Posts Tagged ‘Only in America’

conspiciousconsumption

We know the rich are getting richer in the United States. And, as it turns out, people are well aware of how rich people are flaunting their growing wealth.

One Reddit [ht: sm] thread last week (which, last time I looked, had over 19 thousand comments) started with the question, “What’s the most obscene display of private wealth you’ve ever witnessed?”

Here are some of my favorites:

I used to be a nanny to celebrities and high profile New York financial families. . .The CEO and his model wife of a famous athletic wear company paid for an entire wardrobe for me to keep at their home because they didn’t want “outside clothes” contaminating their house or infant. I was to take my street clothes into the bathroom near the entrance, take them off, change into my “house” clothing, and then only change back after I was finished with the baby for the day and was getting ready to leave. They also had a safe of cash that I was to use exclusively for my meals, drinks and take out food, and then leave the receipts in the safe.


I work for a luxury home builder. Very big, very expensive houses. We are building a home for this guy & he calls freaking out at me because AT&T would only provide him with 9 DVRs when he needs 11. They would provide him with more, but he would need to open a second account to do so. I don’t know why, I guess they had some kind of weird limit at the time. I’m the CTO of the homebuilder, so he expected me to get AT&T to change this policy so he could have a TV with DVR in every bathroom as well as the normal TV-viewing rooms. I obviously couldn’t do this, so he cancelled his contract with us thru his lawyer & never spoke to us again. His deposit was non-refundable, in fact we had already spent most of the money on the initial part of the build. So he walked away from over $100,000 we wouldn’t give him back without ever saying a word to us. It was no biggie to him I guess. It also made NO SENSE.


I was driving for Uber in a college town and picked up a group from one of the richer frat houses to take them to a club. The girls were discussing how one of their friends was upset and went on a huge shoe shopping spree where each pair cost roughly $2,000 except for one. This one pair costed $7,000. One of the girls casually expresses that “$7,000 is really not a bad price to pay for shoes, they should’ve just been a little bit prettier. I would’ve paid $5,000 for them.” Why they called an Uber instead of a limo, I don’t know.


My boss owns a 15+ million dollar cottage. He likes to “entertain” and throws some pretty wild parties. His wealthy neighbours down the lake complained about the noise and frequently called police. One day they saw him on the street and told him smugly that they had a generous offer on their cottage and they were moving. I know, said my boss, I bought it.


A party at the CEO’s house for Halloween. Insanity. I thought I was going to get kicked out of the neighborhood because I was only driving a 30k car, not a 300k car. Anything you can think of, he had at this party – staff with signature cocktails at the door, a fully staffed bar for liquor, a fully staffed bar for wine, an entire table made of ice with ice shot glasses and ten different vodkas. He was wearing a costume made of leather that his wife commissioned for him, handmade in France. The 400 yard bridge to his private lake was strung up with extra lights, and the dock had a separate bar for those who wanted to sit on the lake.


My mother owned a small home-based business doing a whole bunch of different shit, including silk floral arrangements and other artificial plants. Occasionally, she would be hired to do the floral component of some big interior decorating job.

One time, she was hired by a local home builder to do just such an interior decorating gig at his mansion.

He did have a private helicopter pad in his backyard, but someone elsewhere in this thread has already mentioned another one of those.

The conservatory flooring was walnut parquet tile. It was lovely, except that the mogul’s wife had recently had a party where, of course, many of her guests were wearing stiletto heels. These heels made a kajillion tiny divots in the walnut parquet tile, ruining it. Mrs. Homebuilder was unconcerned; she was simply going to replace it.

I think, though, what stands out to me the most was the foyer, mainly its Corinthian columns gilded in 24 karat gold. Who the fuck does that?


Building a house for some rather wealthy people. While they “rough it” in their $1.5M barn waiting for us to finish. The horses they own have their individual quarters being completely cleaned around the clock. There is fresh new hay brought in by the truckload which is then sorted through in front of a fan where the dirt is blown out leaving only clean hay. The floors in each stall are constantly being covered with a bed of imported wood chips/shavings from somewhere in Northern California (we’re in central TX). The chips and hay are brought in by the truckload every week. Each horse is fed a Snickers Bar before bed. They live in a climate controlled area of the “barn” where they are fed filtered water. Hot water during the winter and ice water in the summer. None of these horses are pure-bred or rare/special other than the fact that they were chosen. One day while working we saw one of the barn workers hauling ass through the field so naturally we waited and watched to see what he was doing. He was running to our portopotty. We didn’t think much of it at first. Then we got a phonecall. “Have you guys seen one of the mexicans over there? He asked to use the bathroom and has been gone gone for 7 minites when he’s only allotted a five minute break.” She then proceeded to ask if we’d find him and send him back before he goes pilfering through the construction supplies and tools. These people made a ~45 yr old grown ass man, with kids and shit, haul ass across a field, about 300 yards, in the dead of summer in TX to take a shit…while they timed him. This lady once asked some hispanic concrete workers to move from under the shade of her giant oak tree because they may kill the root system with their boots. When we told her they were just eating luch and that it was hot her reasoning was that “mexicans don’t feel heat anyways”. Money makes people weird. I could go on for hours.

Well, you get the idea. There are plenty of other stories—about neighbors, roommates, and so on. The ones I’ve chosen (and there are many more) are all from or about people who have worked for the tiny group at the top.

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Apparently, it’s big news that California Governor Jerry Brown [ht: sm] just signed a bill that, for the first time, means farmworkers in that state will be entitled to the same overtime pay as most other hourly workers

But this is the United States. So, the law only takes effect beginning in 2019. And it will lower the current 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour day by 2022. (It will also phase in a 40-hour standard workweek for the first time.) And the governor will be able to suspend any part of the process for a year depending on economic conditions.

But, still, it’s a vast improvement over what exists now—in California and across the United States.

In California, employers currently must pay time-and-a half to farmworkers after 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week. That only happened beginning in 1976, since before that (dating back to 1941), the California Legislature exempted farmworkers from earning any overtime pay.

And U.S. federal law is even worse. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established minimum wage and overtime standards, excluded all agricultural workers, the majority of whom at the time were African American.

Even now, the amended Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that all workers (including farmworkers, except those employed on “small farms”) need to paid at least the federal minimum wage, still exempts farmworkers from the overtime pay requirements that apply to all other hourly workers.

Ah, what a country!

“This is education,” U.S.-style [ht: sm]—privately run, publicly funded, and irregularly regulated. . .

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It took two and a half years but, on the basis of yesterday’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (pdf), research and teaching assistants at Columbia University now have the right to form a union (as GWC-UAW Local 2110).

It comes as no surprise that Columbia’s administration opposed the ruling:

The university said in a statement Tuesday that it’s reviewing the ruling, but that it “disagrees with this outcome because we believe the academic relationship students have with faculty members and departments as part of their studies is not the same as between employer and employee.”

First and foremost, Columbia said, “students serving as research or teaching assistants come to Columbia to gain knowledge and expertise, and we believe there are legitimate concerns about the impact of involving a nonacademic third party in this scholarly training.”

And the consequences of the NLRB ruling extend far beyond Columbia:

NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reports that “only a small fraction of graduate students at public universities are currently represented by unions — but the decision governing private university students is expected to lead to unionization efforts that could organize tens of thousands more.”

The NLRB had long held that students who teach or research at a private university were not employees covered under the National Labor Relations Act, Yuki reports. That changed in 2000, when the board decided a case in favor of students, and changed again with another ruling four years later. Now the NLRB has reversed itself yet again.

In Tuesday’s decision, the board majority wrote that the 2004 ruling “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the Act, without a convincing justification in either the statutory language or the policies of the Act.”

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Not surprisingly, Yale (where graduate-student employees have been attempting to organize their own union for 25 years) echoed Columbia’s response:

Peter Salovey, president of Yale, said in a separate statement that the “mentorship and training that Yale professors provide to graduate students is essential to educating the next generation of leading scholars” and that he’d “long been concerned that this relationship would become less productive and rewarding under a formal collective bargaining regime, in which professors would be ‘supervisors’ of their graduate student ‘employees.’”

But the American Association of University Professors, which argued in an amicus brief in the Columbia case that collective bargaining can improve graduate students’ academic freedom, applauded the NLRB decision.

“This is a tremendous victory for student workers, and the AAUP stands ready to work with graduate employees to defend their rights, including rights to academic freedom and shared governance participation,” Howard Bunsis, chair of the association’s Collective Bargaining Congress and a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, said in a statement. “Graduate employees deserve a seat at the table and a voice in higher education.”

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Yesterday morning, the anarchist collective INDECLINE unveiled life-size statues of Donald Trump—in the nude, without a scrotum—in public spaces in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Seattle.

According to Josh Dawsey,

NYC parks department on naked Trump statue: “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.”

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A week ago, I wrote about the fact that the United States’ top 500 chief executive officers managed to capture 335 times the average worker’s wage last year, taking home $12.4 million on average.

But I didn’t make this calculation for the top 200 CEOS, including Wells Fargo’s chief executive, John G. Stumpf, who was awarded $19.3 million, “making him perfectly representative of the best-paid chief executives in the country”:

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the average worker in the United States who doesn’t have management responsibility earns $36,875 a year. . .

A bank teller at Wells Fargo making that average wage would have to work more than half a millennium, until 2539, to earn what that company’s chief executive, Mr. Stumpf, who made the average among chiefs on the Equilar list, earned last year.

That’s right: the average American employee would have to work until 2539 to earn as much as the average of the 200 highest-paid American CEOs did just in one year.

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William J. Hager [ht: sm] said he killed his wife of more than 50 years because he could no longer afford to pay for her medications.

The killing in Port St. Lucie and Mr. Hager’s explanation were detailed in an arrest affidavit and by local news media. Mr. Hager was arrested and charged with first-degree premeditated murder. But the case appeared to also highlight the difficulties faced by older people who are retired or on fixed incomes and struggle to pay for their medicine when they are ill or in pain.

At the sheriff’s office, Mr. Hager told deputies that his wife had a “lot of illnesses and other ailments which required numerous medications,” which he “could no longer afford,” the affidavit said.