The Plutocrat Sociopaths who go off the range

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:42 pm by George Smith

The plutocrat sociopath is a common sight. Every now and then one of them pretends to go off the range, appearing on the opinion pages of the New York Times, or in some allegedly important documentary, anywhere high profile, to tell us all he or she has seen the corruption of their ways. Over the weekend it was someone named Sam Polk, in the pages of the old gray lady, to inform us the 1 percent are “wealth addicts,” raising inequality and ruining us all, and he knows this because he was one.

It set off the predictable “me-too” coverage. Over at Pine View Farm, Frank scoffs at the idea:

There’s another, much more descriptive term for “wealth addicts???: Pigs.

There’s another simple explanation to bookend it. Sam Polk, now that he’s fabulously wealthy, like a few others before him, is still of the Wall Street swine, just differently.

The idea, in landing on the pages of the nation’s marquee newspaper, is to get great publicity for something, further invitations and opportunities for the perspicacity of your thinking and doing, a book contract.

In 2012 it was Greg Smith, collaborating with the Times to tell us “Why [He Was] Leaving Goldman Sachs.”

And no sooner was the ink dry, Smith had a book contract with a $1.5 million dollar advance.

Two years later, the book — unsurprisingly — flopped. One reaction, from the New York Daily News:

That book — the unimaginatively titled “Why I Left Goldman Sachs” — is being published today, and it will deprive both Smith’s champions and detractors of the sort of outrage that now reigns supreme in America. In 265 pages, he delivers a less effective critique of the financial system than he had in 1,280 words …

Smith’s book is primarily remarkable for how unremarkable it is, a coming-of-age story by an investment banker with a Stanford degree who wore Brooks Brothers, drank beer and, once, found himself in a hot tub with a topless woman … His insight into the workings of the financial industry does not extend much beyond, “Sometimes Wall Street can be a little like high school.” Then again, so can much of adult life.

But Greg Smith did get his second pile.

Sam Polk’s NYT column is entitled “For the Love of Money,” and if that’s not a gift-wrapped invitation to the publishing industry I don’t know what is.


IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted …

[A few paragraphs about great personal greed, power drinking and being a wrestler at Columbia that come off more like brags than soul-searching, skipped.]

I had recently finished Taylor Branch’s three-volume series on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the image of the Freedom Riders stepping out of their bus into an infuriated mob had seared itself into my mind. I’d told myself that if I’d been alive in the ‘60s, I would have been on that bus.

But I was lying to myself. There were plenty of injustices out there — rampant poverty, swelling prison populations, a sexual-assault epidemic, an obesity crisis. Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them …

If nausea was provoked in reading the white millionaire’s invocation of MLK 24 hours before MLK Day in a piece on said white millionaire’s naked avarice and the 1 percent, don’t worry. This shows only that you’re still a decent and sane human being.

You can contrast Polk’s piece in the New York Times Sunday Opinion, where he’s propped up by all the editorial assistance money can buy, and an opinion piece that ran in the much more low-rent Orange Country Register a week earlier.

There he’s left more to his own skills and this is what he came up with:

Our nation is stress eating. The obesity crisis is a sign of widespread desperation.

Raging inequality is causing the majority of us to eat too much and also in a very shitty way. And that’s why the poor have this problem.

Sam Polk is thin and fit looking.

Having made his pile there is probably not much reason to stress eat cartons and cartons of junk food.

Polk’s OC Register piece, like his opinion for the New York Times, is well beyond intelligence-insulting.

Many people have written quite convincingly on the reasons obesity is frequently associated with poverty in America.

For example, a dry citation from authority:

Are poverty and obesity associated? Poverty rates and obesity were reviewed across 3,139 counties in the U.S. (2,6). In contrast to international trends, people in America who live in the most poverty-dense counties are those most prone to obesity (Fig. 1A). Counties with poverty rates of >35% have obesity rates 145%
greater than wealthy counties …

How is poverty linked to obesity? It has been suggested that individuals who live in impoverished regions have poor access to fresh food. Poverty-dense areas are oftentimes called “food deserts,??? implying diminished access to fresh food (7). However, 43% of households with incomes below the poverty line ($21,756) are food insecure (uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, sufficient food) (7). Accordingly, 14% of U.S. counties have more than 1 in 5 individuals use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The county-wide utility of the program, as expected, correlates with county-wide poverty rates (r = 0.81) (7). Thus, in many poverty-dense regions, people are in hunger and unable to access affordable healthy food, even when funds avail. The double-edged sword of hunger and poor availability of healthy food is, however, unlikely to be the only reason as to why obesity tracks with poverty.

You should be more than sick of Sam Polk now.

The other high profile multi-millionaire in the I’ve-seen-the-horror Plutocrat’s Club is Nick Hanauer.

I recently watched Robert Reich’s Inequality for All documentary and Hanauer is all through it, the wealthy and wise-sounding man (venture capitalist, author, activist, philanthropist, true patriot and civic leader, according to his bio) delivering the same clarion call: Inequality is wrecking the country, the wealthy need to be taxed more, the people need to be paid more.

The documentary’s Hanauer bits are taken from his home. In the back of the shot, an acoustic guitar is tastefully set.

All I could think of when I saw these was to turn to my friend and tell him it would be nice to see the butt of the guitar shoved in Hanauer’s teeth mid-sentence.

Here are framing questions for this post: How many people maimed by the American economy have been given the marquee treatment by the big newsmedia for the sheer audaciousness of their thinking about our trying times? How many have benefited in the wallet from a big spread in the New York Times?

Rhetorical, obviously. In the Culture of Lickspittle there’s no benefit in that kind of thing.


  1. Anonymous said,

    January 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    I love you, man.

  2. Tom Paterson said,

    January 20, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    yeah boss
    when your strength fails you for the first time
    and the riemann hypothesis is on ice at the morgue
    when you realise that all your servants are stealing from you
    and half of them are within an inch off whacking you in the orthodontics
    with your own guitar
    that’s when you pretend of a sudden to be nice
    it wasn’t this now gooderer me what done it
    that was a different earlier badderer me
    you can here the peals of laughter from death row
    they hear that one six times a day
    try the line for yourself
    it don’t cut no ice with the lover that’s left you

  3. Tom Paterson said,

    January 20, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Because we all need a laugh now and then.



    *The Riemann hypothesis was first formulated when Riemann wrote in the margin of a textbook he was reading: “All the nontrivial zeroes of the zeta function lie on the line Re s = 1/2. I have found a truly marvellous proof of this fact, but I’m certainly not going to write it in the margin — I’ll send it to the Cambridge Philosophical Society instead. Anyway, the book’s due to go back to the library tomorrow.” Riemann always claimed that his proof was lost in the post, and could never remember the details.*

    here hare here

  4. Bill said,

    January 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

    “The plutocrat sociopath is a common sight.
    Every now and then one of them pretends to go off the range…”

    Or alternately, every once in a while one of the media/wealth
    duopoly needs to feed us a tidbit of information in order to
    serve a hidden [to the 99.9%] agenda.

    This is of course presented as a public service, a bit like
    the thief at an accident scene who steals your wallet and
    credit cards and then in an act of compassion phones 911
    using your phone just after he speeds away.

    “There’s another simple explanation to bookend it.
    Sam Polk, now that he’s fabulously wealthy, like a
    few others before him, is still of the Wall Street swine,
    just differently.”

    At the turn of the first millennium AD, many wealthy people
    gave away their fortunes hoping to buy their salvation. If
    this Polk started doing something like building homeless shelters
    or setting up self sustaining small scale agricultural production
    for the disadvantaged, I might actually pay attention to anything
    he might care to write down.

    But since he is nothing but a poor little Billy Gates rich-boy then
    I must opine that this is nothing but another psyop from some
    nameless alphabet agency to prepare us for the next butt-reaming
    awaiting us by the ilk of Polk.

    Ides Of March – Ilk Of Polk – almost has a symmetry about it.

    And yes Polk, you can afford to smile – can your victims
    enjoy the same luxury?

  5. George Smith said,

    January 21, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Wow, that one hit a common nerve. The universal appeal of this kind of thing is the ages old and-then-the-scales-fell-from-my-eyes tale of redemption, particularly if its painless and everyone enjoying the telling and the listening (or reading) loses nothing because they have an insurance card as part of the upper class servant tribe.

    I’m still waiting for the New York Times to publish 1280 words from the person who lost everything after being downsized in 2007-2008, became a non-entity to corporate America and is living under a bridge in a cardboard box town that was swept away by police the week before the essay was published. And then in 24 hours he’s a face on every talk show, giving his sermons on how to revitalize the country. (Too bad this kind of thing just can’t be made useful as economic stimulus. We can only apply stimulus to those already chock full of stimulation.)

    They even made a Depression-era movie based on this kind of thing, so there’s a model to follow. Meet John Doe by Frank Capra, with Gary Cooper as the unemployed ex-baseball player living under a bridge until he’s “discovered” by a newspaper who publishes a fake letter from him vowing to commit suicide because of all the meanness in the country.


  6. Bill said,

    January 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks for the Capra link, I was unaware of that picture.

    Eerily foreshadowing today’s events where news and mass
    movements are nothing but manufactured events to make
    money for someone who is not the known or public
    beneficiary. Just substitute ‘corporation’ for rich businessman
    and ‘intelligence agency’ for media outlet and you almost have
    one of today’s scripted events.

    Like the Snowden situation where he takes all the heat for leaking
    the information, and Mr. Promoter Greenwald stands to make a lot
    of money. Hmm, are we really living in a ‘B’ movie as Gil Scott-
    Heron once wrote?

    I may even watch the whole vid since it’s no longer owned by
    the hollyweird cartel.

  7. George Smith said,

    January 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

    I think “B-movie” is too kind a description. I watched Meet John Doe recently, a friend had obtained a copy and was all hep about it. If you watch you’ll see the quintessential message: If we just got along with our neighbors better, the Great Depression would go away. As soon as our neighborhood did that we discovered the So-and-So family was in trouble, old Mr. So-and-So had lost his job, so we gave them some money to tide them over and then someone found him work.