This has been a bad year for both rich and poor, and particularly annoying for celebrities. The masters of the universe demonstrated how they can't even master Wall Street, leaving the rest of us to pay for the clean-up, and their big houses and luxury cars no longer invite the unquestioning respect of the shallow and the superficial.
Crashing a White House party isn't as much fun as those Washington social climbers thought it would be -- investigations by Congress and the Secret Service are no fun at all. Super celebrity and super bucks can't even guarantee a handsome Tiger and his beautiful tigress the right to share a 5-iron in peace.
When life gets tough, everyone has to adjust. The big players on Wall Street won't give up their bonuses, but they're looking for ways to make friends as well as money. The wastefully affluent life is empty when you inspire contempt, not envy.
Investing in guilt management, the CEO of Goldman Sachs wants to give half a billion dollars to thousands of small businesses to get them over the hump of the recession. That's a large helping of potatoes even for a company with profits over $3 billion, and it's more than a mere gesture to failing businesses on the receiving end.
No one cares much about the feelings of recession tycoons -- they endure rejection all the way to the bank -- but the rest of us do care when the greed and selfishness of modern robber barons give capitalism a bad name. To echo Winston Churchill on democracy, capitalism is the worst economic system of all, except all the others. When the excesses of greedy capitalists make socialism sounds better than it is, there's cause for concern.
Inspiring young people to think about starting a business in such a climate of suspicion is difficult. It's easier for the young to think of going into government service, where the pay is good, nobody expects a lot and government employees are rarely riffed or fired. An entrepreneur, on the other hand, starts only with the hard work of one.
Fortunately for all of us, the American spirit of innovation and entrepreneurial ambition still captures the imagination and skills of certain teenagers. Business and economics continue to be popular high school electives. Teachers in the public schools, where a student drops out every nine seconds, are finding that one way to seize the attention of a teenager is to teach the skills for making money.