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Tom Toles
Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 03/10/2011

Up in arms

If I had an upholstered armchair, I would settle back in it to do some armchair speculating today. Like every day, but today I would hold a thoughtful pipe in my hand. A bubble pipe, because I don't use tobacco products. Tobacco is at last acknowledged to be exceedingly bad for you after a decades-long argument that was pretty much an exact duplicate of the climate argument we are having now as a way of proving that we are slow learners.

Anyway, as the bubbles float above my head, like good cartoon thought bubbles do, here's another reason why I think the new class of the hyper-wealthy is dangerous to you and me. In case you missed it, rich people are not only not like you and me, but they are not like rich people of 30 years ago. They are way, WAY richer now. Rich people's incomes have pulled so far away from the common rabble that I think a certain change in psychology is nearly inevitable, human psychology being what we know and love/hate.

So here is this new class of people for whom the standard expectation of wealth and income has become so extreme, that the need to do what it takes to maintain it all has to invite some severe temptation to do things that Mom would not be proud of. Or maybe she would, depending on the mom. And on a necessarily dangerous scale. This seems to be what led to the Great Recession we have been enjoying so thoroughly of late. Conservatives are fond of explaining aberrant behavior in terms of incentives. I don't see what has changed much in the incentive structure here. Do you?

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 03/10/2011

 
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