My buddy called me yesterday with a besieged sound in his voice. He was mad at Obama for going after offshore bank accounts. Maybe he called me because he knew I was probably going to be on the other side of this issue, and just wanted me to be the stand in for the news commentators who couldn't hear him yelling at them while they appeared on the TV in his office. Or maybe he thought he was going to convince me that I should be rooting for the interests of the rich.
I didn't see why this was even an issue with my buddy. I'm no economist, but I would imagine, if you were to look it up, that most of the real wealth in this country has been created, banked and taxed right here on American soil. The offshore banking debacle affects such a small slice of the public that it is effectively a non issue. Then again, my buddy might have more money than I think he does.
After he got tired of trying to get me to see things his way, my buddy went on to tell me that his family's newly acquired poodle had eaten his dinner right off of his plate the previous night, before he got a chance to sit down and enjoy his crab cakes. "Everybody else had already eaten," my buddy said. "My plate was on the table, just out of the microwave, while I made a quick detour before sitting down eat. By the time I headed to my chair my dinner was gone, and the damn dog was licking her lips."
I understood exactly what was behind the plaintive sound of the word "gone" as it issued from my buddy's lips. The same thing had happened to me years ago when I lived with a roommate who owned a dog. Back in those days, when I lived in a bachelor pad, cooking was a rare event. The succulent pork chops and the fluffy white rice had taken me awhile to cook, and I had planned on enjoying an evening movie in the living room of the apartment while I ate. All I had to do was return to the kitchen to retrieve my drink and my eating utensils. It wasn't until I was about to sit down that I noticed the pork chops were missing from my plate.
You go through several stages at that moment you realize that something is wrong - surprise at the incongruity of sitting down to an empty plate, shock at the way the sanctity of your plate has been violated, anger at your own stupidity, and then outrage at the audacity of the damned dog to even dare to eat what was intended for you.
"You want to get rid of that damned dog, don't you?" I asked.
My buddy has heard me talk about my travails with our dog over the past few years. I guess he figured that a purebred poodle wouldn't have the laundry list of bad habits S.'s chihuahua brought with him. But a dog, no matter how highly trained it is, or how long its pedigree is, is still an animal, and remains fully capable of following its animal instincts.
You see the same thing on Wall Street, where the guys who have the pedigrees and the gilt edged college degrees and the distinguished family lineages are as fully capable of following their animal instincts and are as susceptible to greed as the no name guys who have worked their way up from the streets.
Our conversation ended up veering back to my buddy's original topic of discussion. "You're trying to get me to pull for the rich as if they are sitting there helpless," I said. "Come on, man. They've got the best lawyers. Legions of lobbyists they're paying top dollar. And people in congress, and in the administration, and in the press who actually take their calls and listen to them. I don't have any reason to feel sorry for anybody who's got that kind of network."
My buddy sees himself as one of the newest members of the moneyed elite, although he is reluctant to say "we" when talking about America's wealthy. If the Republicans could figure out how to erase the social stigma that comes along with the party's negative perception among a majority of African Americans, successful black professionals like my buddy, who have never really been all that interested in being associated with the riffraff floating around the Democratic party, would join the GOP in droves.
The image of my buddy's empty dinner plate stayed with me all afternoon yesterday.
In a lot of ways, the way my buddy feels about the Obama administration's stance on offshore accounts is a lot like the range of feelings he experienced when he saw that his plate was sitting empty on his kitchen table before he even got a chance to enjoy it - surprised, shocked, angry and outraged that this could happen to him within the confines of his own country club.