpayer funded bailouts, and those same fat cats continue to do stupid stuff like set up million dollar ad campaigns at the Super Bowl, buy million dollar corporate jets, or making renovations to their private corporation biffys to the tune of several tens of thousands of dollars? David, is that really who you are defending here? Or attacking, I mean? Or are you using some sort of “reverse snark” logic that I cannot comprehend?

Dat David, he suh hates them Ward Three people who resents them some rich, smart people that makes mo’ money that they do! Dat’s for suh! (That’s not intended to be racist. It is some stupid thing that just came to mind when Brooks was talking about the lack of hired help that these “Ward Three” people suffer from. It’s implied reverse racism of the people who object… Oh, never mind. It wasn’t that funny anyway.)

Jeez, Bobo. This is just about as weird of a column that I have ever read. Maybe he’s on some prescription that makes him go all wacky every once in a while. I get that way sometimes when I take a decongestant. My head starts feeling really light and I have really funny and interesting thoughts and I know, with some amount of certainty, that I should not drive heavy machinery or write a column for national publication. Sometimes, I really like what he says in his column. Other times, he sounds like your basic Grade A wingnut. Cause, the only thing I get out of this column is that Brooks is dissing the people who object to giving multi-millionaires more millions when the companies they run into the ground give them bonuses.

Can anyone else come up with a different interpretation of this?

Here’s a MUCH better column on the subject, from Mr. Eugene Robinson.

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