Friday, September 22, 2006

400 Billionaires and manufactured hope

According to Forbes Magazine, the rich, in fact, are only getting richer. The preeminent business rag's annual listing of the 400 richest Americans, for the first time in its history, is a billionaires-only club.

This shouldn't come as too surprising, given the rising income gap in this country.

In the top ten is, of course, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft's mean machines, the perennial Warren Buffett, plus the man who makes most of the machines for Microsoft's wares, Michael Dell, and rounded out by no less than four members of the Wal(Mart)ton family.

What is most interesting to note is the gentleman in third place, named Sheldon Adelson:

He's a gambling czar, headquarted in Nevada, who's net worth is approximately $20.5 billion. Adelson grew up poor in Dorchester, the son of a cab driver. He went to City College in NYC but dropped out. Now he owns one of the most prominent casinos in Las Vegas (the Venetian) and is renowned for being the 14th richest man in the world.

What's interesting about this? Well, here at Spare Change, nearly everyone plays the lottery. Gambling on that (practically non-existent) chance to make a billion like the folks on this list. People here and all over the country plug their money into slots, exchange crisp bills for plastic chips, rub their nails raw on scratch tickets, all banking on that well-advertised glimmer of hope. It makes sense then that a gambling man would be up there with Bill and Warren. We're p(r)aying the hope gods to free us from fiscal hell, in the quickest and easiest way possible, and people like Adelson get fat on our dreams.

There's nothing wrong with that. He worked his way from $200 into #3 on the Forbes 400. His is an overwhelming success story, but yet a story built on shattered hopes and dreams. The world is funny that way, no?

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