Wednesday, October 15, 2008

That Such Poverty Could Exist

I once read a story about some British king a long time ago who saw a napkin ring somewhere and inquired about its possible uses. When a lackey explained that it was used for storing and identifying each family member's napkin between meals the king exclaimed:"That Such Poverty Can Exist!" The king's napkins were naturally changed, washed and ironed after every single meal.

The story may be apocryphal, but it reflects something which is quite worrying about our current political system: To be a politician on the national level mostly requires that you are very wealthy. Once you are very wealthy you no longer truly understand how the poor live. Or even how the relatively affluent live. No health insurance? Just pay with a check!

This story is what provoked these musings:

A handful of top executives from American International Group Inc. spent thousands of dollars during a recent English hunting trip, even as the New York-based insurer asked for an additional $37.8 billion loan from the Federal Reserve.

The news comes as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday told the insurance giant to do away with golden parachutes for executives, golf outings and parties while taking government money to stay afloat.

Cuomo said he has the power under state business law to review and possibly rescind any inappropriate AIG spending as long as the Federal Reserve is propping up the huge insurer with almost $123 billion in loans announced since Sept. 16.

"This was an annual event for customers of the AIG property casualty insurance companies in the U.K. and Europe, and planned months before the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's loan to AIG," company spokesman Peter Tulupman said Wednesday morning.

Of course all such events will be canceled right away and every single CEO will have to have a napkin ring! But this doesn't change the fact that the rich are different from the rest of us (as we are different from the very, very poor of this earth). To have the rich do most of our politicking isn't terribly smart.