A Gated City on a Hill

Gated house

Simon Howden | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Despite living in an era of record low crime rates, America’s uber-rich are feeling less and less secure—at least as evidenced by New York City’s burgeoning “safe room” industry:

The world is a very scary place right now, especially for people of means; they feel cornered and threatened,” said Tom Gaffney, the president of Gaffco Ballistics, which has installed a number of safe rooms around New York City.

“When you have so much to lose, and you can afford to, you put a premium on your safety.”

So, couple of thoughts. First, cry me a goddamn river. The world can surely be a “very scary place” right now for the children of the desperately poor. The world can be a very scary place right now for undocumented immigrants. The world can be a very scary place right now for the chronically underemployed and for families facing foreclosure. And if there’s anybody who has a right to “feel cornered and threatened” in America today, it’s young black men just about every time they’re confronted by the police. But people of means, not so much. Far from a scary place, New York City is like a Disneyland for the super rich—with unlimited Fastpasses. So forgive me if I roll my eyes at this zillionaire-as-victim meme.

That said, if people of means really do feel so cornered and threatened by the unwashed rabble these days that they’re willing to cower behind Kevlar-lined, steel-reinforced concrete walls, they might want to ask themselves, “Why?” If the threat is real, they should consider how our nation’s staggering income inequality is undermining their own security. And if the threat isn’t real, they should look deep inside themselves to question whether their paranoia stems from pathological narcissism or a healthy (and justified) pang of guilt?

Also, they might want to ask themselves, “Do I really want to live this way?”

As Civic Ventures Skunk-in-Chief Nick Hanauer has repeatedly warned his fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming. I suppose hunkering down in their gated communities—prisoners of their own wealth—is one way to prepare for it. Or, acting out of rational self-interest, they could start using their enormous influence and wealth to promote policies that address income inequality before the inevitable backlash occurs.



David "Goldy" Goldstein has written about politics for The Stranger, The Nation and the Huffington Post. He hosted “The David Goldstein Show” on Seattle’s news/talk 710-KIRO from 2006 through 2008, and has been pissing off readers at his blog HorsesAss.org for more than a decade.