Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A tax on all your houses.

The rich hate taxes. Why should we give up what we fairly made off of the backs of hard working consumers? We own the means of production, after all. (Or…our trusts do.) The middle class hate taxes too. But they don’t quite benefit so much as the extreme rich. Nor do they receive the same size cut, following the GOP’s slash-and-burn run-up-the-deficit, what-me-worry-eschatological policies…as the rich. Trust me, as a kid who does nothing to earn his checks but log on to check his statement, I shouldn’t complain. But I do. Why? Because I’m willing to pay taxes. I think it’s the cost of living in a larger society. Tax policy is not my point here. My point is to entertain you. Taxes are not entertaining. They’re boring. Sort of like City Clubs.

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Let me give you a glimpse into an amusing world. The New York City Club. Most people have no idea these things exist. (Silly Hoi Poloi.) Even people who live in New York, but who weren’t Manhattan private-schoolers or aren’t employed in the finance industry are unlikely to be certain just what I’m talking about. The archetypal clubs are populated by ancient Upper Class men who lunch with their class of ’38 Exeter cronies and complain about the outside world and wonder why their grandchildren have all turned into such little shits. These institutions are exclusive, open to men only, incredibly homogenous and reek of WASP establishment rot. In the past, if you weren’t blue book society, even if you could obtain a sponsor, you would be refused membership.

Of course new members have to come from somewhere. They PAY for chrissakes. And so, these days, there is a drive on. A recruitment. Class for sale. And look out for the stampede. My father and grandfather were Knickerbocker and NYYC members. My great-grandfather belonged to the Knickerbocker, NYYC, and the Union Club. I am a member of none. Thank Fucking God. You will see why.

A cousin of mine, Geoff Courtlandt, who works in some shitty middle office job at JP Morgan that his mother (Aunt Petunia) landed for him is a member of one particular club. I won’t say the name out of respect but an anagram is Nouni (which ends in an “I” and would exclude an applicant from membership). Geoff and I were drinking a lot together one spring in 2003. About half in the bag, he asked me if I would consider becoming a Summer Member of this specific club. “We can play squash and everything!” Great, I said. (I’m horrible at squash compared to most preppy scumbags and get dangerously close to a coronary in a matter of minutes. I detest the sport.)

Being drunk, and a good friend, I agreed to check it out. And what did I find? You have to remember that these things were invented as a place men could go after work to have a drink, potentially gamble, smoke pipes/cigars and talk about politics. It was a place where a “gentleman” could escape the familial distractions of the home, and the restrained behavior required there. Sound a little like a frat house for grown ups? You’re not crazy. Except fraternities are focused around girls. Attracting them, getting them drunk, etc. And women aren’t allowed in the “bar” of a city club. That’s fine and well if you’ve been married for 20 years. But what about the younger members? There's something a little odd about electing to forgo the typical Manhattan bar scene and all the filled single women therein to sit around, play backgammon, and drink single malt scotch with a bunch of single dudes, not to mention middle aged married men. Somewhat suspect, mmm?

My journey began at this “rush party” thing where I met a gang of older gentlemen, members, all of whom spoke kindly about my parents and grandparents and made me feel uncomfortable and somewhat creeped out. (Particular this ruddy faced guy in lime green trousers named Binky who dwelled a beat too long reflecting on my mother.)

Following that, I was in. For the summer. See, for a small fee, you get to try out the facilities and the membership, in turn, gets to try you out. See if you cut the mustard. Now…a White Shoe, Blue Blood, Black Heart like me should have no problem. But what about the other guys?

What a bunch of losers. I mean, I’m a loser…but I know it. I…EMBRACE it. These sorry characters actually believe they’re living in a Joseph Conrad story or Tom Brown’s School Days. Plenty of rich people are good-hearted, kind and decent. But these parasites live up to every stereotype the average person would imagine. Many work in finance, but not in the elite firms. Quite a few were “between jobs”. But to them, it didn’t matter. They saw themselves as these aristocratic scions. I have never met such a bunch of sniveling tory asswipes in my life. To call them knee-jerk conservatives would only be 50% accurate. These were reactionaries, right wing, without so much as a hint of interest in anything which would help improve the society they live in. They spoke of public affairs with superficial airs, sweeping generalizations and a stubborn ignorance to anything requiring more than a few moments of thought.

For those of you who went to boarding school, or an elite college or, even who might attend gala benefits in major urban areas you may be saying to yourself, “Um…yeah…Chas. It’s called The Wealthy.”

I say BULLSHIT! This is America. Land of Opportunity. At some point, the ancestors of these young men made something of themselves. They created. They contributed. New York City’s most established institutions were gifted to the people of this city by the wealthy. What value do these coiffed jackasses create? How do they contribute? Whatever happened to Noblesse Oblige? With wealth, power and prestige come social responsibilities. If you already won the lottery by fortune of being born, shouldn’t you at a minimum cultivate how to better the lives of those other people in the system who didn’t receive your advantages?

I posed this question, phrased somewhat differently, to one character who introduced himself as “Bunny”. He responded with an incoherent rant regarding “survival of the fittest” and “to the victor go the spoils”. His great grandfather had been one of JP Morgan’s attorneys. That’s how he could afford to live a life of leisure. Bunny didn’t even finish college. He laughed at my insistence and called me a bleeding heart. He asked if I had heard of Darwin, the skinny little shit. Happy to demonstrate my take on his themes, I dragged him outside by the lapel of his Paul Stuart suit and proceeded to beat the shit out of his pseudo-aristocratic body. Bunny didn’t put up much of a fight. Swung a few wild punches which I deftly avoided. I left him an inert mass of bruised mush on the curbside of 61st street. I don’t think he’ll be playing polo for some time.

Needless to say, I have not been invited back to the club.

So why did I start this post with the mention of taxes? Because Bunny should be taxed. Heavily. I want a populist uprising. To benefit those people who keep the engine of capitalism moving. I want to force Bunny to get a job, to have a heart for others, to understand that the only reason he is able to live the life he leads is because American consumers go out every day and buy products, which generate revenue for the companies in which Bunny owns equity. He owes a great deal to these people. And he should want them to be able to continue to buy these products which they can’t do if their society doesn’t have a safety net for them. If its educational system does not equip them. If they get sick and die because they have horrible health care.

In any event, I remain the real clown. The joke's on me, isn’t it? The country is moving further away from taxing the Bunnys of the world than ever before. If only the voters knew. The middle class, suburban church-goers who think Bunny gives two shits about them. Who thinks they’re sympataco. Bunny wouldn’t piss on the middle class if their pantene clean hair was on fire. But they keep supporting legislation letting him keep more and more of his dough. “To spur investment,” they say. The only thing Bunny invests in is a couple of grams of coke for the weekend.

And where does this leave me? Other than persona non grata at the City Club in question. It leaves me rich in wallet, poor in disposition. It leaves me sad. I may have to take my windfall, not-going to be taxed, GOP driven cash down to the liquor store to self medicate. God Bless the USA.


Blogger Amsterdamn said...


4:25 PM  
Blogger Bdogs said...

chas, old boy, the name of the game is greed. Our River Oaks Theatre and most of the architecturally distinguished (Art Moderne) RO shopping center is going to bite the dust cuz Weingarten Realty can make more $ erecting a high rise condo. Oh, and a B&N store, multistory, to suck traffic away from our little lit bookstore. Everything I put in my novel gets razed. The history of houston interred in multiple drafts...

9:44 AM  
Blogger JenJen said...

A wealthy acquaintance of mine, an old-monied member of your class, once let middle-class suburban me in on The Great Big Secret.

"We make fun of you, you know," he confided. "At our clubs, at our cocktail parties, on the golf course... we laugh at you."

I was grateful to him, even though it continues to sting.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Chas Chesterfield Esq. said...

^^^yes...they do...but they're idiots. And in need of an asskicking. or a taxing. or both.

for shits and giggles (and to be very infuriated) go rent Jamie Johnson's documentary "Born Rich". Its enough to turn you into a communist.

2:43 PM  

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