The new breed of nouveau riche who try to rule our lives

Although I grew up without money (we lived a very marginal existence, to say the least), my mother came from old, old money.  On both parents’ side, the family wealth went back to the late Middle Ages.  There was nothing nouveau riche about my mom’s approach to wealth, and she passed the whole notion of old wealth along to me.  One of the main things I learned about classy old wealth is that it doesn’t show itself off.  (This was sort of moot for us, because we were too poor to show off anything at all except our poverty.)

I got a very good example of the whole “old wealth” approach to life when I went to school in England.  My favorite professor there taught 19th Century British history.  He had a charming turn of phrase, and just radiated kindness.  He always wore slightly ratty sweaters with moth holes in them, and his teeth were very British.  He had a posh accent, but that was the only giveaway that he came from what was at least a minimally privileged background.

It was only near the very end of the year that I learned a little more about him.  The ancestor from whom he got his surname was an incredibly important courtier during the reign of Elizabeth I.  His grandfather was an incredibly important politician during Queen Victoria’s reign.  His first cousin was one of the richest Dukes in England.  And so on.  But one never knew.  This was a guy who had humility bred into the bone.  He was a true gentleman and, as I said, a delightful teacher.

The nouveau riche, on the other hand, are flashy.  They live large, ridiculously large.  Kind of like this:

When he at last lost the Florida recount, Al Gore had lived for eight years in the vice president’s mansion, and owned two different houses: a brick Tudor across the Potomac in Arlington that had belonged to his wife Tipper’s family, and his family farm back in -Tennessee. Shortly, he bought a 20-room, 10,000-square-foot house in the Belle Meade section of Nashville, and embarked on a career in the private sector that would balloon his net worth into a substantial fortune, in the $100 million-plus range. At the same time, he began a second career as an anti-global warming crusader that won him a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar, but allowed him to use an endless procession of jet planes and motorcades as he went to a series of Save the Earth rallies, at which he urged people to live in a green and more modest manner, build smaller houses, use less heat and power, and drive and fly less.

In 2008, he acquired a houseboat, a 100-foot custom-built Fantasy Yacht estimated to cost between $500,000 and $1 million. In 2010, he bought a fourth house, a seaside estate in California, spending almost $9 million for a “gated ocean-view villa .  .  . with a swimming pool, spa, and fountains .  .  . wine cellar, terraces, six fireplaces, five bedrooms, and nine baths in more than 6,500 square feet.” In 2007, a study by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research revealed that Gore’s house in Nashville “devoured nearly 221,000 kilowatt hours in 2006—more than 20 times the national average,” that his monthly gas bill averaged $1,080 and his electric bill $1,359. “Why would anyone need a fourth mansion?” asked the Huffington Post, which called “Gore’s commodity addiction” at odds with his professed belief in “simplicity of living, care for other beings,” and concern for the state of the earth.

All this was true, but at four houses, (two of them mansions), along with one boat, he was still a mansion short of John Kerry, the Democrats’ nominee in the 2004 cycle, who, when he married Teresa Heinz, widow of John Heinz, the Republican senator, fell heir to all this in one swoop. And some swoop it was, consisting of spectacular digs in five first class settings: the Heinz family house in Fox Chapel near Pittsburgh; a mansion in Georgetown; a beach house in Nantucket; a ski lodge in Idaho (shipped over stone by stone from Great Britain); and a $6.9 million town house on Boston’s Beacon Hill. The combined square footage of these spreads is unknown, but they had an aggregate value of almost $30 million when he was running for president in 2004.

To balance his ticket, he tapped John Edwards of North Carolina, who had made nearly $60 million in his prior career as a tear-jerking lawyer, and, while campaigning on behalf of children too poor to afford coats in the winter, was soon to start building a spread in his home state that seemed like four houses in one. The Carolina Journal reported that the main building was 10,400 square feet, connected by a 2,200-square-foot enclosure to a 15,600-square-foot “recreational building,” housing a basketball court, a squash court, two stages, bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms, a swimming pool, a four story tower, and a room called “John’s Lounge.” Edwards, who talked incessantly of the poor, might have served them better if he had just built the main house and given the cost of the rest to a neighborhood charity. That would have bought a whole lot of coats.

In July 2010, as Bill and Hillary Clinton were throwing a $2-3 million-plus wedding for their daughter Chelsea (of which $11,000 went for a gluten-free wedding cake) and Michelle Obama was planning a lavish vacation to Spain’s Costa del Sol, the Boston Herald revealed that John Kerry was the owner of the Isabel, a 76-foot, $7 million yacht custom-made in New Zealand, which he had kept at a dock in Newport, Rhode Island, to avoid paying an estimated $500,000 in Massachusetts state tax. The boat, according to the brochure of the company, had two VIP suites (and one for the help), a wet bar, cold wine storage, and seated six around a custom-made table of Edwardian style ornate varnished teak. Add this to the Heinz-Kerrys’ five land-based places of residence, and they now have in all six luxury “houses,” each estimated at over $4 million, for a total of $36 million.

This is typical behavior for new wealth:  tacky display.  Absolutely nothing new with those particular carpetbaggers.

What is new, however, about all these new nouveaus is that they espouse redistribution for everyone else.  Having amassed their obscene wealth and shown it off for all it’s worth, they’re working as hard as they can to make sure that they’re the last of the breed.  When all their redistributionist political policies have gone into play, no one is going to be wealthy any more.

I used to think it was hypocrisy that powered these people’s engines, but I don’t think so anymore.  There’s more going on here.  Just as the British practice backdoor Communism, these people are practicing backdoor Oligarchy.  No wonder revolution — at the ballot box, not in the streets — is in the air.

H/t:  Neptunus Lex

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  • Ellen

    It’s interesting that George W. Bush’s house in Crawford was as green as could be, certainly much more than anything that Algore lived in.  (That man consumes more carbon in a day than I do in a year).  Bush got no credit at all.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Book, when it comes to evil there is always more under the hood than what’s on the surface.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Bush got no credit at all.

    If those with wealth and status were actually expected to self-moderate and consume less, it would get in the way of the Left and their plans for Utopia.

    They can’t have that. So they destroy that which preserves the environment. For they cannot demand sacrifices if the environment was clean or being made clean. They can only demand sacrifices if their bloated rich Kos kidz and trust fund babies are polluting.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I once pointed out to my very Lefty priest the incongruity of uber-wealthy people with big environmental footprints like Kerry and Gore (Pelosi, Clinton, Corzine, Streisand, Redford…etc) lecturing to us lumpenproletariat about having to conserve and cut back on our lifestyles. His response (like a true obedient serf) was that people like that deserve their wealth and profligacy because they help move us in the “right” direction.
     
    They really do live in a “Through the Looking Glass” world.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I got my fill of the wealthy Left at UC Bezerkley. I hated the fact that the professors lectured Marxism while living lives of luxury (at taxpayer expense), and I hated even more the fact that all the little acolytes felt exactly as your priest does.

  • Gringo

    Danny L.:
    His response (like a true obedient serf) was that people like that deserve their wealth and profligacy because they help move us in the “right” direction.

    Did you ever ask him his opinion on a husband who is an outspoken and well-known advocate for marital fidelity who also visits prostitutes on a regular basis or who has a couple of girlfriends on the side ? Would the priest also excuse that behavior by replying that as an outspoken advocate for marital fidelity, the husband helps move us in the “right” direction?

    [I am deliberately leaving priests out of the question. They get enough grief.]

    I will post something on your interesting Europe post at a later time.

  • JKB

    If  you’ve only got one pie, then the only way to to get more pie is to convince everyone else that it’ll make them fat and impose rules to save them from themselves.
     
    Back in the mid-nineties I was working on a research ship that stopped in Mexico.  It was a time when Mexico had hope and free market capitalism was breaking out after the ruling party had finally lost total grip on power.  It was a time when I was hopeful that the illegal immigration could go away simply by Mexico becoming a place where people could make something of themselves and lift their family into the middle class.  One of the lefty California biologists complained that things were getting expensive compared to her visit the previous year and she wished it Mexico would stay the same as it was earlier.  I went off on her with a harsh question of she would begrudge the Mexican people the chance to pull themselves out of poverty by following the same path the U.S. had?  All so she could have a cheap resort vacation on the backs of Mexican poor?
     
    So it isn’t just the nouveau riche, although i suspect she came from an upper middle class family.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Ah, good one, Gringo! I will need to remember that next time he makes such a connection.
     
    JKB – I had a similar experience with a niece (by marriage) – she went on a rant about boycotting products made in 3rd World sweatshops. So, I asked her, “would you deny all those desperately poor people the only source of income they have? Well, she responded dismissively, “they can just go back to the farms or what-eh-vur they came from”.
     
    She, of course, never had to worry about money because of her rich daddy.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Re JKB’s point about Mexico: people who are opposed to international trade (often in conjunction with a strong dislike for Wal-Mart) rarely seem interested in considering the effect on workers in China and elsewhere. The reality is that the guy who created the container shipping industry did more to reduce global poverty, and actual starvation, than all the foreign aid bureaucrats of the last 50 years.

  • Charles Martel

    Speaking of Wal-Mart, you can make a good case that it has significantly increased the living standard of rural people by lowering the cost and increasing the quality of the goods they buy.

    One of the reasons why the left hates Wal-Mart is because it destroys their Marie Antoinettish idyll of hardy, frugal mom-and-pop businesspeople living close to nature while they serve their neighbors in isloated communities. Never mind that their prices are high because it costs a lot to ship a little to distant places (making the range of goods extremely limited), or that mom and pop can’t pay much more than minimum wage, or that their service may be friendly but not very efficient. Why be efficient when you’re the only game in town?

    In comes Wal-Mart with its huge range of low-cost goods, delivered almost anywhere by a large fleet of trucks, backed by immense buying power and operated according to hard-won principles of efficiency and courtesy. How dare they offer struggling consumers one-stop shopping for food, clothes, appliances, car repair, insurance, banking, drugs, doctors and even legal advice? How dare they add 10 to 20 percent more buying power to their customers’ disposable income? How dare they pay more than minimum wage and allow people to take on part-time jobs that accommodate their childcare needs?

    I wish to hell we had a Wal-Mart close to where I live. I’d visit early and often.

    PS: My son, a drummer in a rock band that has driven across the country and back several times on tour, says Wal-Mart has a wonderful custom of letting RVs, semis and rock band vans park overnight at the edges of its parking lots with no hassles and no questions asked. Many of the stores keep their bathrooms open to accommodate midnight visitors. Whatta threat to decent society!

  • TommyC

    Charles,
     
    We have an RV, and when we’re going from here to there we always stop at Wal-Marts for the night. We’ve downloaded the location of all the Wal-Marts in the US to our GPS, so they are easy to find. Wal-Mart Super-Centers are all open 24/7, so you always have a bathroom available. We always do at least a little bit of shopping as a way of saying thanks.
     
    We once stopped at a Wal-Mart in Mitchell, SD late at night.  There must have been a dozen semis and 20 RVs in the lot!  We were amazed, never having seen so many before.  Turns out it was the last Wal-Mart for something like 400 miles westbound!

  • jj

    Money is just money – the world is filled with it and you can always get your hands on some.  It doesn’t automatically bring anything except buying power. Breeding, and its attendant class, on the other hand, is rather less readily acquired.  Regrettably this is becoming increasingly true even among the well-bred – Paris Hilton comes from what in America would be termed “old money,” she’s fourth generation, and is there a bigger ass on the planet?  Diana Spencer was without question a lovely girl, but wow, what a dope!
     
    Crappy teeth and moth-eaten sweaters are a choice, though, and it may be that your prof was nothing more than a routine mild Brit eccentric.  There are dentists even in London.  Generally Indian these days, but they’re there.  And I’ve heard any number of people in the northwest speculate about one of our local billionaires along the lines: he has ten billion dollars – why are his teeth green?  I don’t know either – but it’s obviously a choice, and may not represent evidence of breeding – either good or bad.
     
    It used to be said that “new” money had to spend some time in being flashy and showing off before its owners got used to it, but it would eventually settle down.  Don’t know if this is true or not.  The Phipps’, Guests, Mellons, Whitneys, Fords, Dukes, etc. all built great big huge houses a little over a century ago,and grand toured through Europe, bringing back (stealing) art from the ould sod wherever they went – was that ostentatious and flashy?  Probably it was, for the time.  But they weren’t telling anybody else how to live, and the technology of the times didn’t allow for them to be in everybody’s face 24/7.  For the last seventy-five years of course they’ve been “old” money, most of the big houses have been gotten rid of, hardly anyone plays polo any more, and they live quite sedately – though very, very well as a rule.
     
    I’m with you on Gore, a person who has absolutely zero capacity for introspection, though is otherwise in many ways not bad dinner company.  Still, he, Edwards, and Kerry epitomize the worst of what happens when slobs get hold of money.  Kerry is, naturally, the worst, having at no time in his life ever worked to acquire the first nickel of his.  It has never been, in fact, his.  He prefers the tried and true method of marrying it, and Theresa is not his first wealthy woman.
     
    But the idea of these people feeling free to tell everyone else how to live goes back at least to Marie Antoinette, and probably farther than that.  I don’t condone it, and am not an admirer, but it does seem to be part of the deal.