Mom + Pop Culture Visit Newport 1 Percent
BY BRUCE APAR
MAYOR, PENNYSAVER COMMUNITY
MOM CULTURE: What about those Newport mansions we toured yesterday, Pop?
POP CULTURE: I’ll say. I can’t get over The Breakers! Forget about the 1 percent. That was the 1 person.
POP: Cornelius Vanderbilt was one of America’s first millionaires who could afford a 138,000 square foot — excuse the expression — house!
MOM: Uh-huh, only about 50 times the size of our humble castle.
POP: Forgetting the sheer scale, what about the ornate details architected into every last square inch. What a stunning testament to the limitless possibilities of The American Dream.
MOM: Or, as some might see it, a stupefying testament to the limitless self-indulgence of uniquely American excess and bad taste.
POP: Right! We should have the means to afford access to such bad taste.
MOM: Maybe if simpler souls like us had that kind of untolled wealth, we’d spend it more humanely.
POP: Untolled? Humanely? What’s in that drink you’re sipping, Mom?
MOM: Untolled because in those days there was no income tax. Everything you made, you kept. Except for what you gave to charity humanely. Curious that charity never once was mentioned on the audio narration of The Breakers tour.
POP: Doesn’t mean they didn’t do it.
MOM: No, it doesn’t. Maybe it just means it’s considered unmentionable. Wouldn’t it be nice – and comforting — to hear how some of their vast riches were re-distributed to the needs of the needy?
POP: Oh, boy, here we go with that socialist manifesto thing you bleeding hearts love to lord over us.
MOM: If it’s socialist to be compassionate, I dare say the Lord would approve.
POP: Don’t put words in my mouth, Mom. Compassion has its place, and its reasonable limits.
MOM: You mean only be compassionate if it doesn’t cost you anything … if it doesn’t require sacrifice?
POP: Didn’t say that either, Mom.
MOM: Then are you saying you are anti-social, since that’s the root word of socialism. Socialism is an ism of civilized society, isn’t it?
POP: Stop playing word games, Woman! It’s populist rhetoric. I’m saying Vanderbilt built his fortune through the sweat of his brow. Why begrudge his spending some of it in the way of a few creature comforts?
MOM: Creature comforts? A few? What kind of creature needs comforts way beyond the imagining, let alone affordability, of just about any other human?
POP: Mr. Vanderbilt did it through honest hard work. Seriously, Mom. Chill.
MOM: Pop, sometimes it feels like you and I are polls apart. Do YOU honestly believe anybody makes a fortune that freakish through 100 percent honesty?
POP: Well, if they did, they wouldn’t be called the 1 percent, now would they?
MOM: Pop, you are 1 percent right.
POP: Does that mean there is 99 percent left?
MOM: That remains to be seen — on November 6.
POP: November 6?
MOM: Yes, I believe it falls on a Tuesday.