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The rich, they are different

Ryan Chittum points us toward a piece written by Bloomberg’s Max Abelson in which he recounts many inadvertently funny quotes from the 1 percent, bemoaning the fact that they get no respect:

Today, Abelson has one of his best yet, reporting on how some of the super-elite are on the attack against the 1 percent meme.

What makes this story very good is that Abelson has found some of the least self-aware people you can imagine and got them on the record, either himself or via others’ interviews. Take Blackstone multibillionaire Stephen Schwarzman, whom he quotes from Bloomberg TV bemoaning the fact that poor and lower-income people don’t pay federal income tax (almost all of them do federal payroll taxes and the like). That was in response to a question about whether he, who Abelson points out surely pays just a 15 percent tax rate on much or most of his income, should pay more taxes.

The quotes alone make this piece worthwhile, but Abelson’s attention to detail makes it even better. He sits down with Ayn Rand-loving former BB&T CEO John Allison, who has co-founded something called the Job Creators Alliance that gets lots of airtime on Fox News and Fox Business, and who is aggrieved by the provision of Dodd Frank that requires companies to disclose its CEO-to-median-employee pay ratio. He calls something that could be done with an Excel spreadsheet and an hour or two “incredibly wasteful.” The point, of course, is that forcing such disclosure might help keep executive paydays, which are incredibly wasteful to shareholders (the owners of capital), down.

Abelson is also good to track down Leon Cooperman, the hedge fund manager who wrote the open letter to President Obama about how his feelings were hurt or something:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

Then there’s Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, speaking forthrightly from his Manhattan dressing room:

“I am a fat cat, I’m not ashamed,” he said last week in a telephone interview from a dressing room in his Upper East Side home. “If you mean by fat cat that I’ve succeeded, yeah, then I’m a fat cat. I stand guilty of being a fat cat.”

And the billionaire founder of Paychex Incorporated with his thirty-something ex-tennis star (Monica Seles) girlfriend who wants to vomit when he hears about paying his “fair share” is fun stuff.

Baby it’s cold outside

Willie Nelson and Norah Jones:

The lunch crowd

I had an hour to kill between physical therapy and my haircut appointment today, so I stopped into a local diner for lunch. It’s a small place but it was pretty crowded, mostly women: working class whites, Latinas, black women. Most of them seemed to know the waitresses by name.

One of the waitresses sat down in an empty booth and scratched off a winning lottery ticket. “Forty dollars!” she proclaimed loudly to the customers, who applauded.

“What are you gonna do with all that money?” one woman said.

“I have off for the next two days, so I’m going to climb into bed with a big bottle and drink margaritas,” she said. “I’m gonna put on my fuzzy bathrobe and my slippers, and stay in bed. I can’t wait.

“That’s gonna be my idea of Christmas.”

I’ll be home for Christmas

For every soldier who won’t be with his or her family this Christmas — and for the families whose soldiers never came home:

The first Noel

Daryl Hall and John Oates:

These days, a bad tooth can break you

How many people have realized by now that the notion of belonging to the middle class in this day and age is delusional and dangerous? This question gnawed at me today after I paid a dental bill that took a big bite out of my rapidly dwindling savings. More here.

Site down

If you can see this, good. If you can’t, it’s because there’s a problem and we’ll try to get it fixed.

Pity is a four-letter word.

However, mercy has five. Empathy? Seven.

Don’t even get me started on compassion.

Poison and wine

The Civil Wars:

If homeowners were airlines

We wouldn’t be in this mess. Robert Kuttner:

I happened to be flying on American Airlines the morning after the company declared bankruptcy. Exactly nothing bad happened to my flight. Nobody passed the hat to buy aviation fuel. The flight attendants offered the same dismal snacks. It was business as usual.

American will get to stiff its creditors, its employees, its pensioners, and sail happily onward, not even required to replace its managers. Chapter 11 filings are standard operating procedure when necessary in corporate America. In its full-page ads promising no disruption of service, American managed to avoid even the word “bankruptcy.”

Meanwhile, millions of underwater homeowners are denied the protections of bankruptcy laws. Like American Airlines, they would love to get out from under crushing debts and begin again. But the law is much tougher on them.

If only homeowners were airlines.

Welcome to the age of the double standard.

After more than a decade of business lobbying, in 2005 bankruptcy laws were revised to tilt against consumers. The financial lobby contended that the bankruptcy option was leading consumers to abuse credit cards. No sooner was the law passed than banks redoubled their efforts to peddle high-interest rate credit cards and sub-prime mortgages to people with bad credit ratings.

Want another one? In late November, the parent company of Massey Energy, whose extreme negligence killed 29 miners in West Virginia, agreed to pay a $209 million fine that includes damages to families, but no personal penalties for executives.

Meanwhile, more than 200,000 small time drug users who didn’t kill anybody are doing hard prison time.

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