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January 30, 2014 10:04 AM The Rich Folks and Their Pity Party

By Ed Kilgore

This was not the sort of headline I’m used to seeing at Politico: “Why the Rich Are Freaking Out.” And the author, Ben White, doesn’t really answer the question, other than to suggest, as any rational observer would, that this is a deeply irrational phenomenon. But it seems it is not limited to Tom Perkins, huddling under sofa cushions in his San Francisco penthouse and fearing the populist jackboots will soon kick down his door.

The nation’s wealthiest, denizens of the loftiest slice of the 1 percent, appear to be having a collective meltdown.
Economists, advisers to the wealthy and the wealthy themselves describe a deep-seated anxiety that the national — and even global — mood is turning against the super-rich in ways that ultimately could prove dangerous and hard to control.
President Barack Obama and the Democrats have pivoted to income inequality ahead of the midterm elections. Pope Francis has strongly warned against the dangers of wealth concentration. And all of this follows the rise of the Occupy movement in 2011 and a bout of bank-bashing populism in the tea party….
The collective result, according to one member of the 1 percent, is a fear that the rich are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe not today but soon.
“You have a bunch of people who see conspiracies everywhere and believe that this inequality issue will quickly turn into serious class warfare,” said this person, who asked not to be identified by name so as not to anger any wealthy friends. “They don’t believe inequality is bad and believe the only way to deal with it is to allow entrepreneurs to have even fewer shackles.”
And so the rich are lashing out.

My natural reaction to this sort of story is amusement; it makes me want to find ways to spook the 1% even more with bogus threats. I mean, really, they are whining about being disrespected when millions of people have lost jobs, homes, and savings; Lord only knows how many young people are already giving up and how many people my age are facing a very bleak retirement. It’s surprising to me that the Occupy movement wasn’t bigger than it was. If the Masters of the Universe don’t have a bad conscience, shouldn’t they at least experience a little nervousness?

But history has shown that some really bad things can happen when the very rich get spooked. So maybe it’s best not to bait them too aggressively, and I guess it’s good they are getting help:

“I think that with Occupy Wall Street there was a sense of the heat getting turned up and a feeling of vilification and potential danger,” said Jamie Traeger-Muney, a psychologist whose Wealth Legacy Group focuses on counseling the affluent. “There is a worry among our clients that they are being judged and people are making assumptions about who they are based on their wealth.”

If I were “counseling the affluent,” I’d remind them that we are still living in a country that makes it possible for people to make a living counseling the affluent. And notwithstanding Occupy, the very rich should take solace in the fact that rivaling it is another self-styled populist movement that is determined to protect the 1% and its vast wealth as a byproduct of their crusade to save their Medicare benefits from those people. So it’s probably not time to “go Gault” just yet.

UPDATE: Should have included this video, which I’ve posted before, but probably not so aptly:

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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