Dave Pyatt: Seeing how the .1 percent lives

As the United States skids toward a bad combination of social unrest and unfathomable deficits, the 1 percent — and it's probably really the top 0.1 percent and even more likely the top 0.01 percent — is spending money at a ferocious rate to elect the candidates whom they perceive, or maybe know for sure, will enhance their nests further.

One of my favorite old flicks was "Trading Places" in which Eddie Murphy is kidnapped from a ghetto and raised by rich stockbrokers. The point is to see how he will respond in a wealthy environment. At least the rich stockbrokers, unlike a few in "The Wolf of Wall Street," seemed to be decent enough.


I'm writing to serve notice to folks in the 0.1 percent club (with an annual income of roughly $2 million) or even the 1 percent club (income of $300,000, depending on geographical area) that I'm available for adoption/kidnapping. I would like to know how these folks think. It's also OK for them to see how I think if they're interested.

One theory is that it all has to do with a lust for winning. I can be competitive in that way, too. Do children and/or other heirs call the shots? Do they try to satisfy spouses? Are they overcompensating for short stature? Or coming from a very poor background? I suspect it must be a heavy burden to have legions of stockholders and bankers expecting nothing short of success. Or is it just an unusual DNA situation?

This may seem a little trivial, but I believe it is a very important exercise. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The Great Gatsby" in the 1920s just before the Great Depression to show how the ultra-rich lived. In some ways, he says, the rich are just like us. Of course, in other ways they're not.

A comparable novel today would be "The Great Gatesby" about a business tycoon who kept introducing ad infinitum troublesome but equally marketable software to write letters and add columns. Competitors were crushed. But none of us could live without this.

A companion would be "The Book of Jobs" about another tycoon who kept inventing similar gadgets we soon grew to become addicted to and also required frequent (and somewhat costly) upgrades.

There is criticism of our current monetary policy (low rates), international competition, ISIS terrorism and other factors that cause problems. We also hear a lot about the "structural deficit," which I guess means we have to add several hundred collapsing bridges and crumbling highways.

Yet I can't escape the nagging doubt that the top 0.1 percenters' chase of more profits, and their manipulation of our political system as well as chasing lower labor costs overseas to get there, isn't a key contributor.

In exchange for adoption I would promise to write accounts of the rich and powerful in the best light possible (possibly as a weekly series) and to highlight and be sensitive to their concerns and motivations — and especially to emphasize their human side. Mr. Gates in particular has shown he has one. I also would like to single out Michael Bloomberg for his public service as mayor of New York and his substantial financial support of Johns Hopkins University.

Some economists are predicting a very broad and possibly permanent Great Depression — causing us to lose our financial leadership role to China, or less likely, India — in the not-too-foreseeable future. We simply won't meet our near- and far-term entitlements in spite of all of the bombast. I'd like to get their view as to whether this could have been avoided or is just the natural order of things, e.g. "survival of the fittest."

Perhaps there is a way we can further soften this blow or even put it off indefinitely. I'm thinking of getting an "Adopt Dave" petition going. Stay tuned.

Dave Pyatt writes from Mount Airy.