Thursday Quick Hits: Rich Jerks Edition



A few random thoughts on the blessed beginning of the end

 As Jim Anchower used to say, I know it’s been a while since I’ve rapped at ya, but I’ve had a very busy week. Here’s a few quick thoughts on the madness that seems to be coming to an end, and that which is just starting.

Trump’s Reality

First, the big one. The huge news of the debate was, of course, Trump saying that he wasn’t going to accept the results of the election. Or maybe not. He clarified that this morning by telling a crowd that he’d accept them if he won, because he’s a real grownup, remember.  Everyone has covered how incredibly destructive and dangerous this is, how he’s playing fast and loose with the wild undercurrents orf armed resentment in this country. All because he’s a shallow egoist who feels that losing is something which happens to other people.

On the want hand, it makes his massive looming failure delicious. Literally no one deserves more to be repudiated on such a grand stage, to be told be millions and millions that he’s a loser. On the other, of course, the way he’ll take it could make for, well, bad times. Even if he is gracious (ha!), we’ll still have Trumpism without Trump, so in a way it doesn’t matter.

But to me, the most interesting, or irritating, part was how he said it. “I’ll keep you in suspense.” That’s the key. He is treating this election like his idiot reality show.

I’ve never watched more than eight seconds of The Apprentice, because he’s always been a revolting caricature whom I’ve hated, but if it is like any other reality show, there’s that moment where the judges are about to say who won or who lost, and everyone focuses on them, and they pretend to look thoughtful, and then it cuts to a commercial.

Trump lives for those moments. All eyes are on him. He feels like a big man, because attention is his only source of self-worth (and money, but it’s the same thing). He wants people to hang on him, and now that it is a foregone conclusion, this is the only way he can. By turning our democracy into his idiot reality show. He’s the judge that can unleash his decision. That’s what he is doing to us, and there is really no punishment big enough to match his crimes.

I think at some point a lot of his supporters will one day realize some rich jerk this just to get people like them to call him Presidential and to hoot and holler his name. Maybe some of them will be ashamed. The others will just keep buying the newest snake oil.

Other Rich Jerks Remain Rich Jerks

Matt Levine’s Money Stuff is an indispensable newsletter, especially for people like me who are dummies about financial stuff. He flagged the height of rich jerks feeling sorry for themselves in wildly disproportionate ways.

Here’s Anthony Scaramucci, the Skybridge Capital founder and Trump fund-raiser and adviser, on the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule:

“It’s about like the Dred Scott decision,” Mr. Scaramucci said.

He made the analogy because he views the DOL rule as discriminatory, Mr. Scaramucci wrote in a follow-up email.

“The left-leaning Department of Labor has made a decision to discriminate against a class of people who they deem to be adding no value,” he wrote. “They are judging what should happen in a free market and attempting to put financial advisers out of work.”

That’s right. Rules that say financial advisors should work in the best interest of their clients is pretty much like turning over escaped slaves to become property. It’s nice that they are giving away the game, though. As Levine continues.

It’s been fascinating recently to see the backlash in the tech industry against Peter Thiel for giving money to Trump. Facebook and Y Combinator have been criticized for maintaining their ties to Thiel; Ellen Pao’s Project Include has cut its ties to Y Combinator over the controversy. But there has been no noticeable financial-industry backlash against Scaramucci and others, like Carl Icahn, who have acted as vocal Trump surrogates as his campaign gets stranger and more insular. No one seems to be boycotting Skybridge’s SALT conference yet. Dimensional Fund Advisors co-founder Rex Sinquefield, himself a Trump supporter who calls most of Trump’s proposals “fairly bad,” may have the best explanation: “His tax policy—that overrides everything else. Nothing else compares in importance to that.”

Yup- that’s the ballgame. Sure, Hillary is vastly more qualified. Sure, Trump could be an unprecedented racist disaster who will treat the country like his vanity mirror. But Hillary might make us slightly less ungodly wealthy (Hillary! Not Eugene Debs). So screw it: we’re supporting Trump.

If there was ever any doubt that Trump is running as a Republican, I hope comments like this dispel it.

(Note: I don’t think every rich person is a jerk. But rich jerks certainly are.)

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