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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Freakonomics - The Warren Buffet Podcast - Growing Up Middle Class

So I'm listening to the Freakonomics podcast on Warren Buffet.  Now as you know, I am not a huge fan of Freakonomics.  They are mostly libertarian in their philosophy, and while they discuss some interesting subjects.  I must say, PlanetMoney does a better job of A) reporting, B) explaining and C) supporting.

Anyway, the subject for their May 11th podcast was Peter Buffet, the youngest son of the zillionaire.  I want to make clear, I have nothing against the Buffets, at all.

The podcast spends the first 10 minutes talking about how "normal" the youngest (50 years old) Buffet is.  That's great, that's really great.  Peter didn't know what his parents did until he was 25.  That's not normal.  That's privileged.

This is another reason why Ravingleftatic exists.  Income inequality breeds contempt for the poor among the arseholes of the ruling class, among the nice guys, it breeds honest negligence or disinterest.

There is one, fundamental aspect that is failing in this podcast.  People who don't realize how wealthy they are have had their needs completely taken care of for their entire lives.  I grew up hearing from my parents, "no we can't afford that," or "wait till Christmas," or "your father lost his job" or "your mother lost her job," or "we're saving that for your college fund."  It was much worse for my wife, who grew up the eldest daughter of an electrician in rural Canada.  50-60% of all the fights between spouses is over money, and when money isn't an issue...well, its not that things are hunky dory in the house, no news is good news.  But, as anyone from the poor and middle class knows, money is ALWAYS an issue.  And it causes stress.  This is stress that pervades our entire existence, shortens our lives, makes us fat, tired, gives us heart conditions and diabetes, and generally kills us sooner.  Peter Buffet never had to worry like that.

My wife still harbors this idea that we will someday not have to work, and she works herself into great fits of anxiety over the idea that we will always struggle.  But that is the case for the middle class.  We're one serious trauma away from poverty and all its depredations.  And its swim swim swim against the current, just to keep from floating downstream.  This is what's wrong with this country, this planet, this economy.

The single most offensive statement:  "I would much rather have invested in myself, taken the time, grown my own life, with all the mistakes and all the successes, and everything else that I can say is mine, as opposed to have a pile of money that essentially belonged to someone else."

Well fuck you PB.  The rest of us want the money.  Now Peter Buffet is a philanthropist, so that's good, and he's using his money to help poor women in foreign countries.  So, again, not against Peter Buffet.  I'm railing against the uncritical attitude that Freakonomics took here.  I will be working until the day that I die.  Struggling to make ends meet for myself, my wife, (god willing--my children).  And, I don't even mind that so much as I mind the fact that PB is making money selling a self help book telling people to follow their dream.  If there's one thing, one thing, I could tell my younger self:  Money will matter more than anything other personal goal you set or milestone you meet.  You may not think so now, but that's because your parents are supporting you.  You may not think you need anything, but there will be people who count on you.  Responsibilies will come to you whether or not you seek them.  And you will need money to meet those obligations. Invest in your career now, or regret it the rest of your life. 

I don't know that I would have listened to me. 

But bottom line it, Warren Buffet paid for his kid's college, allowed him to study music.  Music!  Which an NPR podcast from a week later said was not worth a college education, because you'll never make enough money to pay off the start up debt.  But its good to know that extremely wealthy people will carry on the great intellectual traditions of our society, because they'll be the only ones who can afford to do so. 

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be in the humanities.

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