Editor's Notes

I worry so much about the poor rich

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tredmond@sfbg.com

This is how strange things are in the world:

I read a piece on SFGate Jan. 21, by an editor named David Curran, who claimed (in that kind of "wow-I'm-funny" tone) that young people should stop trying to be doctors and college professors. Instead, he says, he wants to "quietly sneak our kids into some midlevel bureaucrat position where they can hang out for decades, get decent vacation, loads of holidays, and, yes, face a few pay cuts and furlough days because in the end they hit the pension jackpot!" Of course, those jobs are easy, since all public employees are stupid and lame: "Whenever the kids take forever to set the table, I get a little angry and they reply, 'But dad, we're just getting ready for our future job at the DMV!'"

Three days later, I picked up the Jan. 22 edition of The Economist and read a flattering profile about a group called Tiger 21 — "A self-help group for rich people."

"Only those with more than $10 million of investable assets are eligible for membership, so no one assumes that, just because you have truckloads of cash, your problems are trivial. Whether you are worried that your kids might turn out like Paris Hilton, or fed up with your brother in law who wants to borrow money for the umpteenth time, someone in the room has faced a similar problem before."

And The Economist writer wasn't joking.

I worry so much about the poor rich. I've read all those stories about lottery winners who are suddenly miserable, and I think, nah. Long-term unemployment makes you miserable. The prospect of reaching old age in poverty makes you miserable. Being forced into a Medicare nursing home because the visiting nurse who allowed you to be independent lost his job in budget cuts makes you miserable. Dealing with too much money? It's not the same. It's really not.

The very rich have problems too, I'm sure — but if I had to choose between cat food and Paris Hilton, I think I could handle Paris just fine.

Or I could just blame all of society's problems on the folks who work at Caltrans and the DMV. After all, middle class people with pensions that give them a decent retirement are such a burden on society. And such a waste! People who work for the government can't do anything right. When's the last time you had a good experience registering your car?

Well, I've waited in line at the DMV, and I've waited on hold with those efficient private-sector tech companies, and I'll take the DMV any day. My son just bought a computer game that didn't load; at 4:02 in the afternoon, I called Electronic Arts tech support, which was supposedly open until 5. At 4:05, I was fifth in the queue; at 4:56, I was second in the queue. At 4:59:57, the line went dead. Sorry, sucker — we close at five.

Comcast: efficient private sector. The wait to exchange your cable box when it doesn't work is far, far worse than anything any government bureaucracy has ever thrown at me.

Somehow, somebody's missing the point here.