Friday, February 05, 2016

Billionaires don’t live in the same world as us

Steve Schwarzman is worth around $12 billion. He’s the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest financial firms, specializing in private equity, hedge funds, and mergers. He’s a Republican. In 2010 Schwarzman told the New Yorker, “I don’t feel like a wealthy person.” When there was some talk of closing the carried interest loophole, Steve Schwarzman strongly objected, as if Wall Street was actually being invaded: “It’s a war…. It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”

But he freely admits (or pretends to admit) that he doesn’t understand why others aren’t as satisfied with the status quo as he is.

“I find the whole thing astonishing and what’s remarkable is the amount of anger whether it’s on the Republican side or the Democratic side…. Bernie Sanders, to me, is almost more stunning than some of what’s going on in the Republican side. How is that happening, why is that happening?..What is the vein that is being tapped into across parties, that has made people so unhappy?” He said "The question is, what is everyone protesting about? There are a lot of things that I guess you could, but what's needed actually is a cohesive, healing presidency, not one that's lurching either to the right or to the left….”  Having said that, Schwarzman expressed support for Donald Trump. 

Fellow Blackstone billionaire Byron Wien back in 2010 perhaps offers some clue when he said   
“The retirement benefits for state workers, really not only in New York, California and New Jersey, but throughout the country, are very generous. Too generous. And it is very hard to change that.... But I think we have to be more realistic. We literally can't afford the benefits we have given our retirees in state and local governments. And we have to change that.”

In early 2015 Wien commented about the depleted savings of “many” households: 
“Among those who had savings prior to 2008, 57% said they’d used up some or all of their savings in the Great Recession and its aftermath. What’s more, only 39% of respondents reported having a ‘rainy day’ fund adequate to cover three months of expenses and only 48% of respondents said that they could not completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money. Of course, for those in the top 10% of wage earners – ‘it’s all good.’ 

Last October, Blackstone Group paid a $10 million penalty for cheating customers (10/7484th – or .1336% – of its income.)

Steve Schwarzman is “astonished” by peoples’ anger that lots of people resent that he made billions in the financial racket that brought the country to its economic knees. He wants you to believe he’s not smart enough to figure out that we don’t understand the system that made him a billionaire while directly and indirectly impoverishing millions. Of course, the naiveté he pretends to possess isn’t real. He knows full well about the class war…and knows he is winning it…for now

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