While Virgil speaks to Geryon, Dante talks to another group of souls nearby squatting on the sand, the Usurers, or moneylenders. Their faces are unrecognizable from the burns and ash, and are identified only by the insignias of the moneybags around their necks.
"The Divine Comedy"
Animosity and outright hatred toward moneylenders and bankers has been a fabric of life since modern day banking evolved in Europe. Despite the clearly positive impact on economic growth and overall quality of life birthed by the flow of money and ability to borrow, societies have held pockets of resentment. That resentment spread to other wealthy individuals and institutions. While the degree of this hatred waxes and wanes throughout time, it always blooms in more difficult economic conditions. Resentment of moneychangers was so intense in his day that Dante had them share the seventh circle of hell, with blasphemers and sodomites.
In fact, Dante was born of ancient urban nobility, and his grandfather and father were moneychangers.
Pew … This Smells Bad
This brings me back to that Pew Research Center report on the conflict between rich and poor. With 66% of respondents saying they believe there are "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between rich and the poor, we are at a place where efforts to redefine American capitalism will be pushed as hard as ever. This has been the plan from day one which is amazing since back a few years ago those that suggested as much were written off as loony tunes. That moment is certainly here and the central issue of 2012. The big guns include president Obama, the media, Hollywood and Warren Buffett.
Warren Buffett's challenge to republican lawmakers to donate money to lower the federal debt, that he would match them dollar for dollar (in case of Mitch McConnell the match would be three dollars), was the tackiest piece of political foolishness I've heard in a long time. The timing was perfect, however, if you are looking to build a head of steam toward changing America into a socialist economy. The usual culprits including Time magazine with Buffett on the cover, singling out individual villains like McConnell, have been planned for a long time. Buffett said in New York Times piece his tax rate was 17.4%, or less than his secretary's, but he did pay $6,938,744. He should have paid more… if he thinks that's the right thing to do.
Instead Buffett is once again providing cover for a new world in which successful people would be punished while non-successful people would have no real incentive to try harder. It's really offensive Buffett wants small businesses and households earning more than $250,000 to pay higher tax rates because he thinks his taxes are too low. Once again he should have paid more… if he thinks that's the right thing to do. But a childish challenge to lawmakers that earn in a year what he earns in a minute is like Mike Tyson challenging a toddler to a sparring session. It's disingenuous, but the idea is to provide cover.
It's all about everyone being rewarded from a giant pot of money even if they have no skin in the game.
"We need a tax system that takes very good care of people who just really aren't as well adapted to the market system, and to capitalism, but are nevertheless just as good citizens, and are doing things that are of use in society." - Warren Buffett
I'm not sure if being good at watching television is one of the skills that should motivate me to skimp on my son's college fund and instead pour money into the general Good Care fund. What about slots, in general it might be a deadly sin but probably worthy of payment in the new world of good citizens. I guest people who squander money and refuse to save can dip into the Good Care fund since it would be clear they aren't adapted to capitalism beyond the point of being consumers only. In this system why struggle through college…heck why struggle through high school? It will be GEDs and free checks from the Good Care fund for everyone.
Everybody Hates the Rich
The Pew report points out that 73% of democrats perceive conflict between rich and poor, up from 55% in 2009. Shockingly a majority of Republicans see that conflict, too, with 55% agreeing up from 38%. And the number that must make the White House drool is independent voters at 68% from 45%. Perception about the road to becoming rich underscores the notion it's about who you know more than how hard you work.
> 46% say the rich know the right people or were born into wealthy families
> 43% say the rich got that way of their own hard work, ambition or education
Interesting, despite this perceived conflict, the report mentions a Gallup survey that says fewer people believe income inequality is a problem that needs to be fixed than felt that way in 1998 (45% vs. 52%).