I was amazed by how quickly Congress was able to jack open the nation’s checkbook and write a ginormous rubber check with the “Pay To: _________” part left blank.
Don’t get me wrong, as some econo-wag said, “everyone is a Keynsian in a crisis” – the way to keep the economy from sinking is by kickstarting it with an injection of cash. It’s like meth for your economy. It triggers a brief spending-spree (AKA: an economy) until the rich figure out how to mop it up and store it away. I actually would not object to their getting enough money from the public till, so that they could buy a new Lamborghini and some Mexican flake, except that’s not what they do; they just add a couple more digits to some balance, look at it in satisfaction, and continue their humble lives.
Lately, Anna has been on a kick of looking at high-end real estate: the $75 million mansions in Tahoe, and whatnot. That’s where some of the stimulus money is going to go and at least, briefly, there will be some churn as the real estate agents and home decorators get their slice. Back in the NFR days, I did meetings with some venture capitalists at their home offices, and so I have some experience wandering around in billionaire’s homes.
That’s a really lovely place and I got a bitter laugh out of some of the back-story: the people who built it ripped off Frank Loyd Wright: they had him design the whole place and then only paid him to “do the guest-house, first.” Then, when he was safely shuffled off, they “found” Wright’s unpublished sketches and built the main house to his design. Capitalists don’t just rip off the little guys, they rip off everybody because that’s how the game is played. And, we wonder “why is it that the country is run by crooks and thieves?”
The Wright-designed house is lovely (although I cringe when I see design features that were added to a design to make it difficult and for no other reason) but the $150million mansion in Tahoe is a soulless hunk of crap. It’s got hidden hot tubs and a whole floor that’s an exercise center with a massage room, sauna, jacuzzi, and full bar. But everything looks like it was decorated by a professional and nobody has ever actually lived there.* When I visited one billionaire, Accel Investments’ Joe Schoendorf, at his house in the mountains over Palo Alto, it was like walking into a high-end hotel. There was a lot of tasteful art but I immediately concluded that a nouveau riche asshole who’d own a house like that didn’t have the taste or interest to pick artworks. Now, I admit that would be fun, if I were a billionaire I’d be trying to figure out how to support lots of energetic and weird artists (I would definitely have a Banksy room if not a Banksy guest house) but the Accel lodge was the usual Frederick Remington bronzes of cowboys shooting Native Americans and bison and whatnot. To enter a house like that is to immediately begin to hate the owner. Although, there is something to be said for a 15,000 bottle wine cellar, namely: “I could shelter from the coronavirus in here, if I just had a few pallet-loads of Kitchens of India.”
That’s where the rich are riding out the coronavirus. Mom and dad can hunker down in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed guest house (5,000sf) and we’ll be OK in the main house (50,000sf) Oh, yeah, and close that hospital in Kansas, it’s losing $400,000/month.
Here’s the rip-off: people who live like that are the people who told America “no Green New Deal.” Because there’s just not enough money for a Green New Deal. Then, when the stock market it threatened, they came charging out the gate with trillions of dollars in a bucket sitting on a flatbed with Steve Mnuchin on the back throwing handfuls of cash (to a select audience) screaming “one for you, one for me!” These are the same guys who said that the country cannot afford to re-tool its economy to get the fossil fuels drug dealers out of their pockets, and they just made a big mistake by admitting that was all a lie.
Yes, we need economic stimulus but it’s got to be in the form of preserving existing jobs, not firing everyone and shifting them to the “gig economy.” Back in December, 2017, I pointed out that the job growth in the US was in the “shitty job” sector [stderr] and, whoah, look at that: I was right. Having former university professors become Uber drivers is not “employment” it’s capitalism’s final victory over labor. By creating a vast, desperate, labor force, the wealthy can always play one low-paid laborer off against another, in order to drive both of their wages fucking lower. Andrew Carnegie, philanthropist, used that trick by bringing train-loads of black workers from the deep south to break Pennsylvania steel-workers’ strikes. It had the advantage of stoking racial hatred and division that could be used to keep labor from unifying. The game has changed since then: now, there’s an app for it; the new Carnegies don’t have to appear to lift a finger. Create a disaster so that everyone is looking for work, and – so long as the rest of the economy doesn’t crash and burn too, the gig economy is doing great. Oh, the rest of the economy is crashing and burning: here’s a bailout that’s bigger than that big project we told you “we don’t have money for.”
I know I sound like a broken record but why can’t these people cancel 2 aircraft carriers, half of the fleet of Zumwalt-class garbage scows, the F-35, the Air Force’s next fighter and bomber, and the nuclear upgrade? That would pay for the stimulus and then you’d have “former aerospace death machine engineer” as an Uber driver. As I pointed out in my piece about Rousseau [stderr] – a society’s success can be measured by how well it helps nurture and elevate those who experience social inequality; the aerospace engineers ought to compete quite effectively in the gig economy, right? What the capitalists are doing is the Harrison Bergeron maneuver: let’s make it so that there are only shit jobs and investment banker jobs. And there are no job postings for “investment banker” – you only get that job if you start with $100million in your trust fund.
The country is run by grifters and liars who think they are cultural elites but they’re more like Joe Exotic: sociopathic douchebags who’ll screw anything and anyone to get a little bit ahead in the world. What’s fascinating (to me) (and Epicurus) is that they never pause to enjoy the fruits of their grifting. You never hear, once, about “billionaire dies happy after making a monument to Bacchus out of 15,000 empty wine bottles from his mansion’s wine cellar.” It’s the “dies happy” part that’s missing. These grifters get happy from scoring another grift and maybe the worst of them genuinely hate poor people so much that they laugh when they put someone out of work, but otherwise their existence seems like a huge waste of time to me.
* $150mn estate in Tahoe: There is actually a “man cave” with an entrance shaped like a skull’s mouth, which is cool except it leads to, basically, a sports bar, instead of a bunker with an armory and controls for the robotic machine guns.
Oh, yeah: The Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece ad completely omits to mention that it’s going to be underwater regularly in the nearish future. Funny how one might overlook something like that. Although it sounds like the lake is surrounded by rich people’s homes, so maybe the Army Corps of Engineers will come figure out how to drain it through a trailer-park or something.