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'Rich People Things': A Satirical Look At 7 Things Rich People Enjoy (PHOTOS)

Posted: 10/18/10 08:50 AM ET

The idea of "Rich People Things" had never really occurred to me as a subject for a book, a column, or anything else. It was, indeed, something that my editor foisted on my maiden contribution to the then-fledgling website TheAwl.com. I was under the impression that, in writing up a New York magazine cover package on the grievances of the financial elite, I was engaging in a bit of confessional media criticism. Rich people, and their things, of course, entered into my little diatribe, but only as a means of highlighting the class-based myopia of the magazine's editorial directorate.

Yet once I was saddled with this column name-cum-mission statement, I began to realize how thoroughly American culture had become a storehouse of rich people things, broadly speaking. The pious market-themed sermonettes of a Steve Forbes or a David Brooks clearly -- nay, painfully -- fit the bill, as have institutions as far-flung as the Democratic Party, the higher education world, and the sporting scene. Below is a sample of excerpts from individual chapters; to experience the full text in its satirically illustrated glory, by all means head over to the OR Books webpage, which is the exclusive means of obtaining it, since my publisher Colin Robinson has his own separate anti-Amazon crusade, which most definitely should prevent me from joining the ranks of the Rich People.

Slide show text by Chris Lehmann and illustrations by Peter Arkle from "Rich People Things" by Chris Lehmann. Published by OR Books October 2010. Available exclusively from OR Books at www.orbooks.com.

THE STOCK MARKET
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Stock market performance directly affects the economic well being of less than one percent of the US population, yet is uncritically taken as an ironclad reading of the economy’s overall health. “The markets” are anthropomorphized in daily press accounts as the final arbiters of policy success and failure -- expressing “anxiety” over reports of belated new banking regulations from the Obama White House and joyously rallying when they pick up the whiff of another bundle of tax cuts or a reduction in interest rates from the Federal Reserve’s Open Markets Committee. Indeed, just last week, the grim news that the U.S. economy had shed 95,000 jobs in September sparked a giddy upsurge in the market, since it portended more Fed-based efforts to stimulate investment conditions -- even though, of course, corporate leaders are already simply banking the cheap loans that the government has extended them rather than using them to increase the volume of new hires.

This lazy endorsement of stock performance as a popular referendum on economic policy was one of the central myths of the great 1990s stock bubble, when the rush on tech stocks converged

with a faux-populist celebration of mutual funds as a great social leveler. This was the age of the IPO-vested “Microsoft millionaire, “the folksy heartland stock pickers’ social known as the Beardstown

Ladies investment club and James Glassman’s hallucinatory tract of perma-Bull mind cure, Dow 36,000. This was also the time when the stupendously oafish notion of privatizing Social Security gripped many mainstream economic solons, a measure that, had the Bush White House managed to carry it over in its second-term domestic agenda, would by now have the vast majority of the nation’s retirees toiling in workhouses.
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