Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid |

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Did you hear about the billionaire CEO who threatened to fire some of his employees if Obama wins the election?

What a douche bag. Is this seriously what it’s come to in America? We’ve become a friggin’ oligarchy, with money-grubbing timeshare developers, casino magnates and oilmen trying to call the shots so they can keep stuffing their ludicrously deep pockets.

Let’s talk about this particular billionaire CEO, David A. Siegel, the owner of a massive timeshare corporation in Florida. He and his wife were the stars of “The Queen of Versailles,” a documentary that chronicled Siegel and his family as they attempted to build the largest and most expensive single-family house in the U.S., a still-unfinished 90,000-square-foot monstrosity in Windermere, Fla., that is on the market for about $65 million.

In promotional materials for the film, Siegel was pictured sitting on a throne with his wife, who is 31 years younger than he is, perched on his lap. The throne wasn’t a prop, by the way. He actually has a throne in his bedroom, along with a fur-draped grand piano and lots of expensive-looking lamps, vases and statuettes.

This is the guy who told his employees via email, “The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job, however, is another four years of the same Presidential administration.”

Now, I don’t care if you hate Obama, but don’t go trying to threaten people to influence their votes. That’s un-American. Besides, your cries of poverty and declarations that Obama’s policies will force you to shutter the company ring pretty hollow when you’re building yourself a castle. You might be a self-made man, and I think most Americans still applaud that, but how much money do you need to spend on yourself?

That’s the difference between now and the last time robber barons were running things. People such as the Astors, Carnegies, Rockefellers, Dukes and Vanderbilts spent lavishly on themselves, to be sure, but they also spent lavishly on public projects, established universities and did things for the people on whose backs their fortunes were made.

Nowadays, you’ve got self-obsessed types like Siegel building garish monuments to themselves and not giving a crap about the common folk, or peons, as they’re probably referred to when they’re out of earshot.

It’s certainly not fair to vilify all rich people because many of them are famously philanthropic, but these days there seems to be a profound selfishness gripping the wealthier classes, a me-first attitude unlike any I’ve ever seen. There’s also a lot of paranoia, a pervading sense that everyone is after their stuff. It’s the mindset behind things like gated communities and offshore bank accounts.

It’s fair to think that you’re entitled to do what you want with the money you worked hard to earn. That’s fine. For some reason, though, the rich seem to think they have a monopoly on hard work. They seem to think that everyone could be rich if we all worked as hard as they did, and that’s just not the case.

Siegel can’t tell me he’s working any harder than the immigrant kid pouring concrete all day at Siegel’s mansion and then washing dishes at a restaurant all night. If that kid had a good education and the wherewithal to start his own company, he might be able to get rich, too, but when a system exists that enriches the few at the expense of the many, it makes it difficult for have-nots to climb the economic ladder.

The poor and the middle class don’t have a problem with the American Dream, and they don’t hate the rich. They’d like to be rich some day, and with hard work and a couple of breaks, they still believe they can get there. They’re believing it less and less each year, though, because America isn’t the democracy it’s supposed to be. It’s become an oligarchy, ruled by special interests, and for some reason those special interests feel it’s more important to ship jobs overseas and give huge bonuses to executives than foster a strong work force here in America.

If corporations are going to do business in the U.S., they need to be committed to keeping as much of that business here as possible. You can’t tell me outsourcing jobs is the only way to survive when CEOs make 350 times more than their workers.

And you can’t tell your employees whom to vote for to save their jobs when you’re building the biggest house in America.

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