Americans have a strange relationship with money. Everyone wants to be rich but most resent those who are. Bernie Sanders would tie the wealthy to a pyre and light a match, even though he made over a million dollars last year. That schizophrenia between striving to be rich and having money has become more acute since the 2008 housing debacle which threw a glaring light on income disparity in this country. As a consequence, the rich are becoming increasingly paranoid. (Blogs 2/4/15, 5/11/17)
Among the rich, fear of being caught with money leads to some pretty weird behaviors. One architect, who caters to 1%ers, describes herself as a therapist rather than an architect. Some of her customers have asked her to remodel their multi-million dollar homes to make these residences look cheaper. (“Poor Little Rich Folks,” by Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek, September 25, 2017, pg. 74.)
Those who inherited their wealth seem to carry a heavier burden than those who didn’t. They agonize over the decision to send their youngsters to public or private schools, for example, but inevitably decide on private education. Their decision rests upon some talent or flaw in their child which makes their choice necessary. Having struggled with the decision, they can absolve themselves of guilt and allow themselves to feel their choice was moral, says writer Drake Bennett.
Interestingly, those who earned their wealth are less apologetic. “…I work hard…my husband works hard.. my kids work hard…” (Ibid pg. 74.) These people see themselves as working class folks who achieved.
What many people fail to realize is the number of people “falling” into the upper class is growing. (Click) That upward mobility explains, in part, why the middle class is disappearing. It also explains why the number of poor is dwindling. Once that fact becomes acknowledged, we’ll have to look for new reasons to explain the nation’s angst. My mother, born a Costa Rican, offered her explanation years ago. “Americans are crazy people.” John Cleese, of Monty Python fame agrees but casts the net of insanity wider. “…most people are either hopelessly stupid or irrational.” (“People,” The Week, 10/6/17, pg. 10.)
My readers, of course, are the exception.