As the global economy craters, as the gap between the haves and have-nots is now one of life and death, the one percent is playing to type and doing what they do best: profiteering.
Just days after billionaire hedge funder Bill Ackman went on TV to tearfully declare “hell is coming” — thanks, but New York City already has one panic-stricken middle-aged excuse for a man in our feckless mayor Bill de Blasio — we learned that Ackman was, at that very moment, eyeballing his own bet against the markets, one that netted him $2.6 billion.
Now this may not technically, legally constitute market manipulation, but rational people can agree: It’s soulless and disgusting nonetheless.
The same thought occurs to me at least once a day now: The days and weeks and months after 9/11 brought out the best in people. This crisis is bringing out the worst, especially among people of means: smart, sophisticated, wealthy, connected. The ones perfectly positioned to do real acts of kindness, charity and philanthropy, to help those most afraid and in need.
The ones, in short, who should know better and do better.
Or at least, for propriety’s sake, fake it.
Instead, we have Treasury Secretary and human facsimile Steve Mnuchin (net worth $300 million) actually state that current unemployment numbers, a record 3.3 million and climbing, “are not relevant,” because three weeks from now, all those people will be getting $1,200 checks from the government.
Now we know the U.S. Treasury Secretary knows nothing, less than zero, of how most Americans live.
Then we have the four senators, including the legendary Dianne Feinstein, who in total offloaded hundreds of thousands in stocks after a Jan. 24 top-secret briefing on the coronavirus — three Republicans and one Democrat, proving nothing is as bipartisan as greed.
And as The Post exclusively reported, 84-year-old billionaire investor Carl Icahn bet $5 billion against U.S. malls — a bet made last summer, to be fair, but one that will pay off much more substantially solely due to this crisis.
But what is profiting off our nation’s pain if you can’t gloat about it? So Icahn, who lives on a private Miami island known as “the billionaire bunker,” went on CNBC to talk about his excitement over the grim fate of commercial real estate.
“You’re going to have this blow up, too, and nobody’s even looking at it,” Icahn said. He then predicted the coming collapse will be worse than the 2008 housing market crash — the kind of feeling that, for people like him, money just can’t buy.
The high-net-worth of this ilk normally hide such grotesque behavior. But as I wrote last week about the full-blown class warfare in the Hamptons, the one-percent are hysterically food- and freezer-hoarding, carelessly corona-spreading while the serfs search for the area’s last edible vegetable. The masks are well and truly off.
Same with celebrities. Never again will any thinking person buy the “Stars — They’re Just Like Us!” canard. From the cringeworthy constellation of celebrities singing “Imagine” to Gwyneth Paltrow posting a corona-chic photo of her organic farmer’s market haul to learning Oprah’s guest house is the size of an actual house to “This Video of J.Lo’s Son Serving A-Rod Sparkling Water on a Hoverboard Is the Laugh You Need” (Popsugar), the message is clear: These stars are serving us — telling us — to eat their metaphorical cake.
The one perversely uplifting takeaway, as wailed by none other than Madonna: “the thing about COVID-19, it doesn’t care how rich you are or how famous you are.”
Soaking in her white marble tub amid rose-petals, her neck stacked with jewelry, Madonna lamented that “coronavirus is the great equalizer.”
That truism, by the way, comes with a nice little kicker. The online backlash Madonna quickly suffered was enough to make her pull down the video and finally go quiet.
Turns out there’s another nice little equalizer, too, one the little people are wise to deploy: Shame.