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Clueless Young Billion-Heirs Get Royal Treatment at White House

Obama gives the Silver Spoonies a big wet kiss.
 
 
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Are you young? Largely ignorant of what goes on in the real world? Is your name Rockeller or Marriott? Could you pass for Justin Bieber?

The President wants to see you, baby! Come on up in here.

As economist Thomas Piketty, author of a new blockbuster book on inequality, tours the East Coast warning that America will soon become a place in which inherited wealth means as much — or more — as it did in Downton Abbey Britain, the White House is wasting no time pandering to young people who have grown up in breathtaking privilege. The New York Times reported that the Prez recently invited a passel of fat kittens to an invitation-only summit to "find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next-generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth."

Like royal courts in time of yore, when the scions of the wealthy would preen and socialize with others of their ilk, todays oligarchs-in-training are coming to DC to see and be seen, to pay and accept tribute. In order to make things appear less crass than a simple handover of cash, these young folks are invited to indulge their ruminations about improving society — which, as you might imagine, does not involve things like a global wealth tax. Or larger inheritance taxes.

People like 19-year-old Patrick Gage, who will someday inherit from the multi-billion-dollar Carlson hotel fortune, can prattle on about matters like human trafficking and water quality in the Puget Sound, but you'd likely not hear a peep about the gross income and wealth inequality that is strangling our democracy and destabilizing society. For his part, 24-year-old Justin McAuliffe, an heir to the Hilton hotel fortune, was mostly just excited to be around other silver spoonies: “Hilton, Marriott and Carlson..." he commented, according to the NYT report. "That is cool.” Let's hear it for assortive mating!

The wee billionaires were all abuzz about a new fad called "impact investing," also known as social impact bonds, a form of investing that seeks to generate both a social benefit and a profit for rich people that taxpayers are expected to pay if certain conditions are met. (We have given our opinion of social impact bonds with the story of Goldman Sachs and its scheme to profit from prisoner recidivism rates; we remain skeptical.)

If rich people want to do charity, great. And if you want to make an impact on the public good, howsabout paying your freaking share of taxes? You okay with that? Didn't think so.

There's nothing wrong with having civic interests if you are rich, but in an era when our society is so badly out of balance, it sends a powerful signal when the White House rolls out the red carpet for well-heeled youngsters who have little conception of what it's like to have horrid low-wage jobs, crushing student debt, housing you can ill afford, and a shitty social safety net. In other words, the stuff that many other young Americans are forced to deal with. 

The White House has been fondly known as the "People's House." Make that people with piles of cash.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.