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29 August 2016

Privilege as Virtue among the Wealthy

I don't get a lot of opportunity to keep up with the podcasts I follow during the summer so I'm currently catching up on a three-month backlog. I was listening to this episode of This American Life this morning on my way to work, and I was really struck by this exchange:
Zoe Chace [5:32]: OK, so for the past six months, I've been covering the presidential election. I've been particularly interested in this group of people who are trying to get the biggest bang for their buck out of this election season--Republican donors, people who are in a rare position to put enormous sums into campaigns and watch what the money can do, people like this.
Zoe Chace: So are you a billionaire?
Doug Deason: No I'm not. My father is.
Zoe Chace: This is Doug Deason. He's a millionaire. His dad Darwin Deason is the billionaire. Years ago his dad started a computer services company and made a ton of money in the years since, rolling up and selling off companies, just money making money. Five years ago he sold it to Xerox.
Now Doug, the son, manages their money and their political strategy. Doug is the one in charge of translating money into political power. He doesn't think of himself as a donor, exactly. There's much more thought and strategy than just throwing money at a campaign. He's more like an investor. He's looking around for the best place to put their money, the best Republican place.
Doug Deason [24:00]: The reason [my father spoke more than expected in our meeting with Donald Trump] is because Trump just engaged him, asked him about [his] business, how did he make his money. And they talked about--he kept complimenting down on me that I know how great it is to be able to turn something over to your kids and let them run it, let them do it, which obviously is what I do. So it's nice to be complimented, right? [empahsis added]
So, I may be misreading this, but it seems like Doug feels that acknowledging the reality that his father handed him his business and fortune is a personal compliment. This feels emblematic of the mindset of many wealthy people like Deason and Trump, who somehow rationalize their privilege and advantage as a virtue, all the while chastising the disprivileged and disadvantaged masses as lazy, undeserving losers. So disturbing!

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