I usually enjoy Slate's Moneybox column, written by Daniel Gross, but today Gross is guilty of the myopic Magooism of the wealthy — oblivious to how very, very many of us he's leaving out.
Gross' topic is limousine liberals, whom he just seems to have discovered — he writes his is "divining a trend." Well, yes, some very wealthy people are liberals. And yes, the disconnect between their political rhetoric and their lavish lifestyles is often amusing. But Oscar Wilde told this joke a hundred years ago — that doesn't qualify as a "trend." (I've spent enough time in the nonprofit sector that my mocking such people would be simple ingratitude.)
Here's Gross at his most clueless:
We've all seen the symptoms. A table of four raging over Bush's Iraq policy while sampling the $58 tasting menu at Virot, an expensive new bistro on the Upper West Side. A middle-aged man clucking over the deficit while fondling home furnishings at Restoration Hardware. The thirtysomething lawyer seething over the neutering of the Environment Protection Agency with one side of her brain, while weighing that classic conundrum — Cape Cod or Tuscany next summer? — with the other side.
Who is this "we've all" that Gross thinks he's writing for?
He seems to forget that most of us — 90+ percent of Americans and 99+ percent of earthlings — do not dine at expensive new bistros on the Upper West Side. "We" can't always afford Home Depot, let alone Restoration Hardware. "We" are not on such intimate terms with jet-setting 30-somethings that we are able to read their minds. Nor do "we" plan trips to Tuscany. (The closest we will get to Tuscany is watching that Diane Lane movie, but we are waiting for it to come out on video because we can't really afford $7 for tickets just now.)
Something often happens to people when they become rich — something intellectually and morally perilous. They forget that most people are not rich. (Give the limousine liberals some credit: they at least still recognize the theory that working class people exist.)
Gross says the limo-libs are suffering from "Bushenfreude" and offers this advice for them and all of "us":
In my darker moments, when I contemplate twin Excel files showing the ever-more imminent bankrupting of Social Security and my projected tax payments for 2003, I, too suffer from a mild case of the malady. But rather than buy David Corn's Lies of George W. Bush or make a political contribution, I calculate how much I'm saving in taxes. Then I put a fraction of that sum in a retirement plan. After all, the fiscal recklessness of the past few years means I'm highly unlikely to get the Social Security benefits to which I'm theoretically entitled. I also put a fraction of that sum in an account for my kids, who will have to foot the bill for this party when they grow up. And then—and only then—do I go to Dean & DeLuca and search for that perfect manchego.
That's it. That's his big advice. Don't try to change anything. Don't bother with politics– just concentrate on personal finance. If Bush is starving the beast and bankrupting the social safety net, reducing the republic to a Darwinian jungle, then you'd better set aside enough of a nest egg to ensure that you and your kids will be among the fittest who survive.
Nice. On behalf of those of us who might actually rely on Social Security and Medicare today or some day, let me tell you where you can stick that manchego.