Colum: I think you’ll find the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.
Never say that Chamber of Commerce types are stupid. Whatever our stereotypes of the “idle rich”, many of them worked hard to get where they are, and have some sort of intelligence to which they can attribute their success.
But I think another quote about the rich, from F. Scott Fitzgerald, illustrates how we find ourselves in this pass:
Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.
It’s that cynicism which is the reason we find ourselves where we are today, with the government shut down, and a debt default looming on the horizon.
Of course, not all the rich are callow and self-serving. Philanthropy and civic-mindedness amongst the moneyed classes has a long history in America. But it’s no stretch to call the Republican Party the party of business, and many titans of industry expect a return on their investment.
With the Democratic victories of 2006 and 2008, Republican backers began to panic. The economic dogma which had obtained since Ronald Reagan’s administration was no longer tenable. The crisis of 2008 promised to sweep away all their most cherished perquisites: lax regulation, laissez faire economics, the slow but inexorable withering of the welfare state. Suddenly bankers and other assorted masters of the universe were less popular than head lice. The world teetered on the precipice of a second Great Depression; the Great Recession which was the ultimate result was nearly as devastating to the US economy; in parts of Europe, it was a Depression in all but name.
Something had to be done, quickly. And ironically, Barack Obama’s election provided the kernel of an idea.