Sunday, March 27, 2011

The New Wealthy



We watched the movie "2012" last night and I was incensed that the arks held all the billionaires in the world that could buy their way to safety after the pole shift. My husband, on the other hand, thought it was okay because they were the ones that had to come up with the money to build the arks in the first place. I realized we have very different ways of looking at wealth in our home, and in our society. There are those that are happy for anyone that can "make it" and believe they deserve whatever their money can buy - after all they earned it - and there are those that see the world as being a place that should be more equitable, with tax structures set up to make sure that happens. It has divided our nation and other cultures.

So I set off to see just who these nouveau riche were exactly, and what I found out was rather surprising, and not at all what I expected.

I found my information from an article appearing in Atlantic Monthly (in April) regarding a new study from Boston College and from the book "Richistan" by Robert Frank. It would make this post too lengthy to write about all of my findings here, but I couldn't resist a few interesting facts:

The segment of richest Americans is growing and creating an hourglass shape to our society with the richest at the top, the penny-pinching middle class in the middle, and an expanding underclass. There is no doubt that the top 1% of our society now owns a disproportionate amount of the wealth. They are the ones that are buying so many luxury items that they are literally propping up our economy. But they are also giving away more money to charitable organizations than ever before. In fact from 1995 to 2005 it was double the amount given away. They tend to be people who have made their money themselves, it was not inherited. They like to think of themselves as just average people - with money, of course. But they worry about many of the same things we all do - the environment, education, whether or not their children will grow up to be decent human beings. Many are giving large portions of their wealth away, realizing that they cannot spend it while they are alive and not wanting their children to become creeps.

They have also changed the face of politics. They tend to be more liberal, and most are Democrats, having been educated in schools located in Boston, New York, Washington, Austin, Denver, and Seattle. Having grown up in the 1960's they also are more sensitive to the underclass and minorities. They want to swing politics in a direction that does not just add to their own wealth, as most of the rich have done in the past, in fact they have so much money that they are more concerned with future generations. They have spent millions to fight poverty, improve the environment, fix inner cities and cure disease. They see government as a tool for more aggressive social agendas, hoping to protect the advantages they had growing up.

Tomorrow I will talk about the cons with this group of uber-wealthy individuals, and how they are changing the world.

19 comments:

Natalie said...

Nice to see. :)

The Good Cook said...

Interesting!

CrazyCris said...

Very interesting... but I'll reserve an opinion until you present the cons... ;o)

Gaston Studio said...

Very interesting Nancy, can't wait to see the cons. I don't begrudge anyone getting rich as long as they give back proportionately. But I do resent the many ways they can avoid paying taxes on all their money; of course, their fortune allows them to pay for experts to help which the average person can't hire.

Deborah said...

I think its awesome that you took the time to do some research about the uber-wealthy. I think its easy for us to sit in judgment (i'm guilty of it myself). Much more difficult to reach out and get to know others, even those with whose lifestyle choices we don't agree with or can't relate to.

Brian Miller said...

i agree i dont begrudge them...the hour glass shape though is dangerous and will cause civil unrest eventually...

Kala said...

Very interesting, waiting to hear the cons:)

Grandmother said...

Thanks for presenting balanced and researched info on this topic. Challenges our stereotypes for sure.

susan said...

From what I understand they tend to be from a middle class that suddenly got wealthy - Bill Gates certainly being a case in point. The problem I see in most of the charitable donations is the feudal nature of the giving tends to be very ego centered. As JK Galbraith said, 'If you feed enough oats to the horse, some will pass through to feed the sparrows.'

Here Under the Rainbow said...

Fascinating read Nancy. I, too, saw a movie this weekend, Limitless. It asks the question, if you have limitless potential, what would you do with it? And of course, the character went after power and money. Glad to learn that the people who hold power and money are not all Gorden Gekko's believing that "greed is good" but are actually doing good.

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

very interesting, indeed! can't wait to see the flip side.

DJan said...

I am also intrigued by the change in our society, and what it portends for the future. very interesting read, Nancy, and I look forward to hearing the next part of this story.

Amanda said...

wow, what a fascinating post, nancy - didn't know this and will look forward to the follow up post.

Whitney Lee said...

Interesting. Can I just say that some things would be a bit easier for me if I were part of the top portion of the hour glass instead of somewhere farther down? I think my problem is with corporations as opposed to the individuals...I'm looking forward to tomorrows post.

maggie's garden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alison said...

Terrific post. I remember when we saw 2012 and I felt the same thing you did. It was also true in the movie Titanic. Remember how the servants and poor people had to scramble from the lower decks?
trish

Rob-bear said...

This is a very interesting prelude to outright class warfare.

Looking forward to the rest.

California Girl said...

No offense (and I haven't read Part 2 yet) but a disproportionate few who give their wealth away & are middle of the road like Warren Buffett or very liberal like Ted Turner, can skew the percentages. Ted Turner designated the majority of his wealth, several billion dollars, to be given away years ago. He then challenged Bill Gates to do the same. It took Bill a while to belly up to the bar but he & Melinda finally created their Foundation which gets alot of PR. Warren Buffett, part of this gang, has done the same: committed his wealth to charitable causes. Turner led the way and created a role model for others to follow. But I'm thinking that three of the richest people on the planet can skew numbers like crazy.

This doesn't account for the Wall Street types, brokers, traders, bankers, etc who continue to get rich off the middle class and do little or nothing to level a playiing field that is seriously out of whack. I'm wondering what percentage of the wealthy they comprise?

Now, on to Part 2.

gayle said...

These are all good things and I look forward to reading the cons.