I WANT TO GROW UP TO BE MIDDLE MANAGEMENT

Being in higher education requires one to accept a strange relationship among status, social class, and income. Being a professor is theoretically a high status job, but the pay isn't stellar. Accordingly, we have to get used to the fact that most of our students have more money than we do. They drive nicer cars, go on two or three vacations per year, wear more expensive clothing, enjoy the family beach house on Tybee or Martha's Vineyard, and blow $500 on a night out at the bar without thinking twice. And most of them don't even work. But hey, this is the line of work we chose and we knew the limited income potential. It's just a reality we get used to. I hardly notice anymore.

Of course the preceding paragraph somewhat misrepresents the situation. The students themselves are not wealthy; the money is coming from Mom and Pop. And on my campus it seems that the recession has managed to miss many of the Moms and Pops. For example, the house across the street from me is occupied by three very nice female undergraduates. It has three cars parked in the driveway: a Range Rover (base price: $80,275), a Mercedes SLK ($54,800), and a Lexus IS350 ($42,480). I guess the latter girl's parents don't really love her.

This experience is not shared by every student – many of them are taking the bus and busting ass to pay rent – but it certainly isn't rare either. The parking decks at all three large state universities at which I've spent several years have been like exotic car showrooms. Or check out the parking lot at the frats and sororities. There's a lot of money being thrown around at these places.

Any head of a household, especially with children, understands that a very high income is necessary to afford buy one's 19 year old an $80,000 car (and if that's what Susie drives, what are mom and dad driving?). We're talking about real "one percenters" here, with household incomes most likely over $250,000. And I can never stop myself from wondering: What in the hell do all of these people do for a living? There can only be so many doctors in the world.

Now I have to make a confession – I grew up in a family and neighborhood with very limited imagination as far as career paths. Growing up, the two careers available in this country (as far as I knew) were Doctor and Lawyer. Girls could be teachers, nurses, or secretaries too. People who "weren't college material" became cops, electricians, low-skill civil servants, or meth addicts. This is not an exaggeration. I seriously had no idea what an MBA was when I got to college. "Banker" meant the guy who wore a tie and a brown tweed sportcoat at the bank in my home town. I had never met anyone who held a Ph.D. and professions like accounting, engineering, computer science, and so on were only vaguely understood. And it's not like I grew up poor – our family was well above average. But I was never exposed to anyone who told me that there were professions in the world other than Doctor and Lawyer. To this day, whenever I see or think of great wealth, that's what I assume wealthy people do. It's very naive and New Money of me, I know.

When I think about it, of course, I realize that not every family showering its college-aged children with money is headed by doctors and lawyers. I still can't tell you exactly what they do, though. I have a vague sense that people make a ton of money in "business" or "finance" but I'm short on specifics beyond that – lots of people must be working in generic offices in some sort of Executive Vice President in Charge of Administration type positions, at least as I envision it. All I know is that recession or not, 10% unemployment or not, there are a lot of these people out there, presumably in the Atlanta suburbs. There are far more poor people in this state, of course, but the absolute number of wealthy families is significant. And I'm teaching at the cheap public school – I can imagine what the student body is like at Atlanta's $40,000/yr private schools or the more academically demanding publics.

I think that one of the reasons that the children of wealthy parents tend to become wealthy too – aside from the obvious – is that they comprehend more career options. Poor, working-, or middle class kids tend to think of high paying careers in terms of the stuff they see on TV and they gravitate toward the most clearly defined paths. I certainly did, and I've had enough conversations with friends I grew up with to be confident that I'm not the only one who suffered this failure of imagination as I transitioned to adulthood. Perhaps there are more people than I realize taking advantage of the world's oldest method of getting rich – inheriting it – or maybe there really are that many doctors in this country. It is rare that I admit such all-encompassing ignorance, but all I know is that I am surrounded by a large number of the children of wealthy families and I don't fully comprehend where all the money is coming from.

71 thoughts on “I WANT TO GROW UP TO BE MIDDLE MANAGEMENT”

  • $CREDIT$

    Most of these people do not live within thier means, they live within thier credit limit. And many of these kids have already mortgaged thier future. Trust me, the average banker earns much less than you do, even if he/she wears a nicer suit.

    I grew up in a little different family from yours, without going into specifics, both my parents, my sister, her husband, myself, two of my kids (four more are still in the system), three of my four grandparents and the majority of my relatives have graduate degrees and nearly all of our incomes are eclipsed by two of my sons-in-law. They both have trades.

    Although it might look good to drive a BMW and wear fancy shoes, chances are the guy in dirty work clothes driving a pick-up is actually a lot better off.

  • I would be weary of anecdotal evidence, I would wager significantly more of your students are of the bus riding variety than the Range Rover driving set.

    The larger point of yours still likely stands. You can only do what you can conceive of doing and so you gear your career expectations accordingly. The statistics involving public school teachers being the first in their family to attend and graduate from college are a good example of this.

    In fairness, not a lot of 14 year olds say "wow, being an actuary sounds kind of cool. Where do I sign up?"

  • Georgia Tech?

    That said, I taught at a "rich" private high school outside of Baltimore for a few years, not long before the housing bubble crashed. I was similarly amazed at the cars my students drove, or the furs and jewelry the moms wore while dropping off their kids and then heading to their therapists offices.

    Not many of the kids had doctors for parents, but lots of medical-type middle managers for HMO's, and lots of dentists and podiatrists and the sorts of people who can't make it into a top-tier MD program so they go on to become ENT specialists and such. Lots of mid-level finance types, and a lot of people "in real estate."

    Of course, with those mid-level financial and real-estate types I know for a fact that a lot of them can no longer send their kids to private school. The school itself, being a second-tier institution, is one life support/about to go bankrupt depending on who you ask. First-tier institutions are maybe feeling a little crunch, but they have huge endowments and enough parents wanting the star-level pedigree that it's no problem.

    As mentioned, when credit was easy people lived beyond their means and to some extent they probably still do. Also, frats and sororities = old money. The individual families might fall on difficulties, but they've got enough money in the bank to "keep up appearances" for a while.

    I grew up very comfortably, but I drove a beat-ass Honda civic through college. My parents would have laughed at the idea of giving a kid a luxury sedan, let alone an SUV.

    I dunno. Maybe you're feeling cash poor but I imagine you've got amazing health insurance and a 401K that's better than most.

    Just give it another decade though. American public universities, still the gold standard for international higher education, are all going to go the way of the UC system sooner rather than later.

  • Interesting point, Ed. I grew up lower-middle-class-ish in a shit-poor school district, and out of the kids that had any particular plans to get out, every single one planned to be either a doctor or a lawyer, depending on their relative fondness for math and science (so, mostly lawyers). Those two careers are what success looks like from afar. They're what your parents and grandparents encourage you to do. Even in a poor small town there's bound to be a few doctors and lawyers around, driving the nicer cars and living in bigger houses, while the very rich live somewhere else altogether.

    When I hear about the glut of unemployed law school grads, this makes perfect sense–passing the bar has long been touted as a one-way ticket to The Good Life, for anyone smart and hard working enough to make it through law school. So of course it doesn't work out that way. The market gets glutted, while the truly enormous piles of money go to folks with the connections to enter more obscure fields with less defined paths of entry.

  • Also, I went to a second-tier midwestern librul arts college and then to University of Virginia for grad. school. The differences in student culture were shocking.

    At the former, kids like me were plenty well off but there was a definite slumming/hippie/stoner vibe. The frat boys were frat boys, but even they pulled off kind of a down-at-the-heels, granola chic.

    Man, UVA. I'll grant them this — Thorsten Veblen's theory of "conspicuous consumption" was in full effect, 24/7.

    Hey, if you're family has got it then you might as well flaunt it.

  • I don't get it. I guess I'm just old fashioned.

    I make good money as an airline pilot – around $140k. My wife makes $54k as a state worker. So that makes us empty-nesters with a combined income of close to $200k.

    We live in a 1500 sq ft townhouse that I paid $89k for back in 1994.

    I drive a (very nice) 2004 Audi that I bought used for $26k and my wife drives a 2003 Audi that I bought used for $16k.

    I would never think of buying an $80,000 car for myself, let alone for a kid.

  • I'll let everyone in on a little secret. Making a pretty respectable income in the low six digits isn't really that hard. Think of something that would attract very few people. Think of tedium, details and anything unglamorous and unfullfilling. Couple that with a few minor hurdles required to obtain the credentials that mind-numbing position requires and you will find a very small pool of applicants.

    A few examples for those of you who just want the dough: Insurance broker, actuary, data security officer, database architect, senior software developer, any VP role that requires a technology background and logistics managers.

    For the blue collar inclined: Maritime engineers, electrician, plumbers, power plant engineers, roughneck, tugboat and OSV officers, and marine surveyors.

    When high status is involved, competition is fierce. Everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer, fashion designer, interior decorator, professor, fighter jet pilot, astronaut or professional blowjob receiver. Basically, any job you might want to do that is admired by others pays shit. Personal fulfillment is worth a lot but if you decide you want to chase the money, see above for escape routes. Be forewarned, however, that no one will find your work interesting and you probably won't be scoring very often at the hot clubs.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    There are several assumptions that make me dubious. Were kids who grew up in middle class neighborhoods of 50s and 60s unaware of the the riches of alternatives vocations? Today's parallel neighborhoods are way richer and way more fancy.

    I did grow up in the 50s in a poor country, not anymore, where most mothers stayed home and most fathers were blue collar. This includes my parents. My high school class yielded the regular docs and lawyers, but it also produced architects, biologists, mathematicians, several entrepreneurs, university professors of different sort, e.g. literature, physicists, etc.

    Are many expensive children's cars bought on credit? My kids went to a high school with a parking replete with beemers, lexi and what have you. We know the parents; they were typically well off. My kids had nothing parked except for my youngest who had a jalopy. My kids grow up and do well.

    Affluence has changed everything. Those of us who are over 40 grew up in much poorer and limited environment. Today every schmuck can make half a mill; it didn't used to be like that. Yet, I don't believe that we had smaller dreams then.

  • A mate of mine worked for an American consulting company somewhere in the upper middle mgt in IT. The people earning the real $$$ in the company were the consultants.

    Their career track was something like this:
    Mum and dad came from North East Money.
    Kid went to a New England Prep School.
    Went Harvard
    Harvard MBA
    Went to work as a consultant starting at $250k.

    If one of those steps was missing there was no chance of getting a consulting job with them. So that's an example of one of those hidden career paths.

    The thing I've always been peeved by this is that people who've never worked, and only have book learning and theory behind are making decisions that affect my life and work. I.e. outsourcing and offshoring make perfectly good business sense. And we wonder why things are skewiff.

  • Just one quibble here–you've been, I'm guessing, at flagship public universities. I teach at a regional comprehensive state school in PA, and even though it's the per capita most comfortable in our 14-school system, most of our students work at least part-time, nearly 1/3 full-time, and only about 10% are getting any financial aid.

    What you see on your campus sounds a lot like what I saw at Syracuse and Florida State, my grad programs: aspirations to look as wealthy as people at more elite institutions, which often got students and their families into tremendous trouble financially. At Syracuse especially, the badges of "Look at how swank we are!" were everywhere, but most of the students actually weren't quite able to manage all that.

  • I don't know if I was the exception or if you were, but when I was growing up in the 70's and 80's (pretty solidly middle class), I knew that a lot of the people making good money were managers, engineers, stockbrokers, or people who owned their own businesses. There were wealthy doctors and lawyers as well, but they weren't the only high-paying career paths.

    I think that part of the answer is where you type: "middle class kids tend to think of high paying careers in terms of the stuff they see on TV". How many middle class kids live in that sort of bubble in which TV defines their view of the world? There are newspapers, schools try to teach students about career paths, hell, one's own parents meet different people and sometimes introduce the children to them, or if not, at least talk about them.

  • Ed, is there a more academically demanding public in your state (I graduated from your school)? Perhaps the yellow and black one for certain degrees. But all the others I can think of are private.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I grew up in Queens, NYC, until I was 11. And the neighborhood we lived in was lower-middle class, with a lot of blue-collar workers, and a smattering of Jewish professional people (aka: doctors and lawyers). Even our family doctor lived two blocks down in a little home that was also his office.
    As far as I knew, we were all right around the same income bracket, because my Jewish friends, and the other ones, didn't have a lot of more and nicer stuff. Or if they did, their parents made sure they didn't flaunt it.

    We moved to upstate NY in 1969. My Dad was foreman at a small machine shop. But everyone I met, their father worked for IBM. If the mother worked at all, and mine soon needed to, they worked (usually part-time) in retail, which was expanding here in the early 70's. (And, since IBM downsized it operations here, depending mostly on contract workers with no benefits, working in retail is about the only thing you can find around here anymore).
    The other kids in the development had nicer cars. The other kids in school, whose fathers also all worked for IBM, also had nicer cars. They all went on more vacations – and more expensive ones. Some of them went to private Catholic schools. They had more, and more expensive, toys. And when they got old enough, they got a hand-me-down car. So did I – except mine was the cheapest little Datsun sold in America. Theirs was the old Chevy or Ford.

    Still, the differences weren't glaring. We were lower middle class, they were more solidly middle class.

    Now, in this area, you still have a lot of the little post-war houses. But behind them, in what were once woods, sit McMansions, built from the mid-90's on.
    Where do those people work?
    Probably not around here – unless they're doctors, dentists, and lawyers.
    Most of them probably work in NYC or Westchester, and commute.
    Maybe Albany, which is only about 80-90 miles away.

    Me?
    I'm a former trainer in the telecommunications industry – where I made an ok living. Never more than half of six figures. I worked in NYC, Philadelphia, the Research Triangle area of NC, and also Fayetteville.
    I quit my job in the teeth of the Recession/near Depression to help my elderly parents out. And I've been mostly unemployed for the last 3+ years, with no prospects. Companies aren't hiring 54 yo's. And especially not handicapped ones. My only real hope is getting SSDI, which I've already been turned down for once. I have another hearing in the fall. And if i get it, it won't be much.

    My advice to any kids growing up here now, would be to move away as soon as possible. The jobs in this area are few and far between, and the pay ain't great. Move to NYC, or a comparable large city. There are more opportunities there than in smaller areas.
    This area was too reliant on IBM, and when they had problems, so did this area. And those problems still exist.

    Go West, young person.
    Or, North.
    Or, East.
    Or, even, as much as I hate saying it – the South. The more of us Yankees move down there, the quicker we can keep changing the culture down there.

  • I've seen a similar phenomenon in my town, which over the past decade or two (well, not so much for the last five years) has had McMansions springing up everywhere, blighting every scenic view. Also true in the place I grew up, where I've been able to see it over a longer view. Both places are formerly been factory suburbs and farms, and it's not precisely clear that the demographic has changed that much, except that if anything, there's less employment in the community, as the factories have mostly closed.

    I've walked often up the hill with my wife, and wondered aloud what the hell all these people do (that we don't! as a couple of engineers and scientists, we aren't in the income basement). Some of these people we know, and they're teachers and nurses and copier salesmen. They were lucky enough to own property here at the start of the boom–inherited from their parents–and were able to move up in a timely way. One thing I've come to appreciate is that it's far better, financially, to be ten years older than me (I'm 39), adn that grad school carried a whopping huge opportunity cost. I don't rule out taht these people carry titanic debt loads either.

    It's also possible that some residents are hour-plus Boston commuters who have been pushed WAY outside what any human can afford to buy within shouting distance fo the city.

  • DEBT.

    I worked at a university bookstore and saw this first hand. The gaggle of sorority girls drive up in their BMWs, and their credit cards are declined for a $200 textbook.

    I went to an Ivy League school with actual rich people (parents are billionaires rich), and they all do as much as they can not to call attention to themselves. If you have the impulse to flaunt it, you probably aint got much of it.

    An interesting juxtaposition.

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    "schools try to teach students about career paths"

    Mine really didn't. I grew up in an area with a pretty low median family income. What Ed says here is something I've been harping on for years. I was a really good student, but nobody…not my parents, not my teachers, not my guidance counselors, not my priests…gave me any realistic career counseling, and as a result, I really didn't understand what kinds of things people did for a living. I knew what teachers were, and I knew what nurses were (but that was "woman's work"), and I guess I knew what doctors were. I knew what preachers were, and I knew what lawyers were if you count Matlock.

    I really didn't understand what it meant to go into "business." When I heard people say that, I assumed it mean that you had to invent something and then sell it. I didn't grasp that you could work in existing institutions.

    Anyway, not to belabor the point, but yes, I wasn't exposed to much variety in the role models I saw, and I received ZERO counseling from any of my educational institutions (including the extremely expensive private liberal arts college I attended on scholarship).

    I could have been a plumber, damnit! I could have been a middle manager! I could have been an engineer! Solid middle-class jobs that are hard to outsource! Low aspirations…that's the key to happiness in America.

  • "(L)ots of people must be working in generic offices in some sort of Executive Vice President in Charge of Administration type positions". Yes, they are. No 14 year old wants to be an actuary, but if you major in 'business' then you are setting yourself up to be the 'accounting operations' type. For a lot of people, myself included, if you work in the 'business' world then eventually you notice that specialized degrees/experience get you paid, for essentially the same type of 'sit at a desk and sob silently to yourself' work. I went back to grad school for accounting. Same type of job, better pay. If you are in insurance underwriting, you're probably looking at the actuaries.
    But the one job you forgot in your 'what do they do' analysis was sales. There are a lot of people in sales, and they can get quite highly compensated. Every company has a fleet of them.

  • Don't forget the phenomenon that drove the pretend "prosperity" of 1995-2006: people were able to refinance their house every few months, cash out their equity, and pay off their credit cards. Vast swathes of the "real estate business" were built solely to contribute to and feed off of this phenomenon. Some few people with good credit are still able to refi every six months or so, but that's about it.

    I point this out because hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans spent that decade growing accustomed to the idea of their credit card debt vanishing a couple times a year – no matter how much they spent. Recession/depression or not, I think lots of folks have yet to shake that habit and way of thinking, and are continuing to run up their cards in anticipation of being able to refi their way out again "as soon as things get back to normal".

    Ed, I hope you're looking outside your career path for ways to improve your lot in life. Write books, man. You're a terrific writer and I think your stuff would sell.

  • Somewhat different start, similar end. Dad was a professor, Granddad had been a professor, so of course we would teach when we grew up. Four of the five sibs went into the family business, the black sheep went into "trade". Of course, he's the one we'll all depend on for retirement as he's doing very well on Wall Street. The rest of us, we're getting by, but used Volvos or minivans are the transportation of choice.

  • Grumpygradstudent, you're not alone in saying that you had no career counseling. I think that I really was in the minority in that respect. My father was taught in school by Franciscan brothers who tried to drill into the students that "You have to have a plan!" Probably not everyone paid attention to that, but he did, and passed it on to me. It wasn't some sort of intense push towards careerism – just the constant awareness that being able to provide a home and necessities for a family required an income, and that you'd do well to keep your eyes open for things that you can do well with your particular set of talents and inclinations.

    Now I meet, or read stories of, many people who got all the way through college and grad school with little to no idea of what to do next or how they're going to raise enough money to pay off the debt they've accumulated in the process. It just baffles me.

    Even if one doesn't have a parent, mentor, or school that provides some guidance, what about personal concern for your own future? I get that you're going to school to get an education rather than a career. Really I do. I chose my own majors because they were things that I wanted to learn for learning's sake (computer science and physics). I didn't spend my high school and college years focused on careerism – in fact my natural inclination is to try to do the minimum work for the maximum benefit. But it's not hard to keep at least an occasional eye on what skills and experiences you're accumulating and how you can get someone to compensate you for them.

    If you're smart enough to go to college, you should be smart enough to understand that 1) you're not going to be in college forever and 2) college costs money and someone is going to have to pay it. And today's news should tell you, even if common sense doesn't, that having a degree in hand is not a magic ticket to a high-paying job. Everyone owes it to themselves to think about where you want to go and how you can get there.

  • Ed, it's called leverage. Don't forget that you work in the South where the culture, especially among white elites, values status above all else. Because of that, the expression of monied status is extremely important. Don't think for a second that a lot of those people who you think have money actually have money. I'd bet my left nut that the majority are levered up to their eyeballs.

    Side note: I pity the men who marry any one of those women who live across the street from you. DC is filled with blonde haired newly graduated biotches from the South who are so vacuous and superficial, a dimple on my ass has more depth.

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    No, I'm in it to get a career (working on this phd because I want to be a professor, and my school has a pretty decent placement record, and i'll probably get a job, and if I don't, I'll go do policy analysis for the government or a consulting firm). I ended up doing fine, but there were certain paths that were closed off to me because the self-preservation instinct you're referring to didn't kick in until I was out of college, and I didn't have the training necessary for certain kinds of career paths. Could I have gotten that training if I had really wanted to? Perhaps, but it would have required me to work outside of the existing institutions that society has set up for career preparation (i.e., schools).

    This may come as a shock to you, as someone so responsible and naturally interested in computers, but some 18 years olds are bad at planning for their long term futures, and some find classical literature and philosophy much more interesting than the stuff you found interesting. Your natural interests prepared you for a career by default; most people's don't.

  • I went to U. of GA and I always assumed a lot of its ostentations wealth trickled down from the Coca-Cola corporation. The B School lounge had stylized door handles based on Coke bottles. It was much nicer than anything in the lib arts buildings.

  • I think there is a cultural change from 20 years ago, when I was in college. Upper-middle class families, at least in New England, just didn't give their kids much stuff/money. Parents covered tuition & housing (assuming they could) & beyond that, college kids were mostly on their own, and generally had part-time jobs. I think parents with some money are just handing more of it over to their college-age children.

  • I feel as if I've eaten a whole Whitman's Sampler in one sitting; yuck.

    Having grown up in a tiny town of poor locals and rich tourists, then going to a small private university in a wealthier state, this stirred many memories for me. Sorority girls who would skip class to drive their Beemers (THXDAD plates) to shopping, tanning, and margaritas were poster children, but most of the dreadlock-sporting dope fiends and political-activist vegan Dumpster divers were trust fund babies as well. Those of us with three jobs were invisible support for those kids, serving their meals and ghostwriting their papers.

    The Sorority girls tended to marry other Greeks, the dope fiends went into local politics (your City Planner used to be my roommate, nicknamed "Bongwater"), and the pseudo-hippie vegans are massage therapists who, in their 40s, are still spending a month in Oaxaca every year, still on Daddy's dime. Keep working on getting that Pilates certification, Honey.

    As an insurance person, I saw many, many people my age whose parents were STILL paying their bills — phone, medical ins., car payments, car ins., credit card, and ski vacations — even though the parents themselves were suddenly struggling to keep their formerly booming businesses afloat.

    High credit debt, piss-poor management, and eroding savings pay for some folks' ride. Others had a generational accretion of wealth: Great-Granddad barely survived the Depression; Grandpa went into the military and opened a small business that thrived; Dad received a used sedan for his 16th birthday and used it to drive to part-time jobs…then received a down-payment on a house as a wedding present, and made the most of it.

    Never got divorced. Didn't move around a lot or live extravagantly. Had no major unexpected losses. Followed the path to security. Now has Junior living at home again after HIS divorce, still looking for work, still eating Mom's food. The flight scheduled to land two years ago is still in a holding pattern over the living room couch.

    Here in the U.S., we respect money and celebrity. Anyone take a sociology class? "Professors, priests, and poets" — and their associated professions — have high respect and low incomes. I can see why artists and the clergy would follow vocations paid more in love than money, but I never understood why educators were paid so poorly. Unless it's a sort of tradition, dating back to tutors as glorified nannies, and schoolmarms who were required to be single ladies of good character, who took payment in apples and game birds.

  • Monkey Business says:

    A lot of what you're seeing is conspicuous consumption from the nouveau riche. Formerly middle class people believe themselves to be wealthy, and will go broke demonstrating how wealthy they are.

    I was in a fraternity in undergrad. The vast majority of the house was on scholarship or financial aid. There were a few of us that had some money and weren't on either. And then there were the 1%er spawn. They were all self-absorbed, spoiled, and absolute dickbags to anyone that wasn't willing to tell them how great they were. One drove a new Range Rover, the other drove a new Trailblazer, and the other drove a new Corvette Z06. Range Rover Kid basically blew off his senior year to do a metric fuckton of coke and daytrade stocks. Trailblazer kid actually did well for himself, worked hard, and works for a company in Chicago. And Corvette kid came from Old South Money, so he never had to work at all.

    Long story short, I don't think any of the people you're describing are "real" 1%er spawn, because the real deal are something else entirely.

  • Yeah I have to side with the Grump Grad here – my high school (and certainly not my family/friends/neighborhood) did not do jack shit in terms of career counseling. Basically, if you were a bad student they just wrote you off and figured you'd end up working menial retail or manual labor. If you were a good student they just told you to go to college. No sense of what to do during or after college – just that we should go to it.

    So kids get to college with the low-class understanding of what successful people do – doctors and lawyers.

    And I went to a private high school, by the way, so it's not like I got no career counseling because the school was falling apart.

  • @Grumoygrad: I was using the generic "you" when I said "you're going to school to get an education". It's the most common rebuttal I hear when I ask people why they didn't plan for their post-college life.

    Actually I enjoy literature and history just as much as science and computers. I can feed that desire by checking out books from the library and reading them after work. Of course the world needs history teachers too… I wouldn't mind being one, but I can't figure out a way to support a family of four in a good neighborhood on what a teacher makes. Maybe after the kids have jobs of their own, it can be my next calling.

    By all means, I think that everyone should study what appeals to them, but if what they study has few or low-paying career prospects, they should have a Plan B for supporting their body while the education supports their mind.

  • Ed and Grumpygrad, I don't doubt what you're saying about most young people not being taught to plan for their future. I'll just shake my head and acknowledge that that is one way in which we as a society are failing our children.

  • The one thing I have not seen anyone mention is that most of the people you're talking about will get jobs through their friends' parents. They went to school together, do business together, and are politically and community connected.

    You don't have to know much – you just have to graduate. Then dad makes a call and you're interning for your Congressman. After that your ability to bullshit gets you your next job, and your next ad infinitum.

  • I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Grumpygradstudent, but have you checked the Academic Wiki lately, or the various websites/communities devoted to finding "transferrable skills" among PhD's who can't find work outside of academia? It ain't pretty out there, not even for the Ivy League grads. I'm a recent PhD grad from a "Public Ivy" with good placement and my CV, while not "knock 'em over" in terms of pubs and teaching, is on par with several of the junior faculty who've interviewed me—and my field is actually doing okay when it comes to the constant winnowing of anything not "business" related. At any rate, I was recently turned down by a third tier liberal arts college in a relatively undesirable location—far and away the best job prospect I've had in over two years. But while I'm very seriously looking at the prospect of never finding a job that I've spent the better part of ten years (MA + PhD) training for, I thank the gods I'm not REALLY screwed in that I didn't go for a JD—those poor bastards are not only not going to find a job, they just paid several hundred thousand dollars for the privilege of filing for unemployment. In other words, I hope you've been developing some kind of quality "real world" skill while in school, or you'll be joining the ranks of thousands who have terminal degrees but are only going to find work slinging coffee.

    I can certainly identify with Ed here: grew up middle class to parents who gave lots of good advice about getting ahead in general, but who had zero connections or firm ideas about what it took to really "make it". I don't regret doing a PhD as such, but I do think that life would be a bit less worrisome had I learned a proper trade or made better connections at my private school as an undergrad. Certainly I will tell my kids that they should either go for the money, or if they follow their dreams/ideals they should forgo having children unless they move to a sane country where healthcare, childcare, school, etc. do not each require more cash than they will be making in their high status, low paying "career."

  • The first thing I wanted to be was a soldier. The second thing was a baseball player. The third thing was a philosopher. Having done the first, quit the second, and chosen not to pursue the third, I have fallen into a situation that satisifies my bent for public service while providing an income (mostly) sufficient to support a family of four. I'd rather be a professor, but the realities of working toward that would've meant an extreme sacrifice for a vanishingly small opportunity. Sure, I'd earn my Ph.D from a top- or top-ish-tier program, then I get to join Ed in the sucktank while I pray for a tenure-track position literally anywhere one is offered. It was a dream job; this is reality, and I've seen a number of friends veer away from academia, while only one went in the other direction. I have comparable or better benefits, less perks and prestige, more upward mobility, and vastly more job security and choice of location in which to raise a family that I can actually afford to provide the means of which I was deprived so they don't have to join the military to afford an education that they can only pursue once they are well into their twenties, as well as ensure my wife can stay home to raise them to school age. I can still provide my sons insight that wasn't there for me as a child of a high school graduate and a two-year certificate holder who knew next to nothing themselves about career pursuit; perhaps they will choose differently with better advantages/options.

    When my folks were young (1970s), you graduated high school and showed up at the factory/foundry/etc. and got a union manufacturing job (or married said employee and got busy having children), primarily in the agriculture industry when that meant tractors and not 20,000 hogs within 10 square miles. Thanks to a number of factors (e.g., Bush, Clinton, Bush, et al), my area lost literally tens of thousands of those jobs in the 1980s. Also, fuck Ronald Reagan, SOB'ing POS who grew up not far from here and was instrumental in making it the kind of place that he would've loved for the rest of us but never have chosen for him and his at this point: the overwhelming majority of the only approximately 20% as many good remaining jobs as there were here in 1980 (outside of Dr.'s and entrepreneurs) are white/periwinkle collar and answer almost without exception to the 1%.

    Yay. Mission accomplished, Plutarchs.

  • Based on my memory as a child in the 80's I can only think about how all of the teachers kids had cars (New, but more inline with Suzuki or Chevy) & designer duds…

    I thought that teachers made BANK!

    I now know that I was wrong, but I have to wonder about how they were "so" much better off…

    (Small town in Texas – far enough from a military base that not every one had an "Army" job.)

  • Aaahh, existential crisis week. Yesterday you admitted that there's no way for you to achieve the dramatic results you wish you could get within a timeframe that would satisfy you using the resources you have – which, considering your uncontrollable, withering disdain for much of America (a point of view I share), includes your capacity to get your message across to anyone else.
    Today, you acknowledge your ludicrous ignorance of the nature of the economy beyond what you saw on TV when you were a kid and your own limited suburban middle-class outlook, and regret choosing your future based on that ignorance.
    At this rate I'm betting you'll an hero before May Day.

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    Yeah, I'm familiar with how jobs work, Fezzik. Lots of people in my field work outside of academia in consulting and government. My ph.d. is in public policy, and I got an MPA before I got a phd. The existence of a viable fallback plan is one of the reasons I chose it (see, I wasn't COMPLETELY insane to get a ph.d.). Most of the people who I've seen graduate from my program in the last four years have gotten academic jobs, and that's during the worst job market in decades, so I think I'll be ok.

    Maybe we should halt the thread drift into "bitch about the academic job market" zone though.

  • From a Krugman column:

    "For who are the 0.1 percent? Very few of them are Steve Jobs-type innovators; most of them are corporate bigwigs and financial wheeler-dealers. One recent analysis found that 43 percent of the super-elite are executives at nonfinancial companies, 18 percent are in finance and another 12 percent are lawyers or in real estate. And these are not, to put it mildly, professions in which there is a clear relationship between someone

  • Here is a better reference: Table 2 and 3 on page 51 of http://www.indiana.edu/~spea/faculty/pdf/heim_JobsIncomeGrowthTopEarners.pdf

    Composition of the top 1% by income (excluding capital gains) in 2005:

    Executives, managers, supervisors (non-finance) 31%,
    Medical 17%
    Financial professions, including management 14%
    Lawyers 8%
    Computer, math, engineering, technical (nonfinance) 5%
    Not working or deceased 4%
    Skilled sales (except finance or real estate) 4%
    Blue collar or miscellaneous service 4%
    Real estate 3%
    Business operations (nonfinance) 3%

  • Composition of the top 0.1% (excluding capital gains) in 2005

    Executives, managers, supervisors (non-finance) 43%
    Financial professions, including management 18%
    Lawyers 7%
    Medical 6%
    Not working or deceased 4%
    Real estate 4%
    Entrepreneur not elsewhere classified 3%
    Arts, media, sports 3%
    Business operations (nonfinance) 3%
    Computer, math, engineering, technical (nonfinance) 3%

  • @Grumpygradstudent: awesome, you are far better prepared than I, and more power to you. I didn't intend the tone to be "lemme tell you something, whippersnapper," but I get the sense there's some snark/heat behind your reply. My own experience/example was meant to compliment the overall tenor of the thread: things seem to have gotten worse/tougher for everyone without connections and/or working jobs with obscure pathways or mundane but otherwise valuable trade skills. Even the qualifications that we and our parents might have thought were golden tickets are in fact now anything but.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    An individual (not a family) needs about $350K in annual income to be a 1%er. Also, are you sure these cars are new? Maybe they're hand-me-downs and their parents are driving similar, but newer, cars, not more expensive models. My mother grew up very privileged. Her father, a doctor, got a new Ford every other year or so, and she got the leftovers.

  • @Middle: The high school I went to was an interesting one. We had people on food stamps, and kids who on their 16th got a brand new 320i. Most of us had the equivalent of the iPod of the time "Sony Walkman", which in a lot of ways was considerably much more ostentatious than an iPod/smartphone will ever be. They're just the latest incarnation of what the Walkman. The Walkman though was something new. MP3? Enh! It's just evolution.

    @Jimcat:
    I'll make an exception to your conclusion about a university degree. There was a time in history (during the 50s–70s), where a college degree was actually a license to print money. Unfortunately, the whole educational industry is predicated upon an out dated model. What I call "Credential Bloat" or "Credential Inflation" is now entering it's final stages. No longer will an MBA suffice. Now what's required is a DBA (yup a Ph.D. in biz), so what's after a Ph.D.? I believe Ed has flogged the worthlessness of a BA more than enough in other posts.

    Blessed are those taught explicitly how to live and were paying attention when it was done.

    Unfortunately for my self if there was some explicit teaching being done — a now leads to b, which now leads to c, etc. etc. or how to plan things like your dad was — either from my mum and dad or from my teachers, I was watching butterfly flit around outside. Discipline is a very good thing, the book of Proverbs is loaded with verses about teaching your children discipline. The child may hate it at the time, but will thank you later. If there was one thing I wish my dad had done differently with me, it would be discipline. But I probably would have been staring at the gnat buzzing around his ear the whole time. I own the fact that I've made a complete and total hash of things, now I've got to clean up my bed.

    For some reason I was allowed to pound nails into a board, and did so because I enjoyed it, but for some reason never made the connection that I could (let alone how) build something. Not to that extreme, but you get the idea.

    While it's very important to teach a kid, okay so now you know how to bang a nail into a piece of wood, let's see what we can build. Thus teaching them how to plan and envision something from start to finish. Then show them how this can be adapted to other things, e.g. you know how to read and write, now how to write a narrative for a story, etc. whatever the kid is interested in.
    It's equally important to teach the kid that failure
    is an option and it's okay (provided death and serious injury aren't on the table), because now you know how not to do something, or you can shake out the gold and build on what works.

    So really, career counselling is useless. What Jimcat describes is far more important. Given that type of teaching, a child could learn how to turn their interests in the humanities into money.

  • Bootlegging. I always wondered if there were fourth-generation mob families involved with my school. How come all of these kids had fancy, foreign cars? Maybe they all inherited a bit of mob money from many years down the family line. All I knew for sure is that many of these kids had decked-out SUVs and luxury cars, but they still wore flip-flops to class. I guess they only wanted to look good in their cars.

  • The appearance of wealth and actual wealth are two very different things. My thinking has always been that many of the people who are ostentatious and apparently wealthy, have very little in the bank and often quite a bit of debt. People with high enough incomes to secure a good line of credit and a desire to appear successful. Whereas many of the people who are actually wealthy don't look it, because they tend to save their money instead of spend it.

  • I think that when polled, people inevitably define "rich" as "somebody who makes twice as much as me" regardless of how much they make.

    So the guy who makes $500k might say "I'm not rich, that guy over there who makes a million a year is rich."

    Not saying that's good or bad, just human nature.

  • 'you can't make that kinda money from working'.

    That was told to be in 1993 by Bruno the Maintenance Man. He just cleared $300k on his house, bought in 1960 for 15k.

    Real money is ALL about right place/right time—-nothing more, nothing less.

    A lot of what you see is conspicuous consumption; financed by House of Cards financing.

    The three richest guys I know, drive POS cars.

    Career consoling in this country sucks, but what really sucks is a lack of mentoring. I wish had received some good direct advice from older friends and relatives about what to do for a living and how to make money.

  • Yeah, what I described as "career counseling" would be more accurately described as "mentoring", or "parenting", or even just setting a good example. My family and their friends taught me more just by living their lives than any number of lectures could have done.

    I swear, I'm pretty lazy and have a short attention span myself, and my life's history is littered with screwups and failures from which I've had to recover. But even with that, it is absolutely possible to learn and apply what you need to know to provide for yourself and your family.

  • As others have said, you can't always tell wealth by what someone owns. They may be in hock up to their eyeballs. My father taught me that when I was in awe over the backyard neighbor's swimming pool. I said "they must be rich!" and he said "or they are foolish and in debt."

    Also….I do love the stereotyping of the sorority and frat types. Sure, at the bigger schools, I imagine the members of the larger sororities and fraternities are from well-off families–the Greek system is much more popular and more competitive so that a not-so well-off kid might not get the nod. But there are smaller sororities and fraternities for the less well-to-do kids who want to be in the Greek system at those schools. At other, smaller or less important schools (state colleges in places where being Greek matters not), I think you'll find that the members of sororities and fraternities look just like you and me. As a matter of fact, I KNOW it; I was a member of a rather large national sorority at a campus where the Greek system was not popular. Basically anyone could join. A few of my sorority sisters were from wealthy families, but the majority of us were just from middle class families and nearly all of us had jobs to contribute to our upkeep.

    All of which is not to say I loved the sorority experience. I did, for about a year. Then I got over that.

  • I concocted a theory about 30 years ago:

    If you work for wages, you always seem to need about $300 – 400 more per month than you make.

    For the average earners between 30 to 60K this runs about 8 to 12% per year. I think the SYSTEM has us programmed so that we spend that extra percentage more than we earn to keep us in bondage.

    //bb

  • A lot of it has to do with how motivated an individual is to prepare for their future. Unfortunately, this is an issue that largely comes from parenting and environment — while schools can certainly help, I don't know if they should necessarily be held responsible for it.

    I come from a family of lower-middle-class means; my mother and father were technicians in the Navy, working on the electronic components of fighter jets. When they got out, they went into fairly typical desk jobs — customer service, middling management (not to be confused with middle management!), work related to their background in electronics work. Neither of them ever went to college, nor anyone in my immediate extended family. My father, on his side, is actually fairly respectable; of his four-child family, one of them is dead, the other two are hopelessly under-employed drug addicts (booze counts as a drug), and Dad pretty much carries the load as the only one that ever made anything at all of themselves. Such is life in the Deep South.

    Coming up in this environment, my entire schooling and college career –leading into my present comfortable upper-middle class life — was driven by a single idea, the core of everything I ever did.

    "I will not let that happen to *me*."

    I was fortunate enough to have the "good" parents of the family, but even then there wasn't very much to go on; having never gone to college (or in my father's case, even completed high school), they couldn't offer any assistance with my learning once I got into my junior year of high school, and had no insights into the collegiate process. Most of my encouragement from my father's direction came in the form of reinforcement.

    "Son, don't let this happen to *you*."

    This environment of people that at least recognized the issue and addressed it is what enabled me to get where I am. Unfortunately, most kids don't that.

  • @Nunya – you seem kind of bitter. I'm a database architect, and I love my job. Basically I'm handsomely paid to solve logic puzzles all day – it's just about the opposite of mind-numbing. Most of the software developers I work with love their jobs too. Certainly there's nowhere near the level of tedium involved in being, say, a pro athlete. Even the most glamorous and highly paid NFL player, for example, spends vast amounts of time running repetitive drills or memorizing endless different plays.

    Growing up in Silicon Valley in the 1970s and 80s, Engineering was a prestige career. Even though doctors and lawyers typically made more money (except for those engineers who got in on the ground floor of a successful startup), I don't recall they got more respect than engineers.

  • When I was at an unnamed southern university of some fame, I saw the expensive cars, the huge houses, and general dickery that went with it. That particular university had an in-state tuition program that gave those with qualifying gpa's free tuition and it appeared that mom and dad just funneled that money into cars, houses, etc for their kids. I think that's the case for many parents, instead of tuition, they give their kids all the things that they (the parents) didn't have when they went to college. It's utter asshattery and I admit, I was pretty jealous when my husband and I bought our first place to live (a townhome) only to find that most of the other spots in the development had been bought by mom and dad for spawn who then proceeded to fill it with boozy friends who were too lazy to put the garbage in the dumpster (the girls were particularly bad about this), who refused to acknowledge the parking rules, and who would literally drive through the gate if they couldn't remember their code to get in.

    Now that I'm at a small private expensive engineering school, my students are as broke as I ever was as an undergrad. I don't know if it's Midwestern ethics, the fact that many of my students are first generation college students (and often second generation Americans), or the economy but I really feel for my students. Their buddies at Madison get to while away spring break in Cabo and my students are lucky if they get to go home to Waukesha to work (many stay around over break because of the work load).

  • @Jimcat: something that our more libertarian counter parts neglect to comprehend are the internal factors. I.e. what's going on in a person's head. How is it that two people can sit in the same class and receive the same information yet come away with different things?

    It's only now in my 40s that I'm starting to grasp ideas that you already seem to have mastered. :-/

    BTW- I'm not having a go at you, as I don't believe you're taking a "Faux News" position.

    I realised through my battles w depression it was where I could see other people on the other side of a huge chasm telling me to come on over. To me the only way over I could "see" was a super leap over. I just couldn't see the obvious path that lead to the fallen log that would get me across to your side of the chasm. Why? I have no idea, but believe me it's frustrating. I'm slowly "reprogramming" myself, but it takes time.

  • my experience: I made a bee-line just as soon as I could to the NYC that doesn't exist anymore. I caught the tale end of it in the East Village in the late '80s. Eventually after much scrounging I managed to finally buy a place in a co-op in 1999.

    Everyone who bought in this building back in the dangerous grungy days of the 80's, and even 90's earned their own money and paid for their apartment themselves. I've been on my co-op board for the past twelve years. The more our prices go up, the more all-cash buyers we see. Prices have tripled but more and more we sell to the kids of the 1%. They're good kids, not mindless partiers, they want serious careers in the arts; their parents are buying them a place in NYC's east village so that they have a place they can afford while they pursue their dream. They live modestly and work hard, but if they need to pay out $300K or $450K in cash to make sure they get co-op board approval, the money's there.

    We live in strange times, with a lot of ostentatious debt and hidden wealth.

  • @ EJ – This isn't bitterness speaking, this is experience. I too chose two of the paths you see in my comment because I decided that after a period of poverty during the college years that I didn't ever want to endure that again.

    Let's be frank – you and I both do one or more jobs mentioned on that list and merely describing your job to those outside of your chosen career path will bring about blank expressions and almost never a comment about it besides silence.

    I admire those that seek altruism and service above earnings and as I look back after many years in my chosen professions, wonder if choosing the life I chose makes the world a better place. I'm pretty sure it didn't but at least I'll be able to retire.

    My point is that if you are willing to accept a life without prestige or understanding of what you do by the wider world, you can make a decent living. To the younger readers or this blog, simply offer them an honest assessment of a person that has endured two decades of corporate rule and who may not be satisfied as a professional chess player for the monied elite.

    RM*.*

  • It might just be my perception, but at UGA I think the rich kid population is slightly inflated due to the HOPE scholarship program not having a family income requirement. So you get all those rich assholes from Gwinnett County and elsewhere from the OTP zones around ATL. Another thing about UGA I saw when I was there, and this may be indicative of the culture in GA/the South in general, was that car driving and parking was practically encouraged for kids who FUCKING LIVED ON CAMPUS. And the number of cars w/friends/greek bros and sisters/significant others/etc dropping people off in the middle of the road as close as possible to the building where their next class is definitely seems higher than what I've seen elsewhere as well.

  • Joseph MIller says:

    Interesting starting point for a Book called "Where is all that Money coming from?". As I read the comments above I see many people such as myself trying to understand who really seems to run this country. I'll have a go at explaining it. It is my belief that the real movers and shakers make a study at being anonymous. The Fortune 500 are wealthy by measurable standards because they are the faces of Corporations and therefore lose their anonymity. But the major shareholders of these Corporations and the owners of our Federal Reserve System are probably the place to look for the Controlling Wealth in the US and most other Civilized Countries. Generations of East Coast Trust Funds. The quiet masses of wealth that power Wall Street. The Silent hands that pull the puppet strings of the Political World and make us think we really have a Democracy. The regular visitors of Tax Havens, Jersey, Switzerland, Bahamas… would be just a start. Those flaunting their wealth with 80,000 cars are nouveau rich. The truly rich old money will likely be driving a Honda and will be blending in. They don't want to become targets. Look to the top 6 Banks that control 30 to 40% of the Wealth in the US… then look to the top shareholders. This is the source. The rest … Doctors & Lawyers are merely highly paid servants.

  • Wow, this struck home. Growing up, being a doctor or a lawyer was exactly what I thought my options were to "make it". My high school didn't provide any advice about careers (and it was a decent school) and most of the parents I knew were blue collar or bottom tier white collar.

    Now I teach business in a non-flagship public university to students with a similar perspective. An important part of what I do is to give them a sense of the wider world out there, although it's not a replacement for actual experience.

  • This resonates from the other side as well.

    We intend to give our children a bit less materially than our peers give their children. It is hard to compare entire situations and know what _hasn't_ been supplied, but it is easy to see what _has_ been supplied, so we may have been overly generous.

    However, of course their education was paid for and they got a nice enough condo in a safe area and a good job in their field when they were done. We also arranged summer jobs or helped them with their own enterprises from age 13.

    It would feel rather strange _not_ to say over lunch "yes, thanks, our daughter is just finishing her degree in June. Yes, she's still very interested in your area and has this and that experience… and how is your daughter doing? Isn't she finishing high school about now? Oh, a year left? …"

    Part of their education was being told very clearly by professors as well as by ourselves that "You will spend your life doing jobs which don't exist yet. Prepare yourselves! Learn how to learn. Build contact nets. Notice the world and how it is changing and consider what that means for your life plan. " ( yes, life plan.)

    To avoid resentment, we do not talk about money, and do not talk about our work with outsiders. We do not drive fancy cars or wear expensive jewelry. We try hard to keep our heads down.

    This comment thread makes me suspect that we may think we keep our heads down, but are conspicuous anyway.

  • On the trend of the "how come Doctor or Lawyer seems like the default option for making" for those of us who grew up below the upper class: It's because you can't/are not allowed to choose and very, very seldom can you work hard enough, suck enough of Satan's member, and weasel your way into the realm of the 0.1%.

    Yes, Bill Gates got there, but short of that level of innovation followed by Standard Oil style business shenanigans can anyone not born there, get there. Marriage, perhaps, but even then you better have some inside track (great oral, great looks, no embarrassing/low-class back story, etc.). Those who are born there don't fuck with guidance counselors. They don't go to public schools as a general rule. They all are citizens of a small-to-medium-sized non-geographic gated, heavily fortified city (on a hill, naturally; a really, really steep hill) of likely around 250,000 people. In that city, there are scores of high schools (e.g., Phillips Exeter) and 15 or so colleges/universities (e.g., Yale) from which future citizens come after partying with scholarship kids and others before returning to the fold (think "My Own Private Idaho" only less extreme). I could go on, but I think I may have finally stumbled across a non-fiction book idea. Please don't steal it unless you're going to crush it more goodly than could I, please….

  • @Jane: Spoken like a true citizen of the city on the very, very steep hill. Maybe I'm off base (and if so, apologies, it's still ripe for further illustration), but in the handful of experiences I've had with those of that socioeconomic strata, they are uber-cloistered. There's a face that is reserved only for those on the inside and that is never shown to the outside; meanwhile, among polite/socioeconomic equal company, the reserved face is also not shown, but that is how one knows one is part of the party in the penthouse: The richest part is pretending there's nothing special about it…and that includes pretending/rationalizing that the vast unwashed masses allowing it are not capable of appreciating or deserving of what is hoarded by a such a very, very few.

  • @My Say:
    I certainly lack perspective and knowledge and am even, perhaps, cloistered, and can only say you are correct up until the last sentence. " the richest part…".

    From there, I think perhaps your resentment gets the upper hand of your quest for understanding. If you really want to write that book and make it a classic, I think you may need to see things from the perspective of the "cloistered "people, and write with empathy and understanding from that perspective as well.

    There are reasons to have "a reserved face", and those reasons are more about participating unencumbered in the world and finding a wider acquaintance than the cloister supplies, than about excluding the less privileged. Over time, the reserved face becomes one's default face, and it is almost always kept on inside the cloister as well.

    I don't know that I know anyone who thinks about "the vast unwashed masses" in the condescending, arrogant way you pillory.

  • @Jane:
    Fair enough, to a point. I'm thinking of Howard Roark and Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead type relationship vis a vis the upper-upper crust and the rest of us, such that those of us down here in many ways idolize or are encouraged to idolize them, when in fact we are, at best, an afterthought even though we have the numbers. Keeping us disorganized and preoccupied with internal strife on the basis of race, region, religion, etc. has, does, and will continue to keep whatever might be the modern equivalent of Madame Guillotine at bay. By the way, the "I don't know anyone" thing smacks of the "some say" tactic used on outlets like Fox; your anecdotal evidence hardly makes the case, and just because they don't talk about it…well, that was kind of my point. Just like Ed (and many of the rest of us) hate the smug asides about the N's, the F's, etc. I find myself having to castigate strangers, friends, acquaintances about once every few months for doing so. Have I lost friends? Yes. Have I lost my self-respect or allowed others to denigrate the human dignity of strangers/entire groupings of humanity. Hell no.

    Also, I think actions speak louder than words, so when we have 40+ million people living in poverty in arguably the richest nation in the history of the Earth while the subject topmost socioeconomic stratum gets ever richer, my verbal condescension and arrogance might well be that, but my words don't create human misery, the arrogance and condescension of hoarding and constantly rigging or paying others to rig the system ensures and perpetuates greater human misery. So, if I come across that, BFD. In other words, my feeling is that the primary means of guilt assuasion on the parts of those of privilege, philanthropy, is a piss poor excuse for justification of wallowing in the spoils of the economic cream that is withheld, stolen, or otherwise not used for the good of humankind and instead for that third/fourth/fifth "extra" house that sits empty for months out of the year, that boat that costs more than every house I've ever lived in, etc., etc., blah blah blah. I could go on forever with my resentment of the people in this world who have the money to make it far better, while many of us merely survive or attempt to be good/decent human beings. Sorry if I hurt the feelers with my commentary, but my empathy knows bounds. I'm reminded of a trust funded individual who literally gave away his inheritance for a number of reasons. He was the most apparently well-adjusted of a small group of similar people born into what I consider disgusting, unearned wealth. Not the only, but one of the few.

  • I live in Sweden, just so you know, not the States.

    Sweden has rather high taxes and the state provides a lot of services: universal health care, generally excellent, almost free day care, good infrastructure, decent (though no longer great) public schools, free university studies, a small allowance that makes it just about possible for people to attend university without working part time, universal pensions people can live on, etc. The GINI coefficient is fairly low and the level of trust in society is high; we're all pulling together, perhaps somewhat less than we have before, but there is definitely a community feeling.

    Sweden is far from perfect, of course, but it's my home and I'm taking the opportunity to point out some of its good points :)

    I don't have statistics about the attitudes of the wealthy toward the less wealthy; all I have is anecdotal evidence. I agree, that is not perfect. I can only say I _really don't_ recognize the attitudes you believe wealthy people have, and I presumably have more experience of the subject than you, though my experience is skewed toward Europe.

    My job? I start companies. This is the third time I've been CEO of a high tech startup. I've also invested time and money in other startups. In total, I'm on my eleventh high tech startup. Some have done very well, and some have also created rather a number of jobs. Some have done badly, too. This time, the company is very promising and it's been a couple of years with no/low salary and rather heavy investment.

    I don't see how I have stolen, rigged, or destroyed anything for you, or for particularly many other people.

    The bulk of human misery…yes. There is a lot of human misery, and I can't say I know how to alleviate it.

    Globalisation has done a lot for a huge number of people.

    The EU has done something by expanding to include poor countries, a few at a time.
    However, the Euro seems to have been badly constructed, and many of our politicians are perversely embracing austerity, so I don't know how well the EU will work as a misery alleviating organisation for a good long while. The right wing thugs gaining power in Greece and Hungary are scary.

  • @Jane:
    Well, context is everything. While the ilk I'm aimed at are not exclusive to the US, that is generally my bent. I'm happy to let other countries worry about their own plutocrats. As you say, any right wing thugs are bad, and that is more who I'm concerned about; also, I wish the US were more like Sweden on many levels. A basic level of societal concern across the spectrum would be nice, y'know? Please also note that I have no idea where you fall on the US or the global scale, and I'm not concerned with individuals, per se, anyway. It is as an overclass and as an exclusive network that I am against/aghast at the level of avarice at and near that portion of the socioeconomic pyramid.

    Finally, I'm not intending to denigrate entrepreneurialism, either. I'm thinking generational, I-don't-give-shit money rather than "I can't believe I made my first million by 40" money. I'm thinking Koch Bros., Walton family, privately/family owned fortune 500, military industrial money, rather than Pinterest or boutique/niche small businesses or your average auto mechanic who wins an $8 million dollar lottery jackpot. Good for you if you are creating jobs; bad for you if you were simply buying companies, cutting them to the bone/firing everyone possible, cooking the books and then selling the companies at neat profit a year or three later as shipshape when they've been gutted. That just happened (again) in our area, until it can't happen anymore now, because the shell game only went three cycles with that company and now it's dead after 50 years and a few hundred (once decent, of late…not) jobs. Now the last weasel owners caught holding the hot potato are scrambling because they've violated a number of laws in their scramble to sell the company before they ran it into the ground. They didn't do anything differently than the previous two owners, they just didn't realize the firm had already been hollowed out twice before…

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