The Unbearble Burden of Wealth

Detail of 'Ampersand' by Barry Deutsch, 9 October 2011, via

“What about when I get to the convention? Last time, I was sitting in a box. This time, I may not even get a ticket!”

Anonymous Bush Donor

Among theses you just don’t hear much about was one that arrived in a college catalog some years ago, showing off the work of their graduates. A Master’s degree was awarded for a paper connecting the French Revolution to fashion styles demanding distressed clothing. Think professionally-ripped, stone-washed skinny jeans circa the hair-glam years. And, to be certain, it makes sense. Tattered, battle-weary revolutionaries stumbling home victorious; ’tis a romantic image, we might suppose, if the horrors of war count for romance.

The late Benjamin DeMott called the modern phenomenon Omni Syndrome, in which the object is to conform to the styles and standards of the largest demographic classifications within a society. Thus the dictator plays up his revolutionary history; politicians argue about log cabins and bread bags; the rich and famous want to be seen as just like everybody else, but only as long as it advances their careers.

There was a time when being a millionaire meant something in these United States. Omni Syndrome is so easily twisted that a presidential candidate can argue that a multimillionaire is “middle class”. And now these middle-class millionaires hope to complain that their extraordinary influence is waning.

“Staffers”? Politically engaged millionaires have been reduced to hearing from aides rather than the candidates themselves? The horror.

Evidently, in this new environment, with a proliferation of hyper-wealthy donors, mere millionaires don’t receive the consideration and responsiveness to which they’ve grown accustomed. Neese told the Post that the major Republican presidential hopefuls are “only going to people who are multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires.”

One former Bush Ranger complained, “What about when I get to the convention? Last time, I was sitting in a box. This time, I may not even get a ticket!” ....

.... The piece added that there’s “palpable angst” among donors who used to receive VIP treatment, but whose phones no longer ring: “One longtime bundler recently fielded a call from a dispirited executive on his yacht, who complained, ‘We just don’t count anymore.'”


While we are wont to suggest that narrative is everything, sometimes the joke just writes itself. While most of us fret about empowerment in the question of whether our vote at the ballot box counts for anything, our political culture has decayed to the point that those traditionally accustomed to buying extraordinary influence are complaining that they can’t buy enough extraordinary influence. Something about inflation goes here, but that joke has not yet been so decent as to write itself.

The thing is that if this sounds like some sort of cinematic farce, there is a reason. If we mutter something about Marie Antoinette and cake, it is only because “Frick ‘n’ fishin'” doesn’t ring the same bell, or perhaps that “J.P. Morgan” is still, somehow, a respectable name in these United States. And even of that latter, many will not consider history beyond about 2007.

It is said that those who fail to learn from history will repeat it. More specifically, they are condemned to repeat it. Let us be clear: The aphorism does not prescribe the repetition of such history as a good thing.

Or, as Steve Benen put it:

So, chin up, millionaires. Sure, you’ve been temporarily pushed aside for billionaires, but soon Republican candidates will come back, telling you all about the big tax cuts they’ll give you after the election.

In the meantime, enjoy the yacht.

Money talks. This is how they wanted it. And given how often some people complain when they get what they want, yes, the phenomenon does eventually start to seem significant.


Image note: Detail of Ampersand by Barry Deutsch, 9 October 2011, via

Benen, Steve. “Lifestyles of the rich and disgruntled”. msnbc. 25 March 2015.

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