Great op-ed on the root of wealth inequality

An op-ed worth reading popped up in the NYT over the weekend. It’s written by a former “wiz-kid” who was pulling in millions by age 30 and grew disillusioned:

For the Love of Money — In the three years since I left, I’ve married, spoken in jails and juvenile detention centers about getting sober, taught a writing class to girls in the foster system, and started a nonprofit called Groceryships to help poor families struggling with obesity and food addiction. I am much happier. I feel as if I’m making a real contribution. And as time passes, the distortion lessens. I see Wall Street’s mantra — “We’re smarter and work harder than everyone else, so we deserve all this money” — for what it is: the rationalization of addicts. From a distance I can see what I couldn’t see then — that Wall Street is a toxic culture that encourages the grandiosity of people who are desperately trying to feel powerful.

The problem of course isn’t that they want to feel powerful, the problem is they are powerful. So powerful they managed to make zillions while throwing countless lives into tatters, conned the US taxpayer into bailing them out of trillions in toxic debt they created so they could make more zillions, and then proceeded to lecture the rest of us on the evils of debt while making still more zillions. So powerful they dominate everything, every piece of ledge, and that includes fouling up every attempt by We the People to help right their wrongs.

These assholes, over a thousand miles away, have pretty much screwed my once comfortably middle-class, middle-aged life up to the point that I may never recover. At least I’m single with no kids, and can stretch a buck, too bad a lot of people aren’t. They have definitely destroyed many families, to the point that some will never get another chance. And the coup de grace is, right now, they’re working their asses off to steal our Social Security and Medicare, the last defense many of us have against the predators and living on the street — if we’re lucky enough to live that long.

I thought twice about even linking the article, the author was part of an industry that so devastated me and many others that my first inclination is to tell him to fuck off and go shoot himself in the head. He’s whining that he has a “wealth addiction” and will probably be widely hailed as a Good Samaritan for suggesting fellow wealth addicts create a “fund” and put 25% of their bonus. But on second though, I’d rather see him stripped of all assets and forced to spend the rest of his life in utter poverty and misery, walking the back roads of the nation in rags begging forgiveness from some of the people who’s dreams he helped destroy.


  1. magistramarla says

    I think that I understand the addiction to wanting to feel powerful that was mentioned.
    My daughter’s ex is a perfect example.
    When she met him, he was just finishing a degree in finance. He was convinced, and convinced everyone around him, that he had great potential to make lots of money and be very, very successful.
    He’s a big talker and is good at talking people into doing things that are not in their own interests.
    While she was pregnant, it became apparent that he was cruel and controlling. He moved them into a very expensive apartment, bought himself a brand new BMW and all of the newest tech.
    My daughter would have had no phone if we hadn’t kept her on our family plan. She wouldn’t have had a car except that her grandmother gave her an old Toyota when she was no longer able to drive. We often sent her money to be certain that she ate well.
    They had a huge custody battle when she tried to leave, so she gave up and remained with him.

    When he lost his fancy job with Merrill Lynch, she encouraged him to take a job offer in Colorado, and got him out of Texas and away from his family. There, she was able to find a good job, go back to school, surround herself with good friends and left the SOB.
    He continues to find and then lose jobs in finance. He’s now found a new girlfriend who seems to allow him to rule her life. He still tries to be a controlling jerk with my grandson, but the boy is beginning to rebel a bit.
    My daughter now has a fiancee who is a good man and is supportive of both her and her son.

    The finance industry seems to attract jerks who are addicted to power.

  2. Sunday Afternoon says

    I read the op-ed and found myself feeling less and less sympathy for the author. The end for me came with this bit:

    … I demanded $8 million instead of $3.6 million. My bosses said they’d raise my bonus if I agreed to stay several more years. Instead, I walked away.

    Now, I’m earning far more than most (nowhere near the figures quoted in the article), but I think I can join with most of us in this reaction: “Fuck off!”

  3. lanir says

    The author seems to credit experience with drug and alcohol addictions and counseling for much of his awareness. But I think knowing what it’s like to not be rich is more of a core part of it. I started off middle class, was poor for extended periods, then ended up in the upper middle class. It’s amazing seeing what some of the people around me believe. How easy it is to get them to trip themselves up (they thought it was good that “food stamps” got cut so lazy people would go back to work – asked if they thought living on “food stamps” was a life anyone would aspire to they quickly said no, completely invalidating their earlier statement).

    Personally I wish more of these people played roleplaying games (online or off). Like any social situation you can still get into less than wonderful relationships but overall if you decide to be an ass in a game there’s no resource you can possibly acquire that forces other people to play with you. In the real world, once you get enough money it can be much more problematic for anyone to walk away and play a different game. And that’s if you and your buddies haven’t accumulated enough to make it outright impossible.

  4. says

    Here’s a recent item (Jan. 13) from the opposite side of the spectrum by a much more empathetic writer, about being poor, how it is a trap that’s hard to escape (the roadblocks, the stigma and blame, the sexism, the lack of opportunities, how powerless people are taken advantage of, etc.).

    It Is Expensive to Be Poor

    Minimum-wage jobs are physically demanding, have unpredictable schedules, and pay so meagerly that workers can’t save up enough to move on.


    Although underfunded, [US president Johnson’s] War on Poverty still managed to provoke an intense backlash from conservative intellectuals and politicians.

    In their view, government programs could do nothing to help the poor because poverty arises from the twisted psychology of the poor themselves. By the Reagan era, it had become a cornerstone of conservative ideology that poverty is caused not by low wages or a lack of jobs and education, but by the bad attitudes and faulty lifestyles of the poor.

    Picking up on this theory, pundits and politicians have bemoaned the character failings and bad habits of the poor for at least the past 50 years. In their view, the poor are shiftless, irresponsible, and prone to addiction. They have too many children and fail to get married. So if they suffer from grievous material deprivation, if they run out of money between paychecks, if they do not always have food on their tables—then they have no one to blame but themselves.

    The far right falsely ascribe behaviours and motivations to people they’ve never met and know nothing about. Meanwhile their glaringly public actions and words are visible to all, even by their own admission, yet they bristle at any mention or criticism of themselves.

  5. lorn says

    Finance doesn’t just attract assholes, it manufactures them.

    Lessons, both formal and informal, in business schools push a package world view that advances the need for the accoutrements of wealth, because looking like you need the deal puts you at a disadvantage, and ruthless greed, failure to take advantage of the less wealthy and less informed is seen as a failure of will and an unwillingness to ‘go for the kill’. In other words they are trained that they “need” the house and car, and boat, and suits because they are tools of the trade, even if they prefer something less ostentatious, and a lack of conscience is a mark of trustworthiness and reliability within the business community.

    It is hard to overemphasize that last point. People who ‘leave money on the table’ , fail to take every advantage, are considered unpredictable and dangerous to business associates.

  6. marcus says

    “The combined wealth of the world’s richest 85 people is now equivalent to that owned by half of the world’s population – or 3.5 billion of the poorest people – according to a new report from Oxfam.” Lee Ann Wong, CNN

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