America's Insufferable Economic Elite

A blog about business and economics.
July 8 2012 11:42 PM

"The People Who Are the Engine of the Economy"

143629389
Range Rover

Photograph by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Lots of rich-guy pathos on display outside the gates of a big GOP fundraiser in the Hamptons, but I thought this was the most telling remark about the state of things in 2012:

"It's not helping the economy to pit the people who are the engine of the economy against the people who rely on that engine," Michael Zambrelli said as the couple waited in their SUV for clearance into the Creeks shortly after the candidate's motorcade flew by and entered the pine-tree lined estate.
Advertisement

I'm not much of a car guy, but the way I understand this metaphor to work is that if you want to give rich people credit for being "the engine of the economy" then if the economy is performing subpar it follows that something's wrong with your engine. And yet I suspect Zambrelli wouldn't take kindly to that diagnosis.

But what's really galling is the absurd level of self-regard among the winners in the modern American meritocracy. It's completely true that many wealthy individuals garnered their wealth by developing useful products or devising useful approaches to management. But take a guy like Anthony Scarmucci, one of Mitt Romney's national finance co-chairs. His stock in trade is ripping off successful-but-not-mega-rich professionals with a "fund of funds" business model in which management fees eat away all your investment gains. Taking advantage of the existence of suckers is a perfectly legal way to make money. In a world where Gilbert Arenas is paid $20 million, why shouldn't a clever investment manager be able to find ways to skim off people's hard earned savings? But skill at making money is just that—skill at making money. It's not evidence that you possess a unique economy-powering genius without which the rest of us would all be paupers.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

An Iranian Woman Was Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist. Can Activists Save Her?

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 3:01 PM Netizen Report: Hong Kong Protests Trigger Surveillance and Social Media Censorship
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 2:36 PM Climate Science Is Settled Enough The Wall Street Journal’s fresh face of climate inaction.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.