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The High and the Mighty

Posted Sunday, August 26, 2012, at 8:18 PM

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand." (F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Rich Boy," 1926)

One of the very few positive attributes of aging is that at some point you've been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and met a huge variety of people. Most of those people are basically good, a few obviously bad, many are better off than they realize, some are truly poor, and a very select number of the people whose path you cross are RICH! This is about the RICH! whom I've observed.

First, there is a clear distinction between people who have simply worked hard, done well, lived within their means, saved their money and invested it well. They end up "well-off," but not what Fitzgerald would call "the rich." They come closer to the old quote often attributed to 1930s era singer-actress Sophie Tucker: "I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better."

The only really, really RICH! man I ever actually knew (in the sense he knew who I was and I called him "Mister") was Harry S. Bussman, a friend and business associate of my father. Mr. Bussman owned, among other businesses, Buss Fuse Company and Supreme Trucking. In the early 1970's my brother and I were in Mr. Bussman's mansion and he told us he made $50,000 a day, every day, after taxes, whether he got out of bed or not. That is RICH!

There have been other really wealthy men I've met, spoken with, spent a little time around and observed. In my observation, and only in mine, there comes to be certain things you can assume about "the RICH!"

The RICH! are very generous with their money when it comes to tangibles. Tangible things are solid, long-lasting, carrying the giver's legacy into the future and thus presenting a "return." And, to the extent those things benefit people, the RICH! tell themselves they add to the sum total of human progress.

The RICH! will be polite, speak gregariously, reading quickly whomever they meet. They say what they know needs said, speaking otherwise elsewhere. They will learn from you what they can profit from you; and if nothing, move on to the next opportunity.

Risking OPM (other people's money), they build to themselves a powerbase and create their private fiefdom to which all who'd live in their realm might give liege. Anything can be bought; and once bought, owned. The truly RICH, particularly the self-made RICH, do in the end what profits the need of the few no matter what costs to others; trusting themselves to none; completely honest with no one.

Of course I've not known them all, not even a large percentage. But, I am old enough to have been close enough to enough of the high and the mighty to be a little scared when confronted with "the RICH!" Ultimately, in this observation, the high and the mighty are different from you and me and can never be completely trusted for the profit of the many.

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My view from the back pew
David L. Lewis
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