Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hmm. I wonder how the recession is affecting people who wrote a book titled SHAM.

So here's what gets meno, let me rephrase that: Here's what drives me nutsabout Oprah. Actually, that's still not quite right. Here's what drives me nuts about Oprah's audience, which is smaller than it once was, but still vast and enviably loyal, especially in these times of utter MSM free-fall.

I'm sitting in a pizza place last night, and unaccountably, on the large central TV where normally there would be ESPN or some other sports-related fare, there's the Oprah Winfrey Show. The day's theme, apparently, is the recession and how it's affecting people at all different social strata. One of Oprah's guests is a wealth expert whose name I didn't catch, but that doesn't matter. What does matter is that Oprah starts peppering the guy with questions like, "So, tell us, how have the rich been affected by the recession?" This, from the gal ranked among America's richest women (and arguably the richest one who isn't an heiress) by Forbes, which also pegs her as the most powerful celebrity. How have "the rich" been affected? That's a little bit like Shaquille O'Neal asking some expert in human physiology or sociology, "So tell us, what's life really like for tall people these days?" But undaunted, Oprah went on in that vein, with no apparent self-consciousness or sense of irony, for an astonishingly long timea full 10-minute segment. Exactly as if Oprah Winfrey, she of the $2.7 billion net worth, has no idea how "the rich" might live.

How does she get away with this?

I really want to know. How does she get away with pretending to be just "one of the folks," as Bill O'Reilly might put it? When Oprah gasps at the fact that some shoes actually cost several hundred dollars, why do audience members not take off their own shoes, rush the stage and shove a stiletto heel into her eye? I don't understand how these people, these millions of nodding, smiling, ultra-made-up admirers, fail to see that they're being played. And I guess, if I'm overreacting here, it's because I see this occurring in one form or another throughout SHAMland. I see the wealth-building guru pad his bank account by inducing consumers who barely have the proverbial two sticks to rub together to empty their own bank accounts so they can scrounge up the fee for his new seminar on "surviving hard times." (Don't they realize that they are his strategy for surviving hard times?) I see the expert in multilevel marketing who persuades gullible Joes and Janes to part with their hard-earned wages in order to join an enterprise that will "make us all a fortune!"even though he's already got his fortune, which he made on the backs of a previous generation of Joes and Janes. I see the guru of success mysticism who charges people $7500 for a private ride-along in his Rolls, as if success can be caught, like the swine flu; and though his clientele clearly aren't poor to begin with, I wonder how soon he starts laughing at them after they get out of the car.

I wonder how often Oprah laughs at her audience. I wonder if she gets backstage (or maybe back at her mid-seven-figure Magnificent Mile condo) with her BFF Gayle and they pop open a bottle of Cristal Brut and roll on the floor at how they pulled the whole thing off....


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Oprah and recession woes... That's a good one.

I also remember her having a "special" on the status of health "care" in the US, way back when I still watched her. She brought "experts" from "both sides of the debate" (as if there were both sides... OK, OK, I know, there are two sides -- care side and profit side), and pretended to be affected by the plight of the uninsured in America, while giving, essentially, a free reign to the representative of the insurance industry (who also pretended to be affected). It was pathetic. IMHO.

Steve Salerno said...

Well, not to digress too much, but in fairness, I don't think the health-care issue is as simple as "profits" vs. "conscience," just as I don't think gun control is a simple issue of raving militia lunatics vs. intelligent, enlightened citizens. The polls make clear that there are any number of people across the land who are skeptical of what they view as "socialized medicine," and whatever it is or ends up being, they certainly don't want their tax dollars paying for it. A guy I play ball with puts it this way: "I've worked 25 years to get myself to my current place of stability and security. And now somebody who never worked a day in his life is going to be entitled to exactly the same benefits I have? So what did I bust my ass for, all of those years!"

Whether you agree or not, I don't think it's a question that can simply be dismissed.

Anonymous said...

Steve, not to digress, I agree, but: it is a matter of seeing health care as a privilege vs. human right. There is really no debate on that. There may be debate on the financial aspects of the issue, but one either believes this is a human right or a privilege for those who can afford it. I'm afraid there is no compromise between those two viewpoints. But then I've written enough about it (on my blog and elsewhere), so my views are readily known.

Anonymous said...

Alright, Steve, just indulge me for one brief moment and see this.

Stever Robbins said...

The weird pseudo-hypocrisy of the Haves identifying with the Have-nots hits politics and even daily life, as well.

Most of our Congresspeople are independently wealthy (defined as: able to maintain a middle-class standard of living purely on savings without having to work another day for the rest of their life). Yet they glibly discuss policy that impacts "working families" with very little concept of what working families' life might actually be like.

Ditto for rich CEOs. etc. I once watched the founder of a very successful high-tech company talking with one of his employees.

Her: "I have to leave to pick up my child from day care."
Him: "Why don't you just have your nanny do that?"

(He was her employer, he knew exactly how much she made, and apparently he never bothered to notice that her gross income was approximately the same as a nanny's.)

In short: I don't think you've found a phenomenon that has much to do with SHAMsters (though they certainly use it to the hilt); I think it's a problem with the rich of all varieties in our fair country.

Stever Robbins said...

The problem with your friend, Steve, is that he is subscribing to the "each person can be an island" myth. Maybe in 1865, heading out to California for the Gold Rush, every person could be an island. But as romantic as that notion is, it's utterly laughable in its inapplicability today.

We already live in a socialist country. My marginal tax rate is only slightly lower than that of several European countries (remember to add in FICA when you calculate your tax rate. Most people conveniently consider only their federal tax rate).

What do I get for it? A military industrial complex, Medicare, and interest paid on debt run up by politicians over the last 30 years. (The entire debt, by the way, built up under politicians who claimed to be "fiscally responsible." They aren't. Debt financing is NOT fiscally responsible unless the debt is used directly to create productive assets.)

We live in a socialist country already. We just socialize spending on weapons and military, interest, and Medicare.

Well of those 3, the only one I have any interest in is the medical part, so I say "Socialized medical insurance, bring it on!"

Furthermore, I am financially responsible enough that I would never use debt financing to the tune of $10 trillion. So why, exactly, should I help pay off the debt racked up by politicians I didn't vote for, who engaged in policies I wrote protesting, and paid for it with money they borrowed in a fit of fiscal irresponsibility greater than anything in human history?

Why shouldn't your friend pay for the unemployed?

The whole "why should I pay for them?" argument is what I don't like about this country these days. We are in this together. If the people around me don't have a chance at education, decent jobs, and health care, they'll what...? Hang around quietly and just die in a corner? Not last time I checked. They'll break into houses, do drugs, get violent, and create generations of welfare recipients who can't conceive of any other life.

One of my clients works very closely with uneducated, violent, convicted gang leaders. He teaches them leadership skills, team building, and helps them take control of their neighborhood--in a GOOD way. I had the privilege to visit for a day. These uneducated kids were doing every bit as good a job of team building as the Harvard MBAs I've taught.

The program took shootings from 82 per year down to 1. It was funded with government dollars, which your friend would decry being spent.

Then they couldn't get enough money to hire anyone else to run it. So the man driving the whole thing burned out and left. The shootings have skyrocketed.

Spending public money on the poor produces a better life for all of us.

Anonymous said...

"Rich" is a relative term, usually defined as "wealthier than me."

But it's an important question, Steve: how are the rich doing? Are they still spending their money in restaurants: visiting spas: getting their boats detailed; throwing parties; and redecorating their condo in Naples?

A lot of us make money when THE RICH dispose of their income. We really don't want THE RICH to unload their boats, stay off the golf course and start cutting their own lawns. The service industry is huge in this country, and THE RICH are the ones employing millions. THE RICH also make a sport out of supporting charities - they spread their money around to the benefit of all.

The current War on Prosperity will have a lot of collateral damage. Success has been demonized - oftentimes by the failing newspapers.

Personally, I hope Oprah becomes worth more than Bill Gates.

Anonymous said...

Stever Robbins:

Three thoughts:
- If you like the idea of socialized medicine, then I suggest you spend time on an Indian reservation and check out the general helth of the people who live there.
- If you were heading out to the California Gold Rush in 1865, you would be 16 years late.
- If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on Paul's vote.

Cosmic Connie said...

Elizabeth, I followed your link and read your blog post -- you really hit it on the head. Good job.

And Steve, as far as Joe V's Rolls-Royce riders go, they may not be poor, but I seriously doubt that any have become multi-millionaires as a result of being taken for a ride by Joe.

But oh, those rides make them feel good about themselves, as these snippets from a few of the testimonials demonstrate:

“The Phantom Rolls Royce is the perfect setting for this kind of experience. It established the mood and is a visible standard for what is really possible.”


“Even the simple act of riding in the Phantom made me feel like owning one of them could be possible for me too. That’s law of attraction in action baby!”


“And the car! Oh my god, if there is anything that reminds you of your own magnificence, it is being driven around in this car. The universe of possibilities opens right in front of you and your vision of and for yourself can never be the same.”


And so on.

But then, what would you expect to hear from someone who paid $5,000.00 (if they shared the back seat with another "Phantom rider", or $7,500.00, if they rode solo)? Surely they wouldn't say they were disappointed or that they felt they'd wasted their money. If they did say or even imply such a thing, Joe wouldn't publish it.

RevRon's Rants said...


"Success has been demonized..."

Actually, only that "success" which is achieved at the expense of others' well-being has been demonized, and rightfully so.

I have spent some time on a couple of reservations, but I have also looked into the factors that predated current conditions there. You describe a demographic that has for generations been denied any opportunity to prosper, stolen from, and generally oppressed. Especially given the meager "sustenance" provided them under the guise of "aid," it would be surprising if they were able to significantly improve their lot. As it turns out, casinos have provided a few with the opportunity to prosper, but the abundance just never seems to trickle down to the general populace.

As is usually the case, one-dimensional platitudes rarely present an accurate picture of a situation, though they might leave the perpetrators of an oppressive system feeling somewhat vindicated, and serve to convince others to endorse continued oppression.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Connie.

P.S. The VW is vitali.

It's a sign, I tells ya, it's a sign... ;)