This is from Robert Frank's "Wealth Report" blog at WSJ.com:
Say what you will about the rich. They have provided excellent entertainment value in the past five years.
What with the Schwarzman party; the $3 billion Paulson payday; the Greenwich mansion with 26 toilets; the Larry Ellison yacht that was too big; or the $300,000 watch that doesn’t tell time– and that sold out.
It was ever thus: as James Stewart says famously in “The Philadelphia Story,” “one of the prettiest sights in this pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.”
Now, the wealthy are going underground. It isn’t just that they are losing some of their wealth–they can be forgiven for that. No, they are going quiet. They aren’t flinging the bling or living large; they are preaching “values” and “responsibility.” Big spenders are out: YAWNS are in.
The ever-entertaining Joe Queenan, writing in Forbes, calls them the “Wallflower Wealthy” and says they are bad for America.As soon as a recession hits, everyone stows the Lamborghinis, puts the yachts in dry dock, cancels the 5,000-guest reaffirmation-of-vows party in the Temple of Luxor–the one where the Rolling Stones were supposed to helicopter in and play “Street Fighting Man”–and starts driving a Prius and stops smoking Cohibas. Once the stock market goes into a nosedive, even people completely impervious to the gyrations of the Dow are expected to act as if the Great Depression is right around the corner, as if the time has come to start scrimping and saving, perhaps even foregoing that twilight climb up Mount Everest and instead opting for an inexpensive staycation on Muscle Shoals.
Instead of being seen on the golf course or in the private jet, “everyone is expected to stay at home moping and eating celery stalks. If people who don’t have money are hurting, people who do have money are expected to act as if they are not. This defeats the whole purpose of having money.”
Some of this may be rather tongue in cheek, but what do you think? Should rich people scale back in hard times even when they don't need to? Is it so they're not setting a bad example? Is the idea that it's just not nice to rub it in when the rest of us are hurting? Does that even matter? I kind of lean more towards thinking the ultra-wealthy should keep on spending-- I mean, somebody's got to spend money and who else has any right now? (And of course we have to hope they're still donating to charities too.)