Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The rich are different ..."

The economic crises of the last few years was triggered, in large part, by the collapse of the housing sector. We all know the story: lots of unqualified people were given mortgages to buy houses they couldn't afford and many of them either defaulted or found themselves "underwater" when the value of their homes became less than their mortgages. It's a god-awful morality tale of unregulated capitalism gone amok -- and all of us are paying a huge, huge price for it.

Unless, of course, you're one of the people collecting on the people paying.

Meet Philip Falcone. A hedge-fund guru, he bet against, or "shorted", the housing market and began making billions when everyone else was loosing trillions. He's a Minnesota-boy-turned-New York Master of the Universe and he's one of the devil's with the black boxes who helped destroy the American economy, maybe for decades to come.

This fascinating article in Vanity Fair is about Falcone and his crazy wife and their outrageous life in NYC. These people represent everything that's wrong with America today -- people who make money out of nothing, who create nothing, who produce nothing, who contribute nothing to society but spend ungodly amounts of money of crap and, in the process, shove it in everyone else's face. 

People like this used to be called nouveaux riche or "new money" -- and as socially unacceptable as people like this used to be, over the last century it became even more unacceptable for "society" or "old money" to sneer and look down at them. Over the last decades, the Knickerbocker set went into decline as the tech and hedge-fund millionaires and billionaires became the new NYC society.  Snobbery was so passe.

But when you read this, you begin to sympathize with the snobs. You begin to think maybe the Knickerbockers were right to marginalize people like this. They are so awful, so nauseating, and they are the ones who give rich people in NYC a bad name.

"The rich are different from you and me", as Scott Fitzgerald once told his pal Ernest Hemingway, to which the Big Poppa replied "Yes, they have more money."

More money and, for many of them, no taste, no class, and no morality.  

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