BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- In the 1970s, while working as a low-paid cub reporter in Houston, Texas, I always looked forward to the annual Christmas catalogs from Neiman-Marcus and Sakowitz, a local luxury department store. Both contained outrageously expensive things that only the super-rich could afford -- his and hers Thunderbirds stick in my memory. My wife and I couldn't wait to thumb through them and we frequently laughed at how much some of the items cost, wondering if even rich Texans would spend so extravagantly.
Another tribute to conspicuous wealth comes in the annual "Rich List," a guide to the 1,000 richest men and women in Britain, published in a special edition of The Sunday Times Magazine. A fat feline sits proudly on the cover with the symbol of a British pound (in gold) around its neck.In addition to income rankings, the list is broken down by country and region. Most names will not be familiar to Americans, unless they read the business pages or engage in similar businesses or income-producing activities. One couple possibly familiar to many Americans -- number two among the wealthiest in Northern Ireland -- are the actress and co-producer of TV's "The Bible" and "Son of God," Roma Downey, who is Irish, and her reality TV husband, the British-born Mark Burnett.
Apart from the fun of reading how much people are worth, the Times story accompanying the list promises the rankings "will create a combination of envy, admiration and mild outrage." Still, it bears reading and can easily be applied to our modern Western culture of envy, greed and entitlement promoted by President Obama and Democrats.
Titled "Don't beat the rich: just join them," the Times writes: "(the list) is a picture of self-made millionaires and billionaires, many of whom have overcome educational disadvantages and personal setbacks -- including poverty and the loss of a parent -- to succeed. Most eschewed cozy normality, taking risks and putting their livelihoods on the line in their determination to succeed."
With an estimated 47 million Americans on food stamps and others receiving other kinds of government assistance; with President Obama and his fellow liberal Democrats preaching a false financial gospel aimed at penalizing the wealthy and the successful, could it be, as another Times article asserts, "...western democracy is on its last legs, crushed under the weight of a bloated state"? The story suggests the West "look east, where the Asian model -- minimal welfare, restricted rights -- is producing the world's most successful societies."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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