The One Percent Blues

September 3, 2013

“Who out there spares a thought for us?” ask the proverbial One Percent in Anthony Haden-Guest’s latest rhyming take on the news.

The refrain of my first newscast was that our New Real is the Surreal, and not long goes by without stuff happening that bears me out on this. But old-school Realism can also be called for, as when one looks at the galloping global wealth gap.

The hugely rich have always been with us, of course, but now it’s… different. When wealth was generated by land, trade and manufacturing, everybody lived in the same world—though some in nicer parts of it than others. But now that dull “real” world has been magicked into a wondrous VIP Room where insiders play games like arbitrage and asset stripping – Hello, Bain! – while trafficking in financial instruments referred to by acronyms, and so arcane that some of their users apparently understand them only dimly. There have, of course, always been traders that bet on failure—the corner pawn shop, for one—but they were small stuff. Today, mighty empires are built from disaster and debt.

But, hey, the players say they feel “unloved”—persecuted by grungy taxpayers and snippy regulators? Woe is us! Hence this lament.

This piece, commissioned by Creative Time Reports, has also been published by The Huffington Post and Standard Culture.