Eat the Rich?
Now maybe that’s an idea whose time has come.
Although facetious, it does seem to be getting more traction as a meme on the Internet, and the rich have been annoyingly arrogant in recent memory, wouldn’t you agree? I mean, come on: a billionaire space race just for fun? Seriously?
The rich, powerful and privileged people’s machinations have me peeved about the glut of high-end rental housing they’ve shoehorned slapdash into and around our neighborhood. This has happened despite the universal disgust by homeowner taxpayers here at the gargantuan fancy rental developments being forced down our throats by a cabal of predatory real estate investors / developers, community influencers, non-profits and giant employers close by who giddily support rents that only the rich and famous can afford.
The bigger and more cheaply built units the better it seems, as every square foot of available land is filled to the brim with income potential and zero green space. It all makes perfect financial sense too, because of the windfall the developers get from 15 year tax abatement, which incidentally takes money out of the school system’s pocket here and helps drive up the value and the taxes of the increasingly short supply of homes owned by people that actually live here.
And the City and the press are complicit. They seem to love this rush to install luxury rental space, and nobody appears to be at all concerned about the scant amount of owner occupied housing being built. “Dense clusters of luxury rental is what the market wants,” we are told.
Really? Or has the market been manipulated in a way that now primarily serves the interests of the wealthy and privileged few who enjoy investing in it?
Because I’m stressing now alot about how unfair and greedy this all is, when my wife sends me this fascinating article that appeared in The Guardian recently by Owen Jones with that title, “Eat the Rich! (Why millenials and generation Z have turned their backs on capitalism.)”
It’s all about the housing crisis in Great Britain, and the fact that the meme “Eat the Rich” has now become a thing with those younger generations who are so justifiably angered by how capitalism has just left them hanging and unable to get ahead with stagnant wages and stupidly high rent. Cost to rent there ranges from 50–70% of income and is seen as a crisis. So people rent because they can’t afford to buy because they rent. Let’s read that again.
They rent because they can’t afford to buy BECAUSE THEY RENT.
The vicious cycle is compounded here in the U.S. by the ridiculously high cost of higher education, healthcare costs and rapidly rising costs of goods and services.
So younger folks are increasingly rejecting capitalism in favor of socialism as a form of government, the reason being that socialism actually tries to reduce human suffering and give a fair deal to citizens. It’s pretty clear to them that the social Darwinism and greed of unrestrained capitalism for the last 50 years has lavishly benefited a precious few and has encouraged and institutionalized the suffering of society’s most vulnerable, while making it impossible for the majority of people to get ahead or even manage to enjoy a modicum of creature comforts.
Seems like we are pretty much in the same place here in the U.S. with our housing mess. There was a time when home ownership, even for the average Joe and Jane, was a manageable path to financial health. That was what the movie “A Wonderful Life” with Jimmie Stewart and Donna Reed was all about, right?
But as it turned out, George Baily ended up being so much fiction and the reality now is we’re all sadly just living in an increasingly gruesome Potterville. Compare the cost today of renting vs. the cost of buying and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. The cost to rent is about twice the cost per square foot as it is to buy. Paying rent today is pretty close to burning your money, especially horrible when you can’t get paid a living wage.
It turns out Fat Cats just got fatter in the last 50 years, and the “Eat the Rich” slogan crops up again as it has before. It has been used by radicals and anti-capitalists (according to Wikipedia) for centuries and is attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau who said during the French Revolution, “When the people shall have no more to eat, they will eat the rich.”
My wife is a junkie for history and historical novels and movies, and she keeps raising these present day parallels to that epoch of the French Revolution. Pundits and commentators have called this era today “The New Gilded Age.” My wife and the pundits are onto something I think, and it’s pretty clear the Millennials and Gen Z agree.
So I guess it’s not so surprising that it hits home right here in our microcosm of Little Italy in Cleveland, Ohio, where lots of new rental housing is “what the market wants.” Or maybe, that’s just what the privileged and the powerful have designed the market to be. Because if you don’t build homes to own, that drives home prices up and more people have to rent. And when more people rent, “Land-Lords” (nice word there) can pretty much charge whatever the heck they want.
“Tax the rich” is probably a little more palatable for most of us, and the truth is I can’t blame the younger generation at all for looking at Boomers and thinking, “Boy, you guys really sucked all the value and resources out of the world and left us holding the bag.” They have a very legitimate point, and with the climate crisis pushing us to ecological apocalypse it’s fair to say we let capitalism be the engine that drove climate change and now they’re stuck with that impending cataclysm too.
The doomsday trajectory for younger generations and society’s most vulnerable better change and change fast, or “Eat the Rich” may not seem so ludicrous down the road. We have ample opportunities to put compassionate people in positions of authority in politics, in business and in non-profits, and we better wake up and get serious about it fast.
Because people have had it with living in the nightmare that is Potterville.
(Cartoon art by J.E. Hargate)