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Sunday, February 08, 2009

So You Want to Be a Millionaire: A Wall Street Cautionary Tale

Companies pricing luxury items "are not selling goods, they are selling an emotion," says Jens Baumgarten, head of financial services at Simon Kucher & Partners, a strategy and marketing consulting firm.
-Forbes Magazine


Is greed an emotion? Shamelessness? Vanity? Hubris?

Back when Ronald Reagan was talking about “welfare queens” he was merely speaking hyperbolically, which is basically lying but with a party stamp of approval. He was referring to the apocryphal recipients of government aid who were driving around in Cadillacs. Welfare queens? I mean, what kind of royalty drives American? Maybe a Hummer that has been converted into a limo, but that's just for when you have too many high-priced escorts to take the Maserati. As far as lavish excesses go, we have a certain panache that those fictitious welfare cheats never dreamed possible.

Our worst fears of socialism are about to come true if we allow government to limit executive pay to $500,000 for companies receiving part of the Obama stimulus package. They can't possibly mean $500,000 a year? Granted, we all voted for candidates who opposed raising the minimum wage, but we didn't mean for us. Don't you remember watching with horror that show So You Want to be a Millionaire? A millionaire? All we could think was, “There but for the grace of God go I.” As terrifying as that program was, now we may be dealing with a federal government that wants us to work two years just to make it to the slumdog millionaire's club.
1) With a range of 3,400 nautical miles at Mach 0.80, the Gulfstream G250 corporate jet has the capability to whisk away you and three of your board members, also under indictment for securities fraud, to the closest country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. which is:

A) Brazil
B) Tunisia
C) Laos
D) California

So what if we all make Marie Antoinette look like some sort of under-paid case worker for social services? We deserve everything we have. Do you think it's easy to install an entire government, from lowly congressmen right up to the president who will systematically lower our tax rates to the point where the rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration?*
2) How many $40 bottles of Bling Water does it take to fill your bath?:

A) 40
B) If you have to ask, you can't afford it.
C) Is that sparkling or without gas?
D) $40 seems like a lot but you get a nickel deposit on the bottle.

How is it even constitutional for them to limit our pay? They should just give us the federal money and let the free market take over from there. Sure, we all support drug testing for welfare recipients and that they show proof that they are working or looking for work, but those are poor people, they can't be trusted. Many of them spend their food stamp money on excesses like ice cream and cookies. They can be so out of touch. We promise to spend tax dollars responsibly, like $87,000 for an area rug for the CEO's office at Merrill Lynch or on a spa holiday for A.I.G. executives.
3) How long can America's richest citizens count on the support of the bottom 80% of wage earners?:

A) Until the presidential election of 2012
B) Until we say so.
C) As long as poor folks keep playing lotto and believing they are one scratch away from being our neighbors.
D) Are we certain that all those guillotines have been destroyed?

Need a lifeline? You can make a call to Czar Nicolas II and family. No answer? Just let it ring. All of this talk is starting to sound like class warfare. That's what we call it when the other side decides to fight back. We prefer things to be like they were before, kind of like the moral equivalent of those glorified petting zoos where rich guys like Dick Cheney "hunt." You know, the places that keep the animals caged up until the great white hunter lumbers by, is given time to calmly finish his glass of single malt scotch, load, fire, have the guides administer first aid to other members of the party, and then fire again. We've made it even easier for the accuracy-impaired by just having them shoot pre-packaged meat right in the butcher aisle at the supermarket, although radical anti-gun hippies have made this illegal in some states.
3) This question was posed to Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street: How many yachts can you water-ski behind?

A) 1
B) More than 1
C) Don't I pay someone to water-ski for me?
D) Find out the record number of yachts someone has water-skied behind and simply add one more yacht. Do we have to do everything for you?

And now for the final question.
2) How much is enough?

A) Can you repeat that, I was busy demeaning my maid.
B) Is this a trick question?
C) A lot, an awful lot.
D) Certainly a lot more than $1 million.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Not us, that's for sure.

*www.Bloomberg.com