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Taibbi: Where most of us have shame, the rich have an "extra set of balls"

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Much has been made of this Max Ableson article in Business Week detailing the Song of the Whiny Rich.

Here's a taste:

[JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie] Dimon, 55, whose 2010 compensation was $23 million, joined billionaires including hedge-fund manager John Paulson and Home Depot Inc. co-founder Bernard Marcus in using speeches, open letters and television appearances to defend themselves and the richest 1 percent of the population targeted by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

If successful businesspeople don’t go public to share their stories and talk about their troubles, “they deserve what they’re going to get,” said Marcus, 82, a founding member of Job Creators Alliance, a Dallas-based nonprofit that develops talking points and op-ed pieces aimed at “shaping the national agenda,”[.]
The 0.1% are striking back, using, among other venues, the pages of Business Week. About those protesters, the aforementioned Home Depot magnate Marcus said:
“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”
Other pleasantries from the article include:
“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said [billionaire founder of payroll processer Paychex Inc. Tom] Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles
Monica Seles? Tom Golisano must be "still in the game" (insert aging-male weight-loss link here).

And then there's this delight, which forms the center of a Matt Taibbi reaction (my emphasis throughout):
“You have to have skin in the game,” said [Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen] Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”
If you haven't figured it out, that reflects his thought that those who are so poor they don't pay taxes have no "skin in the game."

In my mind, that's a great example of the 180 Tell (my phrasing), a statement that's exactly opposite to what's actually true. Not just opposite — 180° opposite. In fact, the poor have nothing but skin in the game, and Schwartzman has exactly none.

Here's Matt Taibbi to explain. In one of his best blog posts ever, he skillfully exposes this for what it is.

First, about Schwartzman:
The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).
As Taibbi has pointed out elsewhere, people like Schwartzman win by stealing. Why? Because they can.

Next, about those who are too poor to have "skin in the game":
[I]f you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You've got it all riding on how well America works.

You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you'd better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.
Finally, about those super-rich — they have no skin in the game at all:
The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government. ... [C]itizens of the stateless archipelago where people like Schwarzman live spend millions a year lobbying and donating to political campaigns so that they can jump the line. They don’t need to make sure the government is fulfilling its customer-service obligations, because they buy special access to the government[.] ... Want to lower the capital reserve requirements for investment banks? Then-Goldman CEO Hank Paulson takes a meeting with SEC chief Bill Donaldson, and gets it done. Want to kill an attempt to erase the carried interest tax break? Guys like Schwarzman, and Apollo’s Leon Black, and Carlyle’s David Rubenstein, they just show up in Washington at Max Baucus’s doorstep, and they get it killed.
As I've written elsewhere, the air is perfumed before them, their feet never touch the ground, and their wives and daughters never face porno-scans at the airport.

If they stub their toe, they call their senator, who sends their congressman to bandage it.

This great piece ends with a long story about Jamie Dimon (see first quote in this article) and his incestuous relationship with the New York Fed — a revelation worthy of its own blog post. Please do read if you have a few minutes.

Taibbi closes with one of his great lines:
[T]hese people don’t have shame. What they have, in the place where most of us have shame, are extra sets of balls.
Or maybe just a lot of skin.


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