20 June 2010

What Do You Think Rich People Do?

Tony Hayward’s yacht, left, sailed in the J. P. Morgan
Asset Management Round the Island Race on Saturday.
Photograph © Chris Ison/Press Association, via Associated Press.

Last week BP CEO Tony Hayward sat before a Congressional Committee to endure a ritual humiliation exercise. After the Congressional Reps took their turns posturing, Hayward like many illustrious predecessors - think here of say, Bush cronies like Alberto Gonzalez and most recent nominees to the Federal Courts - basically took the fifth. He admitted nothing and plead ignorance of virtually everything. The event was a massive waste of everyone's time. I hate to be cynical, but the Congressmen (I do think they are all male) could have used their time more profitably by attending to some piece of pending legislation, or something. But Hayward did look like he was hedging and dissembling the whole time.

This weekend Mr. Hayward is on vacation, yachting with other really rich folks. The Guardian and The New York Times each devote front page column inches to his escapade - here and here. Oh, the outrage! Here, with oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP well, the boss is off yachting! This is an insult to the residents of the gulf ... yada, yada, yada! Well, what do you think Mr. Hayward is going to do to stop the disaster this afternoon? After all, he knows nothing - as the Congressmen compelled him to admit. He is not an engineer. And would it be much worse if the oil industry were not blatantly ruining the environment? What if there were no disaster? What if there were simply the day to day ooze and filth of reliance on fossil fuels? Would it then be OK for this wealthy man and his buddies to be off spending huge sums on yachts and other play things? You will note too, that the race is sponsored by J.P. Morgan, that other corporate paragon. We'll let that one pass.

Come on people! This is what rich people do. They do frivolous things while other people work and while those other people bear the consequences of the follies and venality of the rich. Some of those consequences are productive, many are not. Today is no different than any other. If Mr. Hayward outrages you, you should be outraged every other weekend as well. This is not about his personal moral failings and insensitivity. It is about the systematic mal-distribution of wealth and privilege. Where is the outrage about that?

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Blogger Stan B. said...

The outrage is out buying apps....

20 June, 2010 19:32  
Blogger Tom White said...

I am constantly outraged, as you suggest I should be Jim. However, if I were a rich CEO who had just had to sit before a bunch of congressmen (pointless though the whole event actually was) I too would be straight off on my private jet to chill on my yacht, because, hell, that's what rich folk do. And I would probably be bitching about what a hard day I'd just had while I pop open a magnum of champagne.

In fact, we all do the same thing, except while for some it's a yacht and some bubbly, for others it's a trailer and a beer.

We are not so different eh?

20 June, 2010 20:34  
Blogger Colin Penter said...

well said Jim. Ditto here in Australia where there is also absolutely no outrage among the systematic mal- distribution of wealth which grows all the time.Some of us are trying.
Here the rich have been protesting in the streets about a modest proposal from the government to tax the super profits of mining companies. The rich have the gall to claim they are protesting not to protect their massive wealth but to protest the interests of ordinary working Australians. Thanks for the intelligence and commitment you bring to the blog

21 June, 2010 07:56  
Blogger Matt said...

And in countries where the wealth is more actively redistributed, the upper echelon couldn't resisting spending $2.6 million on the Swedish royal wedding over the weekend.

The closest I think we've come to widespread outrage was at the bankers last year, but even then the NYT reminded us how hard it is to live on just $500k a year.

21 June, 2010 09:26  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

But Matt, the Princess married a commoner, the fellow was her personal trainer! Strike another blow for equality!

21 June, 2010 09:59  

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