I recently asked a wealthy political donor why he was supporting Bill de Blasio and his attacks on the wealthy.
“Because inequality is a problem in New York,” he said. “The rich have gotten their way for too long.”
By “rich” of course, he meant people richer than he was—as in billionaires. Inequality in New York is all relative.
The tensions between the rich and super rich, and between Old Money and New Money, are as old as wealth itself. But in New York, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong and other concentrated wealth centers, the growing gap between the rich and super rich has rarely been wider.
In an entertaining piece in the New York Observer, Richard Kirshenbaum writes of a friend (whom he doesn’t name) who no longer feels important in New York because he’s only a millionaire. It’s what Kirshenbaum calls the “millionaire malaise.”
“I’m 1990s money—in a new age—with one less zero,” the friend says.
(Read more: ‘Don’t hate me because I’m rich’ student: a fake?)
Now, it takes at least $ 100 million to matter in New York. He says he feels like a “loser” because of his $ 10 million apartment. His wife’s 8-carat diamond is out-blinged by a friend’s 20-carat rock. He’s proud of his floor seats; another guy buys the team.
“You think you’re a player, flying your family first class, then so-and-so asks for your tail number, and they look at you like you’re taking the bus because you’re flying commercial,” he says.
Of course, no one should feel the least bit of sympathy for the underloved millionaires or the emotional pain they suffer for being Lear-less. Ask any of the more than 11 million out of work what it means to feel economically powerless.