National Commentary

Karma & the Filthy Rich

nfbenton-mugThere was a blockbuster in the Sunday paper this week that was relegated to the Business section so that sports and Sunday funnies-obsessed readers would likely not even notice it. It belonged under a blaring headline on the front page.

In a skinny one-column headline on the front of the Business section, the Washington Post reported, as the headline says, “Executive Pay Rises 21.4 Percent in D.C. Area.”
The story, based on a “2015 Washington Post/Equilar CEO Compensation Study,” noted that the D.C. region, alone, had 15 executives who earned more than $10 million last year, with the highest being $156.1 million, and the median for all CEOs was a whopping $3.8 million.

Mind you, a read through the list does not yield a single “celebrity” rich guy, not like a Donald Trump, for example. These are all low profile folks, most deliberately, who may be well known in small financier and executive circles, but not to the unwashed masses, to be sure.

Discovery Communications’ David Zaslav tops the D.C. region list at $156.l million, followed by Martine Rothblatt of United Thearapeutics at $31.6 million, Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy at $24.1 million, Richard Fairbank of Capital One Financial at $19.6 million, and Paul Saville of NVR, Inc. at $19.3 million. And the list goes on, made up entirely of names more obscure to the general public than any of the top 25 scorers in the NBA.

The Post would argue, I suppose, that the article was relegated to the Business section because of the relative obscurity of the names. But there is an obscenity represented here that grossly outstrips all the day’s Page One news scandals. Most of these “fat cats” probably don’t like having their names anywhere in the news, so for that reason The Post, in the article by Thomas Heath, provides a legitimate public service.

The first question that comes to my mind is, “What in the world do these people do with all this money?,” followed by “Why in the world do they think they need it?”
But we know these answers and most are rooted in the savage impulse of persons to reach, reach, reach for more, more, more. It becomes purely an obsession, wealth accumulated for wealth’s sake, alone.

Yes, there are philanthropists like the Gates who take their billions and try to do useful socially redeeming things with them, but that serves to provide cover for the thousands of the super-rich who do no such thing at all.

Spending it on expensive things, like $5,000 an hour hookers, doesn’t add to one’s quality of life an iota, I don’t think. But there is a whole global network of industries that are geared to nothing more than extracting huge sums from these people for what in the final analysis can’t be much more rewarding than what would cost a tiny fraction. An apple, after all, is an apple, and a croissant can only be so good.

But my point here is that while the national economy remains stalled (actually, minus growth the last quarter, a little advertised fact), and the D.C. region’s growth is even more flat, or negative, these at the top of the income scale are exacting pay increases at an annual rate of 21.4 percent.

The simple mathematical conclusion is that they are getting richer not just over and above the rest of us, but at our expense. Our lives are being disadvantaged to the same degree that they are ballooning their wealth.

Some day the American people are going to begin to really get it. Some day the Bastille is going to be liberated. Some day the greatest nightmare of these obscenely rich people will be pounding on the doors of their inner sanctums.

Some day some one, some lot of people, are going to come along and take away all their prized little things. And you don’t think they deserve it? That’s really not the point.There is a equivalency between the excessive accumulation of other people’s wealth and the excessive price that will be paid for that. It will be beyond our control. It’s karma.