Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Is Not A Joke

How many of y'all saw the comedy "How High" featuring Redman and Method Man?

It was a pretty typical stoner flick, with the two rappers, have a well-known fondness for cannabis, playing the role of stoners with hearts of gold. It had some funny moments, even if it will never be considered a masterwork.

Anyway, one of the characters I loved in the movie was a trifling pimp played by Mike Epps. Now, Mike Epps is a funny dude, and his character in this movie was perfect. The pimp, whose name was Baby Powder, was a bumbling preener, but he had a hilarious habit.

Whenever his "pimp-in-training" or one of his hoes would mess up, the pimp would you yell out "Where my powder!" Then once someone sprinkled a liberal helping of powder into his hand, the pimp would slap the shit out of whoever offended him. Like I said, hilarious.

Well, after I read this story in the New York Times, I wanted to yell out "Where my powder!"

'Cause somebody needs to be smacked.

Those of you who bother to click that link will learn that Obama's new $500,000 cap on executive pay has some New York denizens shaking in there $2,000 Gucci loafers. Seems that what to most of us seems like a ridiculously generous salary, doesn't seem so hot when you have the mortgage to pay on two homes worth $5.5 million, along with an assorted amount of other expenses. While the article goes out of its way to note most people struggling in today's economy won't shed any tears for these bankers, the mere fact that the piece was written seems to be an attempt to stir up some sympathy.

Epic fail.

It would be easy for me to just rail against the skewed values in today's society that make it a struggle for some folks to survive on $500,000 a year. If you check out the list of "expenses" described in that article, it's easy to come to the conclusion that rich people have very skewed priorities. It's even easier to hope that they get their just desserts.

What might be harder, is to see a little of yourself in these rich people. I know that several of my readers have had their pockets pinched in recent months, but most of us are still above the poverty line. We may not have everything we want, but seem to have most of our needs and a few creature comforts that might make other less fortunate individuals swoon.

One of the most interesting things in the article was the justification that these rich people can't just save money like the rest of us because their sense of self is tied into the extravagant lifestyles they lead. At first that made my Bullshit Sense start tingling, but when I really thought about it, it made sense.

Don't most of us use certain goods or rituals to reinforce our feelings of who we are? It might be that daily trip to the coffee house, that weekly trip to the hairdresser, or that monthly movie that you just can't miss. For me, I could point to my big screen TV or the $700 machine I use to play cutting edge video games or my penchant for Polo shirts, although they are always purchased on sale.

Anyway, while most of us could get used to living without these comforts if we had to, it would seem like a pretty significant sacrifice. I've had firsthand experience dealing with someone who has to have certain little comforts or they feel like the entire world is conspiring to make their lives miserable. While these things may seem optional to me, they are life and death issues for that person.

Yet, for those individuals scrambling to feed themselves everyday, our "comforts" probably seem like ridiculous extravagances. They look at us the same way we look these rich people who spend $425 every two weeks on groceries for their tiny families. They wonder what right we have to complain.

What right do any of us have?



Anonymous said...

All those years of "trickle down" really was piss on our backs. I read that and was seriously enraged. 35 thou a year for gowns to wear to the right kind of parties? 45 a year for a nanny? Personal trainer? Two vacations a year plus a summer residence?

If you've earned it, then enjoy. Absolutely. If you've earned it by pissing down our backs and calling it rain? Fuck you and the beemer you rode in. Performance pay cuts both ways, after all.

Anonymous said...

BM, you do make some good points. I actually just read that article this morning and nearly doubled over in laughter. Yet you are right, my need for coffee from STarbucks or some trendy coffeehouse seems small to me but to some its a crazy luxury item.

I admit while I call it a need, its not a true need. Ultimately many of us need to be able to identify the difference between needs and wants, the lines at present are blurred.

However should this economic downturn continue long term, even the rich will know that a $8 chocolate is a luxury.

ch555x said...


If they don't want the $500,000 cut-off, I know quite a few people down here in the Appalachians who would gladly take the burden off their hands. Instead of making NYC the center of all things, relocate to other parts of the country. I'm sure those areas can accomodate coupled with any jobs that come with it. That doesn't include the price drop in living expenses, either.

I'm not trying to put down these types with the high incomes, but priorities need to be met before heading off to the summer cottage. It's the play first/work later mentality that I see wrong. Half of that list in the article could be trimmed down to zero if they actually did the work themselves...or maybe that's coming from a person who actually has to work. As with any income class, sympathy only goes so far...

Big Man said...

Thanks for the comments.

I want to be clear, I wasn't trying to justify the ridiculous expenses that make up these people's lives. There is no excuse for some of those expenses especially the ones that seem designed solely to stroke the ego. I have some sympathy for creature comforts, but when you're buying stuff just to fit a certain image, well that's where I draw the line.

And Lolo, good point about performance pay. The thing is, these rich folks don't see themselves as having done a bad job.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, woe is me! How I wanted that $30,000 70-inch Plasma telly, but with this new pay cap, I can only indulge on the $20,000 model...:("

I'm just glad that some of these rich peeps are feeling the crunch like the rest of us.

As for the justification that rich peeps spend more because their sense of self is tied into their spending, I just have to shake my head on that. That's like saying "I hurt people because my identity is tied to other peoples' misery." Oh wait now...that would be the greedy execs we're talking about, right?

Anonymous said...

Like you said, the image thing is the problem.

When you used to having that much you don't think you should be the person scaling back.

Thing is, most of the people we're talking about are to selfish to realize that they could alter 30 peoples lives easily if they just took the pay cut.

But like you said, if we were in that position, a lot of us would do the same selfish things.

Anonymous said...

I agree that many of us who complain would find, on closer examination, that we don't have as much right to complain about our lack as we think we do.

Because sometimes all we lack are things we wouldn't really appreciate in the long run anyway.

Ah, human nature...

Icehouse said...

I wonder what Latrell Spreewell thinks of this...

Air-Cooled Head said...

I think a lot of that has to do w/ upbringing.
Sure, given the opportunity (bank roll), I'm sure I'd be livin a little larger. But my upbringing would prevent me from owning/living in some 50 room mansion, or buying some $45K gown. (Well, being a guy would keep that from happening!)An ostentatious display of wealth is,,,, well, ostentatious.
It's like folks buying Hummers while living in the projects. Not that they need the capabilities of a Hummer; just trying to show off that "I got it like that." But you live in the 'jects! Hello?!?

Big Man said...


Very nice Latrell Sprewell reference. Latrell probably thinks that if he has to lose his yacht, everybody has to lose their yachts.

Dirty Red said...


500,000 on top of what you already make? When your company is supposedly broke?

What is the problem?

Eddie Murphey said it best in Trading Places.
'The best way to hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people'.
If you can call getting a bonus of $500,000, when your company is begging for money to pay "neccesary" expensenses, being poor.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the Sprewell ref, it made me laugh.

Anonymous said...

damn, will that guy really have to give up their summer home in the hamptons?

Raving Black Lunatic