London – London mayor Boris Johnson recently wrote a piece for The Telegraph dutifully titled ‘We should be humbly thanking the super-rich, not bashing them.’ Is he high on crack? Or is he the most soberly deluded politician driving a 20 year-old Toyota?
As politicians like Mayor Johnson on both sides of the pond become more entangled with the interests and fantasies of the one-percent, the rest of us continue to pay the price for their misaligned loyalties. Education suffers for lack of funding and students are saddled with crippling debt. People lose their homes and their jobs. Infrastructures in the west look a lot like experiments in time-lapsed entropy. The thirty-year trend shows the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle class steadily evaporating. Meanwhile, our “poor” rich holding office lament the fact that they can’t travel in private jets to get their hair done-up like Donald Trump.
The Conservative Party’s controversial mayor defeated Labor Party incumbent Ken Livingston in 2008 to become mayor of London. Noted for his disheveled appearance and colorful gaffes, Johnson is also an avid cyclist championing a £913 million investment in bike lanes to benefit many Londoners like himself who will never have to face living without a roof over their heads, a warm bed or meal. When he’s not busy running the city on his paltry £140,000 salary, the mayor draws £250,000 in annual “chicken feed” as a columnist at The Telegraph. It’s probably no coincidence that news of his lucrative moonlighting and the purchase of his £2.3 million, four-story hen house both made headlines in July 2009.
Herein lies a glimpse into the mindset of a powerful political figure who, to his credit, has been honest enough and willing to park his couch in our living rooms for a little group therapy session. You see, Mayor Johnson believes the super-rich are a minority in the same sense that the homeless are minorities, or in the way that actual minorities are minorities – and we shouldn’t be bashing them just because, as he puts it, “The rich are resented, not so much for being rich, but for getting ever richer than the middle classes…”
The poor need not enter into the conversation. At all.
If by Johnson’s reckoning that envy among the middle class is the real reason behind a rising tide of discontent with the uber rich, we must fight the urge to question his sanity until we hear him out completely. Johnson admittedly can’t explain the growing disparity, but like a good politician he moves forward to “hazard a guess” based on the seemingly unique traits possessed by tycoons he has met.
(1) They tend to be well above average, if not outstanding, in their powers of mathematical, scientific or at least logical reasoning. (2) They have a great deal of energy, confidence, risk-taking instinct and a desire to make money. (3) They have had the good fortune – by luck or birth – to be able to exploit these talents.
Johnson got one thing right: They have the good fortune. ‘Tycoon traits’ are undoubtedly shared by millions of other people working in many professions be they Oxford professors or Amsterdam prostitutes. It’s the sentiment here that Johnson’s confusing with the stuff that Ayn Rand junkies smoke up in the crack houses of her hazy philosophy. That, and trickle-down economics, the crowned jewel of Johnson’s vision of tax breaks for the wealthy, arguably so they can continue with their charitable donations. Leave it to a politician to ignore existing tax loopholes stonkingly large enough in scope to make sizable charitable donations look like chicken feed. Or that in our un-Fantasy Land reality some corporations don’t pay any taxes at all. Understandably, a politician with Johnson’s daydreams about the one-percent lifestyle couldn’t possibly fathom that most billionaires, if not all, have cheated their way to the top by breaking laws or buying elections or by stifling competition. That’s the real power of wealth – not any subset of favorable human traits. Social Darwinism is alive and well in London, England, mates.
Another aspect of the mayor’s piece touches on his infatuation with the very, very rich – the “stonkingly rich”, he writes. Johnson may be worth millions, but he knows he’s not stonkingly rich.
“But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich,” Johnson writes. “I mean people who have so much money they can fly by private jet, and who have gin palaces moored in Puerto Banus, and who give their kids McLaren supercars for their 18th birthdays and scour the pages of the FT’s “How to Spend It” magazine for jewel-encrusted Cartier collars for their dogs.”
I leave it to my stonkingly resentful readers to write Mayor Johnson’s prescription.