David Brooks is worried about the rich people. Consider poor John Thain. One minute, it was OK to spend $35,000 on a commode, the next it was an embarrassment, Brooks opines in the New York Times. The same shame could befall countless billionaires who don’t realize the rules have changed. In this post-TARP era, rich people don’t get to set their own norms—that falls to Ward 3, the part of DC where Democratic staffers, regulators, and journalists dwell.
Ward 3 people are quite nice, but they harbor a resentment toward three things: “cleavage, hunting, and dumb people who are richer than they are.” They’ve “nationalized extravagance and privatized Puritanism,” Brooks writes. The government can spend hundreds of billions on ill-advised bailouts, but if “Thain spends $1,500 on a wastepaper basket, all hell breaks loose.”