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U.S. Wealth Inequality: An Observation from the Stable

posted by Debb Thorne

The wonderful thing about holiday break is that I have guilt-free, university-mandated time to spend a few extra hours at the stable riding my mare, Zoe. I've been at this particular stable for six months now, and, having come from a working-class family, am amazed (maybe appalled would be a better word) by the extreme wealth that is evident there. The $20,000 horse is considered the economy model; at the upper end is the quarter horse gelding that is insured for more than $100,000. For a horse! (And I thought the $2,600 price tag on my Zoe was outrageous.) Of course, when the price of the horse is coupled with the $150,000 horse trailer and the $60,000 pick up truck, well, you get my point.

At the stable are the wealthy children who who ride and show these high-priced horses. To be perfectly blunt, never have I encountered such ornery, spoiled, and disrespectful young people (and I regularly teach over 500 students a year). These kids routinely abuse their horses (spurring, jerking, and hitting) and order their parents around as if they are speaking to their personal servants (but then again, in many ways, they are).

I've spent more hours than I care to admit trying to decide if I'm just growing intolerant as I age or if there might be a more macro explanation for the behavior of these kids. I have an hypothesis. In the U.S., the gap between the haves and the have-nots has not been this extreme since the late-1920s and early-1930s. I believe that what I see at the stable is just one consequence of this modern wealth gap. These children come from families that are comfortably situated in the world of the haves, although many are newly-monied families having benefited nicely from the growing wealth gap. These families have a lot--and much more continues to come their way. I would argue that partially because of the extreme wealth in these families, the children grow up believing that they are entitled to whatever--whether that is an expensive horse or a personal servant. And I have concluded that this enormous and unleashed sense of entitlement is what I witness at the stable.

Oh sure, I probably am a bit intolerant, but I think there's more to it than that. I think that, to a large degree, the behavior of these kids stems from their families' wealth and their associated sense of entitlement--both of which, I would contend, have increased alongside the wealth gap in this country. Am I making an excuse for their behaviors and attitudes? Hardly. (Sometimes, as I watch them beat their horses, I'd give anything for just a few minutes alone with them.) But I think their behavior says less about their parents who cannot effectively parent, and more about the implications of the growing wealth inequality in our country. And I wonder, what are we as a society in for when these kids reach their middle years and are in positions of power? I can only hope they no longer own horses.

Comments

Concern for spoiled wealthy children can not possibly be a reason to care about inequality.

Oh, please. Stop your grand hypothesizing and call a brat a brat. The reason these kids are brats is that their parents have trained them to be brats by: (1) refusing to discipline them, (2) giving them anything they want, (3) generally tolerating irresponsible behavior. None of them have been taught to be responsible. Why, because most of their parents are not reponsible either. The kids get these gifts as a substitute for the parents' time.

Debb, as with most people you are becoming more conservative with age. Don't worry, I doubt you'll start listening to Rush Limbaugh any time soon. But you do value personal virtues more and more with the passage of time. You need not look beyond the immediate actors to understand what is happening. It has little to do with the price of the toy, and everything to do with the people. Watch a few episodes of Super Nanny and you will see how these kids are trained.

Just wait when (not if) this economic collapse comes along they will have to learn a whole new way of acting towards their peers and others with the outcome in doubt. Hard lessons in life are coming their way, it should be interesting to watch.

Fedayeen-most of the rich did fine during the Great Depression. They just weren't quite so public with their profligate ways. No one will have patience for the "latest antics of Paris" story with 20% unemployment. They'll lose lots of money and be taxed much more than they are now but I don't think too many of the princes and princesses of the "merit" economy will be in the Soup lines.

Debb-Look at how most of the elites treat everyone. These kids are just being prepared for their role. They'll treat everyone that works for them like crap (usually in response to the consequences of their own mistakes) and squander most of what they have been given. The idiot son who loses the family business is a common story. It's a good thing we haven't had any Presidents like that.

Debb-

I must say that I am not sure who is the real brat in your story. The children you despise or you. You may wrap your envy with the lofty concept of wealth inequality, but is just a wrapper. From this readers perspective, your envy oozes from your wrapper (no sign of justified indignation in sight).

Seriously, do you really think that you can make the case you suggest by attacking children acting rudely. How does the laws look at children?

Please use reason not emotion when reasoning. If you are just sharing your feelings with us that’s fine, just let us know and do not invoke any moral principles to justify your smallness towards others.

One more fact that is worth noting. Over 80% of the ultra wealthy made their fortunes in their lifetime. This renders Don's comments equally petty. Stop with the envy and live your life.

Debb, I won't call you a brat, but what do you think of the irony that everyone connected with CreditSlips is probably in the top one percent of the world's wealth tables?

A co-worker, whose spouse works for a university health unit and who participates in the annual check ups for university athletes, tells me its the girls of the equestrian team that the biggest jerks, while the football and basketball players are generally polite.

If this is how spoiled rich kids treat their $100,000 horses, we should not be surprised that they treat the less fortunate, the poor people in society with disdain and contempt. Being an ardent animal lover, I despise anyone who abuses their four-legged companions - be it a cat, a dog or a horse.

I find it ironic that so many Americans hold the poor in contempt, the "undeserving poor" whom they begrudge even a subsistence in social support. But there is no outcry against the "undeserving rich" who mistreat their animals, rob their employees and/or service providers of dignity, and who think their money entitles them to break the law.

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