I recognize the experience: he doesn't watch much TV (at the moment I'm restricted to DVDs of last season's Battleship Galactica), he gets his news from places like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and then he's by himself in a Houston hotel and clicks on the TV:
I watched a show called “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch.” It was about lavish parties. Now, you remember how we were having those tax cuts for the very rich so they could invest more and make America grow? Remember that?Yes it is, Ben, what's the matter with you! Our children will be much much richer than we are so who cares? In America, freedom means freedom to spend your money any way you want. So if you spend on a party in one day what it would take ten people making the average American wage of $1 million per year a whole year to earn, so be it. After all, the same free market that creates $10 million kid parties has brought the average annual wage in America to $1 million. So if ten people work a total of 3000 days for a one-day party, what's the problem?
Well, surprise! Some of that money is going to lavish Sweet 16 parties and $10 million bat mitzvahs, with Tom Petty and Kenny G and private jets flying the guests around. Five-hundred-thousand-dollar parties in New York and Malibu are no longer at all unusual. Even million-dollar parties for the rich are not out of the ordinary, according to the party planners on the show.
I started to feel hysterical. Is this what America is all about? We’re in a war and we cut taxes to stimulate the economy — and it probably did — and we are having million-dollar parties at home while our soldiers are paid starvation wages to offer up their lives in Iraq? We’re in a war and the government cannot afford to pay for adequate training for our soldiers, but the society at home is routinely having million-dollar weddings and bar mitzvahs?
Can anyone say “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”?
We are creating a debt that is about $3 trillion greater than it was when Bill Clinton left office, and one sequel is $10 million birthday parties? Is this what supply-side is all about? To obligate future generations so our generation can have $10 million parties for teenagers?
Think of the alternative, like the socialist economies of Western Europe. If America had public services that burdened business - universal health care, good social security, subsidized mass transit, high-quality yet low cost universities, whatever - we would have a median wage somewhere in the socialist neighborhood of, say, $44,300 a year. That would mean, rounding off, that the same $10 million kid party would take 200 people working for one year to pay the catering and decorating and private jet bill, or one person working 200 years. This would violate the American spirit of fair play. Luckily, American wealth-creation has put $10 million parties within reach of the average worker, and the home equity in our $18 million average houses is more than enough to borrow against.
Just think how upset Stein would be if he woke up in Paris!