8 of the Most Clueless, Offensive Statements by America's Out-of-Touch Rich People
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Minerva Studio
Five years after Wall Street wrecked the economy, the rich are doing better than ever: the Dow is at record highs, while the 1% control more of the country’s (and the world’s) wealth than ever before.
So why are the wealthy so cranky? The last couple months have seen a surge in CEOs, hedge fund managers and startup entrepreneurs whining about how tough they have it, while lecturing the working class about how they need to stop that very whining. According to the wealthy, they do all the work, earn all the money, and yet practically live like paupers.
Below are eight of the most clueless statements by the 1%, all of them made in the past 12 months.
1. Greg Gopman
In December, Greg Gopman, then-CEO of the startup AngelHeck, went on an unhinged rant against ... well, it started against San Francisco’s homeless for mucking up his view, but soon came to include anybody of a lower socioeconomic status than his own.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Gopman wrote, “Just got back to SF. I've traveled around the world and I gotta say there is nothing more grotesque than walking down Market St in San Francisco. Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue. Each time I pass it my love affair with SF dies a little.”
He wasn’t done. “In downtown SF the degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city,” he continued.
Gopman was just self-aware enough to catch that he might get a bit of pushback on these opinions, so he preempted the critics. “You can preach compassion, equality, and be the biggest lover in the world, but there is an area of town for degenerates and an area of town for the working class. There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us. It's a burden and a liability having them so close to us. Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I'd consider thinking different, but the crazy toothless lady who kicks everyone that gets too close to her cardboard box hasn't made anyone's life better in a while.”
This was not Gopman's only offensive post — he’s fond of opining on the trashiness of certain women — and it appears to have been indicative of his management style. Gopman left the company over unspecified office tensions shortly thereafter.
2. Andy Kessler
Speaking of those homeless, hedge fund manager Andy Kessler thinks he knows what keeps them on the street: charity, volunteering, homeless shelters, or anything else that actually helps alleviate a homeless person’s misery.
Publishing in the Wall Street Journal, Kessler wrote last July that the only way to help homeless people is to make as much money for yourself as possible and hope it trickles down somehow.
“Obsessing over carbon footprints and LEED certifications and free-range strawberries and charging for plastic bags will not help the world nearly as much as good old-fashioned economic growth,” Kessler claimed. “Gen-G will wise up to the reality that the way to improve lives is to get to work. If Woodstockers figured this out, so will they — as soon as they get over their guilt.”
Lest you think Kessler suffers from living in a hedge fund bubble, never fear — he chiseled these points against his 16-year-old son, while driving him to the homeless shelter where he worked.
“It’s a worthwhile project,” Kessler admits, “but he doesn’t like it when our conversation on the way to his minimum-wage job turns to why these homeless folks aren’t also working. Perhaps, I suggest, because someone is feeding, clothing and, in effect, bathing them?”
3. Bud Konheim
Bud Konheim, CEO of luxury fashion company Nicole Miller, didn’t want to let Gopner and Kessler have all the fun of hating on the poor. He told CNBC’s Squawk Box that North America’s lower class needed to stop whining — or, better yet, go find a poorer continent.
"We've got a country that the poverty level is wealth in 99 percent of the rest of the world," Konheim said. "So we're talking about woe is me, woe is us, woe is this. The guy that's making, oh my God, he's making $35,000 a year, why don't we try that out in India or some countries we can't even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy."
Konheim’s solution to poverty: move to a poorer country and be richer by comparison.
4. Ben Benmosche
AIG CEO Robert Benmosche told the Wall Street Journal that outrage over Wall Street bonuses following the 2008 economic collapse was as bad as lynchings.
“The uproar over bonuses was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses, and all that — sort of like what we did in the Deep South,” Benmosche said. "And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”
What’s most remarkable about Benmosche’s opinion, Ezra Klein pointed out, was how unremarkable it likely was. “I would bet he’s made the same point a number of times in private rooms to appreciative nods,” Klein wrote. “When you say and hear that kind of thing often enough, however, you forget how insane and offensive it is — and then you say it to the Wall Street Journal.”
5. Alan Dlugash
Following the 2008 economic collapse, some Wall Street bonuses and salaries did contract, much to dismay of the people pocketing them. They cried to Bloomberg Business about the luxury items they could sort of no longer afford, kinda.
“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” financial planner Alan Dlugash said. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”
Dlugash added that the cuts to 1% salaries were just as devastating as they might be to the lower-middle-class. “If you’re making $50,000 and your salary gets down to $40,000 and you have to cut, it’s very severe to you,” Dlugash said. “But it’s no less severe to these other people with these big numbers.”
6. John Mack
Wall Street types have a tendency to rally around their own, best showcased recently by former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, who would very much like to “see people stop beating up on Lloyd and Jamie,” referring to Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon.
"As long as shareholders reward performance, we can argue,” Mack said. "[But] the last time I checked, this business is still a business that pays people extremely well."
Mack’s comments, Matt Taibbi noted, came just after Dimon received a 74 percent raise for his 2013 performance, during which JPMorgan paid out over $20 billion in regulatory fines — bringing Dimon's total pay to $20 million, or $1 million per billion the company paid in fines last year.
Moral of the story: Jamie Dimon gets paid no matter what. That’s the world everybody on this list is complaining about.
7. Thomas Perkins
Thomas Perkins didn’t invent plutocratic self-pity, but he may have perfected it. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Perkins complained that America’s wealthy were being treated like Jews in Nazi Germany, and he compared protest movements like Occupy Wall Street to Kristallnacht.
The rant was so unhinged that the venture capital firm bearing his name ran screaming from him. The Journal backed him up, however, accusing liberal critics of “proving his point” by criticizing his Nazi analogy. Even when trying to appear contrite, Perkins couldn’t help but feel sorry for his oppressed class of multimillionaires. “I think we are beginning to engage in class warfare,” he told Bloomberg TV. “I think the rich as a class are threatened through higher taxes, higher regulation and so forth.”
He wasn’t done. Just two weeks later, he expounded upon the “Tom Perkins system,” in which voting is proportionate to one’s wealth. “The Tom Perkins system is: You don't get the vote if you don't pay a dollar in taxes,” he said. “But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How's that?”
8. Sam Zell
Sam Zell, CEO of Equity Group Investments, came to Perkins’ defense shortly after the Kristallnacht letter, offering an alternative to hating on the 1%: idolizing them.
“The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the one percent, they should talk about emulating the one percent,” Zell told Bloomberg Television’s In the Loop. “The 1 percent work harder, the 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.”
What about those toiling away on minimum wage, the same wage Republicans don’t want to raise by so much as a penny? “Lots of people have come from nowhere and become part of the one percent,” he said. That settles that.