Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stimulus Package

I'm told one of the provisions of the "stimulus package" is that executives of bailed out financial institutions should jolly well show willing and try to muddle along on half a million bucks a year or less. It's a toothless provision, since there are many ways of compensating executives besides salary. But it hurts.

This man, for instance, believes it will start small, with salary caps, but soon it will lead to handicapped lesbians of color being offered jobs. How vile. And the rot won't stop there, he says. Apparently this will all come about because the people who own the firms - us, we paid for them - will want some sort of say in how they're run.

But it's the salary cap that worries people the most. When I say people, I mean the people currently without a cap, the people who recently caused $3 trillion to disappear out of the economy. They are whimpering in fear. Not fear of the new owners of their banks (us), but fear of living on $500,000 a year. The ever obliging NY Times set down the reasons for their wholly legitimate fear. Among them are these overwhelming concerns.

Barbara Corcoran, a real estate executive, said that most well-to-do families take at least two vacations a year, a winter trip to the sun and a spring trip to the ski slopes. Total minimum cost: $16,000.
A personal trainer at $80 an hour three times a week comes to about $12,000 a year. The work in the gym pays off when one must don a formal gown for a charity gala. “Going to those parties,” said David Patrick Columbia, who is the editor of the New York Social Diary, “a woman can spend $10,000 or $15,000 on a dress. If she goes to three or four of those a year, she’s not going to wear the same dress.” Total cost for three gowns: about $35,000.
Each Brooks Brothers suit costs about $1,000. If you run a bank, you can’t look like a slob.
Candace Bushnell said, “People inherently understand that if they are going to get ahead in whatever corporate culture they are involved in, they need to take on the appurtenances of what defines that culture,” she said. “So if you are in a culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success, it’s like the same thing that goes back to high school peer pressure. It’s about fitting in.”

Possibly Candace, or at least the NYT, has forgotten that we all live in the same culture, the one where spending a lot of money is a sign of success, and yet most of us earn a tenth as much as this earnings cap. Other people are unable to spend that sort of money - unemployment, or even regular normal-person's employment, puts a crimp in that sort of ambition. And that is the whole point of spending money like water. You can't do it.

The reason why we are "in a culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success" is that the conspicuous throwing around of money is a way to distinguish yourself as better than a miner, or a farmer, or an auto worker - and, for that matter, as better than a disabled lesbian of color. If ski vacations were free for laborers, or gowns were made cheaply for waitresses, the rich would find something more exclusive to do. The exclusivity of the purchase is the main reason for making it.

Conspicuous consumption is a trait I find despicable even in people who have worked hard and produced nice things.

Imagine how much I like the idea of people who have literally bankrupted the entire world treating regular workers this way.

Now try to imagine how much I like the idea of those people getting to treat workers that way by spending money I have given them, as a taxpayer, out of my own pocket, because they said they needed it or they wouldn't fit in with their friends any more.

I doubt if you can imagine it; even I can't imagine it and I thought of it. Let's just say I don't like it very much at all.


1 comment:

Julie said...

My heart bleeds for the fuckers.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.