Entitled but ungrateful, the rich whine while the poor get nothing

If you still needed evidence of a felt sense of entitlement among the wealthy, on Friday, the New York Times published an article which

wonder[ed] why so many people were furious at those who had more than they did. And why are the rich shouldering the blame for a collective run of bad decision-making? After all, many of the rich got there through hard work. And plenty of not-so-rich people bought homes, cars and electronics they could not afford and then defaulted on the debt, contributing to the crash last year.

The article seems surprised at a “suspicion that all wealthy people are motivated purely by self-interest” and cites a financial manager whose “clients felt that they had worked hard and honestly for their money and were now being unjustly judged alongside those who did not.” It quotes a psychoanalyst:

People who get caught up in this paranoia spend all night reading these blogs, and six months later they haven’t done anything to better themselves. Even if they’re right, there is a lot of wasted energy put into this. They need to look at the mistakes they’ve made in their life.

So I imagine if you’ve lost your job, been unable to find another job, aren’t even getting responses when you send your resume around, or perhaps if you’ve lost your home, you aren’t finding that very amusing.

Some of President Barack Obama’s aides made the Sunday talk show circuit and have confirmed parts of what I had to say yesterday:

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said Americans “have a right to be frustrated and angry” at reports that a year after the government used $700 billion to save major lending institutions from collapse, Wall Street appears poised to hand out another round of hefty bonuses. . . .

“The most offensive thing is we haven’t seen the kind of increase in lending that we should,” [David Axelrod] said on “This Week” on ABC.

The aides also complained about bank lobbying against new federal regulation and said that more time should be given for the stimulus package to generate employment before considering another stimulus package.

All this misses several points. First, the banks have rationalizations for not lending money where it is needed, even if that’s what Paul Krugman apparently assumes they will do. (UPDATE: Krugman acknowledges the problem.) Second, as the New York Times article with which I opened this posting illustrates, the rich continue to blame the poor for their problems, even when banks steered African Americans who qualified for prime loans into subprime loans, even when banks aggressively lent even to people with damaged credit, even when very few of the now-unemployed did anything to create the crisis that now besets them.

What would be more impressive would be Obama administration actions to match Obama administration words. For all their pretense at entitlement, it is the rich who owe the poor but who have in fact been ripping off the poor. Yet the Bush and Obama administrations rushed through aid for Wall Street while very little help has reached homeowners or workers. “We’ve only spent a little less than half of the money,” Valerie Jarrett, another close adviser to President Obama, said on “Meet the Press.”

I’m thinking of what Obama had to say to the people of New Orleans still angry at the slow pace of government aid for their losses from Hurricane Katrina:

“I expected as much from the Bush administration, but why are we still being nickeled and dimed in our recovery?” a man asked at a public meeting at the University of New Orleans.

“I wish I could write a blank check,” Obama replied, prompting the man to shout back, “Why not?”

That’s a very good question. Hurricane Katrina was over four years ago. Now another disaster has struck. Are we all also going to have to wait as long?

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