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Krugman begins: "One of the disadvantages of being very wealthy may be that you end up surrounded by sycophants, who will never, ever tell you what a fool you're making of yourself."

Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)
Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)

Pathetic Plutocrats

By Paul Krugman, The New York Times

21 December 11


ne of the disadvantages of being very wealthy may be that you end up surrounded by sycophants, who will never, ever tell you what a fool you're making of yourself. That's the only way I can make sense of the farcical behavior of the wealthy described in this new report from Max Abelson:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

"You’ll get more out of me," the billionaire said, "if you treat me with respect."

What's truly amazing is that they're hearing things that aren't actually being said. Obama and others say that the rich have had huge income gains relative to everyone else, so they should be asked to pay somewhat higher taxes; the rich hear that and it comes out "you are all evil".

What I want to know is, how did these people get where they are with such incredibly thin skins? Can you become a Master of the Universe while screaming "Ma, he's looking at me funny!" at every hint of criticism? your social media marketing partner


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+156 # dyannne 2011-12-21 12:43
These guys act like they got rich all by themselves without a single break. I read this quote, a response to an article titled, "The truth about the wealthy." As follows: "The truth is the wealthy don't create jobs; it's those with jobs that create the wealthy."
+33 # steve98052 2011-12-21 16:56
A reply in the reader picks for the Times article points out that some of the super-rich got that way with lucky guesses. Suppose you have 1024 people, and give each of them 10 yes-no investment decisions. If each chooses a different set of ten decisions, one will hit all ten correctly.

Suppose each starts with $1000, and a correct guess doubles that money, while a wrong guess wipes it out, each person goes all-in at each step. (That's not how most real investments work, but it's a useful simplification. ) After ten investments, the one who hits all ten decisions correctly has $1 million (actually $1024000), and everyone else is wiped out.

Is the one who guessed all ten questions smarter than the rest? No, just lucky. But a lot of the super-rich _think_ they got that way by being smart.

Even worse are those who inherited their wealth, and think they're as smart as those who actually built their wealth by making complicated business decisions. I'm guessing that most of those who are whining about "class warfare" and such inherited their money.
+12 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 11:52
The other thing is, that people who recognize that their wealth is derived from the work of others have the respect of the people who work for them, Those who do not recognize that they didn't get rich on their own have no respect from their workers.

Guess which one is spoken of highly, and which has nobody attending their funeral.
+3 # Joan Manning 2011-12-23 18:11
Is the one who guessed all ten questions smarter than the rest? No, just lucky. But a lot of the super-rich _think_ they got that way by being smart.

Now that the Occupy movement has liberated the word "greed," let's liberate that other word the rich hate so much: "luck." I know what luck is. I lived through the time when college tuition was free, houses were affordable and jobs were plentiful. I didn't get rich, but compared to today, I was very lucky. Let's make a habit of using the word "luck" whenever the rich get too cocky.
+84 # Barbara K 2011-12-21 12:50
LoL, Mr. Krugman, you have it about right on. You seem to have found the perfect description of these rich Pansies. They can give it out, do smear after smear of someone else, but whine like spoiled babies when it comes back at them. They act like spoiled brats and wonder why they are called spoiled brats. They got rich off this country, and off the backs of the workers and the taxpayers, but they don't want to pay their fair share to the country who made them wealthy. I hope they lose their money somehow, so they know what it is like to have nothing. They need to get out of their wine bubbles and see what it is like out here for the normal Americans who made them rich.
+9 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 11:56
When they have completely destroyed the Middle Class, and killed off the poor, there will be nothing beneath them to support their wealth, and it will be worth nothing.
+1 # Scott479 2011-12-24 16:33
The rich, more often than not, are snot-nosed pencil necked trust fund babies
+59 # noitall 2011-12-21 12:52
“Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth.” Hanaur.
What would be the outcome from an outrageous act such as that? the growth would realize the rich even MORE MONEY. So what's their problem? That is the question!
+34 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-21 13:35
Just like members of 99% that vote against their own interests because they are ill informed (mainly by the foxy anchor network), members of the 1% are likewise ill informed.
+10 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:14
That's the reality of the '50s and '60s, that there was a high tax rate on the top incomes, and _everyone_ benefited.

When tax rates are low, the owner of a privately held company thinks nothing of taking money, as personal income, out of his business to buy a yacht or a Ferrari, but when taxes are high, he is more likely to keep that money in the business, and invest it to make more ... and the investment gives him a break on the corporate taxes.

The case of publicly traded corporations is a little different, because each shareholder expects a profit when the business is making money, but even there, they have to put some of the profits back into the business to make more.

I definitely favor taxing short-term, speculative stock transactions. Long term investment that grows steadily, actually makes more money in the long run, and is better for the stability of the company, and the economy.

My father made a statement years ago that most investors only care about today. They've forgotten about yesterday, and don't care about tomorrow.
+13 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-21 13:03
It is fairly obvious that these wealthy men don't actually know what they are talking about. And it was only men noted in the article, I believe.
The issue that concerns me is that they speak as if they do know what they are talking about. When the Occupy movement calls out the 1%, it is an indictment of the system that allows their pay scale to be so out of whack.
But what really bothers me is when they say stoopid stuff.
Example #1 was that it would be difficult to determine their salary as compared to the employee median salary. Really? Did they ever hear of Excel?
Example #2 was the CEO who said he was a job creator because he decided to hire people and when to expand. He must know that the job creation comes only after he decides that he needs more people in order to make more money, and the same is true for expansion. Nothing wrong with it, but it is the result of increased demand, actual or potential.

All the article Paul Krugman really shows us is that we should never ask people who are affected by legislation to define what that legislation is. That, and maybe some leftie talk show folks really should tone down the language when talking about the 1%. Don't you agree Mr. Schultz?
+15 # Bill Clements 2011-12-21 13:15
Somehow I can't envision the Koch brothers being so thin-skinned.
+18 # jon 2011-12-21 13:16
"What I want to know is, how did these people get where they are with such incredibly thin skins?"

It might be a guilty conscience troubling them.
+18 # reiverpacific 2011-12-21 13:17
Aren't all these bods laying off employees -especially the big banks- right now?
So much for "creating jobs"!
And the taxes they pay; from zippo to almost-zippo, is why I tend to refer to my small-business self as "Self-Exploited"
Methinks they are pitiable in their lack of community connection, isolationism and attempted destruction thereof for the rest of us but they have their lackeys and wanna-be's who support them and make their excuses, like the so-called nobles of old had their lackeys, turnkeys, turncoats and spies from the submerged masses.
Ya gotta laugh at them though (otherwise you'd weep).
+14 # grouchy 2011-12-21 13:29
Not so surprising since they come from our "royal class" of citizens; those of elevated status. But at least we don't yet have to bow to them or kiss their shoes and rings--yet.

But my overall question, just what gives them the right over all other of us common folk to not pay a fair share of taxes? I'd like someone of their ilk to give me a good rational answer to that!

I await the answer.
+21 # tuandon 2011-12-21 13:35
It does amaze me that these conniving cheating dishonest schmucks act so offended by the mere mention of taxing them at a higher rate. Yeah, they creat jobs...butlers, maids, groundskeepers. ..But I betcha their employees barely make enough to live on and do not have any medical insurance.
-82 # Robt Eagle 2011-12-21 13:39
wow, Krugman says absolutely nothing and you drool all over it and give him praise. If Krugman is supposed to be this great, fantastic world economists, why is he writing drivel on this site?
+12 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-21 14:04
Follow the link. He is smart enough to understand that sometimes others can deliver the same message in a different manner.
Try the link, very enlightening!
+10 # pbbrodie 2011-12-21 14:56
Jeez, you are one bright cookie. You obviously didn't notice this was written for the New York Times, not Reader Supported News, thus making your comment completely irrelevant and down right stupid.
-8 # reiverpacific 2011-12-21 21:06
Quoting Robt Eagle:
wow, Krugman says absolutely nothing and you drool all over it and give him praise. If Krugman is supposed to be this great, fantastic world economists, why is he writing drivel on this site?

Maybe he's taking a little time off to join the drivel-brokers on the owner-media ("Liberal Press"?) and "Fix" which wallow in it. That more to y'r taste Robbie-lad? Come to think of it, why do YOU even bother to drag y'r reactionary-sta tus-quo gluteus-maximus over here occasionally? Like y'r predictable ilk, you never contribute anything but baseless, content-free drivel yerself -if you were even a little bit funny, factual, engaging, entertaining or debate-worthy I'd welcome y'r input but as such, the expression "bitterly-vacuo us" comes to mind.
Even y'r quotes in the past have been phony or mis-quoted!
+1 # TJGeezer 2011-12-23 16:06
Quoting Robt Eagle:
wow, Krugman says absolutely nothing and you drool all over it and give him praise. If Krugman is supposed to be this great, fantastic world economists, why is he writing drivel on this site?

What's that smell? I think it's a troll.
+15 # dmick 2011-12-21 13:41
The uber-rich are so accustomed to universal adulation that they bristle at suggestion of any flaw. Many of them do work very hard which they believe justifies their sense of entitlement. They're like that diner at an upscale restaurant who insists to the sommelier that the chardonnay should be less chilled while never displaying the least bit of doubt of his judgment.
+17 # StPete 2011-12-21 14:10
Even the very rich are subject to the constant flow of misinformation from what passes for news from Fox News' faux news. When the president says "give a little more if you can afford it" Fox News is likely to report something completely different, over and over.
It is a major failing of the Dems to try and ignore This. Bullies never stop attacking victims until someone makes them, and the rest of our limp wristed major media and similarly endowed Dems have allowed Fox News to poison all news and smear the president well as liberals and the Docratic party.
+4 # racetoinfinity 2011-12-22 00:49
They aren't limp wristed; they're owned by big corporations.
+17 # tuandon 2011-12-21 14:18
The man won a Nobel Prize in economics. What has Paul Ryan, that Rightwing twit, won lately? Yet the Rightists drool all over his "ideas."
+6 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:27
President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, but for what? He hadn't done anything to earn it. I only say this because it diminishes the importance of the work of everyone who ever _earned_ their Nobel Prize.

They should have given Obama's prize to Pete Seeger, who has spent a lifetime earning it.
+1 # Byronator 2011-12-23 22:29
Obama's Nobel Peace Prize has been called an "aspirational award" since it was awarded too early in his administration to have been actually EARNED. He could earn it now by lining up with the 99% and taxing the uber-rich whose needs are being met 1000 times over, while nearly half the U.S. population is officially living in poverty.
+20 # PaineRad 2011-12-21 14:18
All this 1% and GOP fulminating about how the rich pay close to half of all income taxes is a smokescreen and misdirection. When you make almost half the money, you should pay well more than half the taxes.

But one should also point out that the 1% and the rest of the very, very wealthy pay only about, I'm guessing here, 1/10,000 of the payroll taxes.

But even that is not the point. The point is how large a percentage of your income do you pay in total? The 1% have never had it so good. Even the numbers the IRS puts out do not adequately express how good they have it because of tax havens, shelters and tax-free munis that do not show up on in taxable income reports.
+10 # fredboy 2011-12-21 14:29
Retired early from such a place, led by messianic narcissists surrounded by yes men and women, an insular clique that never noticed evolving weaknesses and certain failure.
+14 # gdp1 2011-12-21 14:34
....yes, the poor will always have their poverty, but the rich will always have their uselessness. Bertrand Russell
+13 # IndigoE 2011-12-21 15:07
.. and then the "other clown", Jamie Dimon goes on to say that the poor don't pay taxes... and that they need to have some skin in the game!!! Lets face it, he wants our/their pelts! Is this the "let them eat cake" moment??
+3 # racetoinfinity 2011-12-22 00:51
The poor and lower working class pay more in sales taxes and other utilitiy and excise taxes, etc. as a proportion of their income than the rich by far; it's more Marie Antionette propaganda.
+3 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:31
The poor give much more _real_ skin than most of the truly wealthy ever did. I'll be that the Koch brothers never had a callous in their lives.
+19 # gary crum 2011-12-21 15:33
I have several very wealthy friends and a multimillionair e cousin. Each occupies the center of his own little universe. It issue is really rather simple: when you're surrounded by people who always want something from you you never have anything resembling a "peer" relationship and, as Mr Krugman states, no one to "keep you honest" or, if I may, "to mention to the king that he has no clothes." I haven't spoken to my cousin in several months...he wasn't particularly pleased when I expressed my displeasure at his and his buddies referring to his Black Lab as "Obama"....My take on the wealthy "you can be rich and be a nice just isn't easy"
+3 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:34
It's even harder to be a nice guy when you've always had daddy's money ... or maybe grandfather's.
0 # cynnibunny 2011-12-21 15:57
It is helpful to read James Scott's "Domination and the Art of Resistance" - only reverse the dominance, and put the rich into the role of victim. The rich, in the dominant media of today, are being assaulted for their greed, their sense of privilege, and false pride.

Milton Friedman and the Fox noise machine speak a different tune, and hence, the rich are rather sensitive to criticism.

Ah, but do we talk of real people or media creations? In the narrative of the media, the 'rich' are suffering too. In truth, the real flesh and blood blokes are doing quite well, but we don't hear about that. It is not relentless! Only the 99% crew are relentless in their criticism of the rich. But they don't have their own noise (I mean news) channel!
+6 # bugbuster 2011-12-21 16:17
Maybe they don't actually set out specifically to make a lot of money. They just do what they do and the money pours in. It really does work that way for some people. They may be working hard and all that, but they are doing what they would be doing anyway.

So all this money pours in and a result people complain and point fingers, and then the rich guys feel bad.

Then there are the New Rich who think about money and stuff all the time and like to talk about their expensive stuff and how they are so much better than everybody else because they have a lot of money. They are the worst of the worst.
+5 # 2011-12-21 17:58
Bugbuster, it's not the money in and of itself, it's the HEART of a man or woman.
I think you are right about the "Nouveau Rich" whom the great playwright referred to as the "Beaurocracy" who become overly obsessed with their possessions and delusional about their self-worth and demonstrate uncouth behaviors that is exactly what dominates Chekhov's self-revelatory plays.
+29 # Mike Farrace 2011-12-21 16:35
All the quotes and comments from the subjects are based on a faulty straw man argument and incorrect premise that the 99% think the 1% are evil for being wealthy. No one sensible paints all wealthy people with the same "evil" brush. Some earned it and some inherited it, and neither of those two are naturally evil. The wealthy that are branded evil have been labeled so not because of their wealth, but because of their reluctance to pay a fair share of taxes. The public paves the roads, finances research, populates the workforce, consumes the products, provides a framework for orderly societal functions and much more that benefit business. To pretend they did it alone is absurd, and until the 99% require a more equitable share of profits, it will only get worse.

Those who manipulate the system to buy political influence from public officials from a lowly county supervisor to supreme court justices such as the Kochs are particularly evil. They are liars, cheats, manipulators and monopolists and the only way to deal them it is to play hardball. That means getting their paid-for, single-minded Republican and so-called Blue Dog Democrats out of office, and then creating good laws with teeth that shut the door to the influence of this particularly corrosive type of wealthy person. That means campaign finance reform.

It's not a panacea, but it's the only road we've got at the moment.

No Republicans and No Blue Dogs in 2012.
+2 # tonenotvolume 2011-12-22 09:02
Mike - best reply in this run, best plan of action, and best summation of the problem. Your positives should be up around +1000 Looked up a list of Fallacious Arguments and found Karl Rove's playbook
0 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:43
"The wealthy that are branded evil have been labeled so not because of their wealth, but because of their reluctance to pay a fair share of taxes."

It's not the wealth that is evil, it's what they _do_ with the wealth.
+7 # angelfish 2011-12-21 16:39
I take comfort from the Biblical proverb that says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Gates of Heaven". I wonder if THEY ever wonder, WHY?
+4 # 2011-12-21 17:50
angelfish: The proverb says "easier" but not "impossible" because a rich man can enter the "Gates of heaven" if you believe in such things IF he/she cares more about people and has empathy for and is generous to those in need which is true for some wealthy people. Posters have to be careful with their "all or nothing generalizations ". I agree the wealthy need to help the 99% and the country by paying their fair share of taxes and that the government and the WH has to stop catering to the 1% because they want their contributions in order to get elected or stay in office. Big money has got to be done away with in all political elections because it is bribery and OBSCENE when so many in our country are in need. We need to do away with political contributions in the US and judge candidates on their ideology and qualifications.
+2 # angelfish 2011-12-22 02:34
I agree with you, Dorian, I know that there ARE good rich people out there. They just seem to be few and far between in our Government of late. I remember a time when MOST of our Congress was filled with REAL American Men and Women, who had actually WORKED for a living at some time in their lives. Now, it seems, they get elected to get rich, and to Hell with the people who put them in office. Hopefully, the Tide is turning and folks like Elizabeth Warren will get elected and return to doing the business of Government, NOT Partisan Politics!
+1 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:55
As much as I like Elizabeth Warren, and support her, I think she is going to find herself very frustrated when she gets to the Senate. My representative in the House is very frustrated with the current lack of cooperation, and I can see it in everything he writes.
+2 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:51
...And not their "good looks", or because they are the candidate with whom you'd most like to sit down and have a beer.

Most people who voted for George Bush did so because they thought he was "one of the guys", not because of his intellect and deep insight into the important issues of the day. George didn't have a clue.
+1 # Byronator 2011-12-23 22:37
And the chuckleheads who voted for Bush were even more clueless. True to form, they're showing up at rallies for the current GOP gallery of fools. Stupid is as stupid does.
+11 # John Locke 2011-12-21 16:52
Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.
hummm a country club for the 1% and they thanked him, I bet he would get a different reaction trying to peddle his nonsense on main street...
+1 # 2011-12-21 17:50
Great comment, John Locke!
0 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 12:56
Nobody would speak to him in a soup kitchen.
+22 # Midwestgeezer 2011-12-21 17:28
It's as they said of Dubya: "He was born on 3rd base and thinks he hit a triple." I now learn that 6 members of the Walton family possesses more wealth than the bottom 30% of Americans (app. 83 million people). They, through WalMart, suck the fiscal life blood out of communities like my Wisconsin Rapids, WI, send it to Bentonville, AR, and use it to consolidate the wealth by funding right-wing anti-democratic causes. It's no wonder we're on a downhill slide and accelerating!
+3 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 13:01
That's _exactly_ why I will not shop in WalMart. I try very hard to patronize local businesses, even though I know it often costs me more. if you buy local, and have a problem with the purchase, they will bend over backwards to make it right. the Big Box stores couldn't care less.
+11 # activdot 2011-12-21 18:32
A group of millionaires came to Washington, DC and said they believed that raising their taxes was the right thing to do. Invite them with others of similar mind to visit Washington again and speak out loud and clear. Let them shame the Republicans in Congress.
0 # ABen 2011-12-22 00:04
Now that would be something to see!!
-1 # dquandle 2011-12-21 22:39
They are all evil!
+2 # oakes721 2011-12-22 00:20
"What I want to know is, how did these people get where they are with such incredibly thin skins? Can you become a Master of the Universe while screaming "Ma, he's looking at me funny!" at every hint of criticism?"

We naturally try to comfort those in need. If someone appears dissatisfied, others come to their side to try to help them. These are basic social instincts upon which we build a community. Some learn to take advantage of this. Without a firm emotional foundation based on adequate or early affections, a constant need is generated. Greedy is simply being needy. When such a lop-sided entity gathers more than they can use (and still feels the need for more) they must now watch their back, for they know they have taken the shares of others. They resent being asked to give up anything when they still feel that they haven't received their share of love.

To possess every gratification yet still thirst for satisfaction. These "Masters of the Universe" must prove themselves worthy. Worth and wealth are confused. The skin grows thin. We see the need.
+1 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 13:13
Maybe the reason they don't feel loved is because of the attitude they have toward sharing what they have.
+2 # racetoinfinity 2011-12-22 00:42
Plutocrats, with exceptions: half are spoiled brats; the other half are sociopathic criminals.
0 # barbaratodish 2011-12-22 01:04
There is tremendous anxiety that exists, and rather than look at this anxiety in creative, innovative ways, we often prefer to bury our heads in an emotional denial that this anxiety exists. Perhaps it is that that the TRUTH of VALUES AMBIGUITY is why we all prefer the ILLUSIONS of the distraction that capitalism and imperialism is.
+2 # jabo13 2011-12-22 07:18
Every-- I repeat, every-- problem connected with income distribution in this country can and will be solved when the 99% stop voting for anyone who isn't our own. The current arrangement, in which large percentages of "representative s" are members of the "upper" classes, only insures perpetuation of policies favoring the 1%. But hey, WE, the people, vote them into office. The responsibility for the current fiasco of "representative democracy" is, unhappily, on us. But, happily, so is the power to change it, the very next time we vote. Stop blaming the rich for looking out for their own interests--that 's what they do. Start electing people who know what looking out for each other is all about. Everything else will take care of itself after that. Like Dorothy in Oz, we've always had the power to go home. Let's go.
+2 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 13:21
This is my argument against term limits. We already have the power of term limits, by not voting for someone who isn't representing the needs of _all_ of the people. It is very difficult to remove an incumbent, and the longer they've been in there, the harder it is, but sometimes it is necessary. e.g.:, Lieberman should have been defeated last election, when he was beaten in the Democratic primary, then came back as a vengeful "independent".
0 # Feral Dogz 2011-12-22 11:28
The beleaguered rich really don't make very convincing victims.
+2 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-22 11:41
The basic problem with many people is that they think they can _demand_ respect, without earning it. We all want to be respected, but if you don't respect me, you don't give me any reason to give it back. Earning respect from others means that you show them some respect.

I was a shift supervisor many years ago, and was put through some management training classes. The _first_ thing they told us was, "Don't insult the intelligence of the people who work for you." I have worked for so people over the years who never learned that basic rule. One of the other shift supervisors used to sneak around spying on people to "make sure they weren't breaking any rules". I had good people working for me. They knew their jobs, and what was expected of them, and I left them alone to do the job.
+3 # davidhp 2011-12-22 13:40
The super rich are evil so that is what they should be hearing. They make their profits by exploiting the weakest in society and by the sweat of others who they do not want to pay. They encourage wars for their own profits, they buy politicians for their own benefit and believe they are entitled to high status based on the money they have. The American attitude that money is all important needs to be re-thought. These economic exploiters value believe they and their ilk are most important in American society over those who educate our children, those who work to keep our infrastructure working as best as possible, those to care for us when we are sick or injured, those who do the dirty work in the fields, and what factories we have left, and those who can't find work since the super rich are not the job creators they claim to be in order to get tax breaks off the backs of everyone else. It is a tragic that economic wealth is equated to superiority in American society.
+2 # futhark 2011-12-23 07:42
Ethics is a much-overlooked subject that should be taught in school with at least as much seriousness as math, science, and English.

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