All of a sudden, it's like you can't make huge amounts of money without people getting all pissed off about it. And it's only going to get worse -- with the election coming up and the weather getting warmer, this whole "Occupy" movement is probably going to come back strong. The 1 percent will feel even more besieged than before.
"What the hell?" you're probably thinking, if you're somehow both rich and reading an article with this title, "I didn't crash the economy!" You might even be tempted to take to a microphone, to defend yourself and your wealthy friends. But before you do, I want you to stop and ask yourself, "Will this make me sound like an out-of-touch douchebag?"
#6. "Well, $500,000 a Year Might Sound Like a Lot, but I'm Hardly Rich."
"The amount that I have to reinvest in my business and feed my family is more like $600,000 ... and so by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over ..."
Pictured here with his poverty.
"It is hard to ask more of households making $250,000 or $300,000 a year. In large parts of the country, that kind of income does not get you a big home or lots of vacations or anything else that is associated with wealth."
What They Think They're Saying:
"Come on, we're all in this together! It's not like I have infinite money."
What We Hear:
"When my family's Aruba vacation went over budget, that was exactly like you being unable to afford medication for your child's excruciating chronic illness!"
"Look at how tiny my yacht is!"
I'm going to try to only quote politicians and pundits and other public figures for this article, but don't take that to mean they're the only people saying this stupid shit. Regular rich folk aren't exactly reluctant to offer this as a defense (here's an article on why it's hard to get by on $500,000 a year in New York, and here's one on why $200,000 a year isn't rich in Toronto), and you can go to the comment section of any article that mentions taxes or welfare or income inequality (including this one!) and hear this same bullshit.
"It's gotten to where I can barely afford my daily cigar rolled in the tanned flesh of a forsaken child."
Hell, you've probably heard it in real life, from a boss or some guy sitting nearby at Starbucks. "I guess I'm considered rich now! Well, if I'm so 'rich,' why am I broke at the end of the month?!?" Uh, I think it's because your mortgage is $3,000 a month, since you live in a fucking palace. And because you took your family on that Disney cruise last summer. And because you pay for your kids' college, so that, unlike us, they won't be crushed under six figures of student loan debt at age 22. And because you eat all the best foods and drink the finest liquids.
Or, as Hamilton Nolan at Gawker put it, "'Sure, it's an objectively large sum of money,' they say. 'But it is far smaller after I spend it.'"
"Once I pay for the helicopter, the helicopter fuel, the townhouse and the Lexus, I barely have more spending money than your entire yearly salary."
For people who are grinding through overtime just to keep up with their bank's late fees, this induces an urge to storm a gated community with pitchforks and torches and make those people go spend a year in a trailer park or in a city apartment so small that when you flush the toilet, little droplets of piss splatter onto the bed.
But don't get too mad at the rich for saying this -- we shouldn't, as a rule, get as angry at people for being oblivious as we should when they're being intentionally evil. Besides, they can't help it -- that obliviousness is hard-wired, a product of evolution that, really, kind of explains all class tension in the world. The rich, along with all of us, are biologically programmed to not notice their advantages.
"This stuff? I guess I could use it to prop up the table."
This came up a while back in a previous Cracked article. Basically, your brain drains the pleasure from the current things you own and do in order to motivate you to keep hunting and gathering. And I don't care where you are on the economic ladder, you've experienced this yourself.
You remember that scene from Big, where the boy-in-an-adult-body Tom Hanks gets his first paycheck at his shitty data entry job and screams in celebration, "A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SEVEN DOLLARS!" When you're a kid begging mom for 10 bucks at a time so you can buy some stickers for your Trapper Keeper (this is still 1984, right?), $200 seems like the kind of money that should come on a huge novelty lottery check. But then just a few years later, you get that first fast food job and watch your paycheck evaporate on just one car payment (the insurance takes the next one).
That leaves just enough extra money for a Netflix subscription and a bowl to cry into.
It is apparently entirely possible to stay in that mindset, ignoring each new asset, right up until you're sleeping on a platinum bed under covers made of fur from a cloned woolly mammoth. If someone tries to offer you a little perspective and remind you of the tremendous advantages you no longer even notice, you'll reply with something like ...
#5. "Hey, I Worked Hard to Get What I Have!"
"I became a self-made millionaire by the age of 30 by working grueling hours, being relentless and risking my own money. My success was earned with blood, sweat and tears."
"I used the tears as hair gel."
"Why, oh why, does the media bolster President Obama's rhetoric by using his term: 'the rich'? Would it not be more appropriate to say 'the successful,' or 'those who work harder?"
What They Think They're Saying:
"I'm not Paris Hilton! I work 70-hour weeks to make this salary!"
What We Hear:
"The only reason I have a hundred times more money than you is because I work a hundred times as hard!"
This will be the entry that prompts many a reader to skip right to the comment section after only reading the entry header ("I'm tired of these hippies saying the rich just got lucky and don't work hard!"). So let's get this out off the way right now, and make them look like assholes for not reading far enough:
Most high-income earners do put in a ton of hours. Bill Gates seemed to never sleep (an employee once said that putting in 81 hours in four days still couldn't keep up with Gates' schedule). So yes, it's unfair that we tend to think that "being rich" means "lounging by the pool while an albino tiger massages our feet with his tongue." So, "Hey, I work hard for what I have!" is perfectly true. It's also insulting.
"You guys just need to work hard in a lucrative field."
It's insulting for the exact same reason "Hey, I love my country!" is insulting: It implies that the listener doesn't. Otherwise there'd be no reason to say it.
It implies a bizarre alternate reality where society rewards you purely based on how much effort you exert, rather than according to how well your specific talents fit in with the needs of the marketplace in the particular era and part of the world in which you were born. It implies that the great investment banker makes 10 times more than a great nurse only because the banker works 10 times as hard.
And he gets pooped on less than half as often.
And even stranger, it implies that money earned is a perfect indicator of a person's value to society -- if you're broke, it must mean you're a loser who contributes nothing to anyone's life. And that's downright bizarre when it comes from the same people who also go on and on about the importance of parenting and family values. Surely they've noticed that being a great stay-at-home parent makes you exactly zero dollars a year.
And volunteering to work at a shelter for battered women? Doesn't pay shit! Diving into a creek to save a toddler from drowning? It pays infinitely less than throwing a touchdown pass during the Super Bowl.
I mean, babies are important, but c'mon ...
So, mister rich person who clearly is not reading this, when we say you're "lucky," we're not saying you're lucky in the way that a lottery winner is lucky. We're saying that you're lucky if you were born in a time and place where the hard work you're good at (say, stock speculation) is valued over the hard work that other people are good at (say, landscaping, or poetry).
You can reply that if some other field paid more, you'd have just simply switched to it and been equally successful, due to your smarts and determination. You know, like how the smart and determined Michael Jordan was equally successful as a basketball player (six titles, $70 million a year) and baseball player (batted .202 in the minors) and team owner (his Charlotte Bobcats are currently 4-28).
Hmm ... wait a second. Man, it's almost like Michael's hard work and determination wouldn't have made him rich if he hadn't happened to have been born in the one place and one time in human history where a man could get rich throwing a rubber ball through a small metal hoop.
On the other hand, that sweater vest makes us think he has potential as the next face of Jell-O.
Now I'm starting to wonder if I would have ever heard of Shaquille O'Neal if he'd skipped basketball to go right into rap. If you think I'm just being mean to athletes, hell, let me use myself as an example. I failed at three different careers before I struck gold with list articles and dong horror. I suck at everything else -- take away the Internet and I'm a 37-year-old man doing data entry in a cubicle instead of promoting a brand new sequel about boner monsters. Or, if you don't believe me, let billionaire investor Warren Buffett tell you: "If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil ... I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do very well -- disproportionately well."
"And yet I do all my shopping at Goodwill."
So to sum it up: If you make good money, but have to work 80-hour weeks to get it, you're still lucky. Just swallow your pride and fucking acknowledge it.
#4. "If I Can Do It, So Can You!"
"We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have-nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon-to-haves."
"The road to wealth is paved with self-delusion."
What They Think They're Saying:
"This is the land of opportunity, where anyone can make it! Instead of complaining, just go out there and get rich!"
What We Hear:
"If everyone at my country club makes good money, it can't be that hard!"
This is such an impossibly strange idea that I'm not sure if the people saying it actually believe it.
At the best parties, the words "social mobility" are the only punchline you need.
But ... I guess our entire philosophy about money kind of revolves around this premise -- that there is no poor or working class, but only people who have chosen to not buckle down to the task of getting rich (and thus deserve whatever salary, insecurity or poor work conditions they get). So there should be no talk about improving the lives of the non-rich, since any of them can simply choose to elevate themselves out of that group, right?
Seriously, now. How much time do you really have to spend off your goddamned yacht to see that this isn't true? You don't even need to leave the dock -- there's a guy standing right there who you pay to fix your boat's engine. You know that 1) you absolutely need guys like him and 2) he will never get rich doing what he does. He could be great at his job, he might be the Michael Jordan of mechanics, he might work 100 hours a week -- it doesn't matter. Sure, if that one guy somehow also has the head for management and finance and the networking skills, he could maybe open his own chain of yacht repair shops. But they can't all do that.
This dress could have fed starving interns.
So "anyone can get rich" isn't just untrue, it's insultingly untrue. You can't have a society where everyone is an investment banker. And you can't have a society where you pay six figures to every good policeman, nurse, firefighter, schoolteacher, carpenter, electrician and all of the other ten thousand professions that civilization needs to survive (and that rich people need in order to stay rich).
It's like setting a jar of moonshine on the floor of a boxcar full of 10 hobos and saying, "Now fight for it!" Sure, in the bloody aftermath you can say to each of the losers, "Hey, you could have had it if you'd fought harder!" and that's true on an individual level. But not collectively -- you knew goddamned well that nine hobos weren't getting any hooch that night. So why are you acting like it's their fault that only one of them is drunk?
You're intentionally conflating "anyone can have the moonshine" with "everyone can have it." And you are doing it because you're hoping that we will all be too busy fighting each other to ask why there was only one jar.
But if we do ask, the response will probably be something like ...