An Open Letter to Sam Zell: Why Your Statements are Delusional and Dangerous

The 1 percent are being pummeled because it’s politically convenient to do so. The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.

– Sam Zell yesterday on Bloomberg Television

Mr. Zell,
I’ve seen clips of you on television several times in the past. I can’t say those appearances elicited strong reactions from me. I can recall being offended at things you have said, and I can remember agreeing with you on other occasions. However, yesterday I found your statements on “class warfare,” “envy” and the “1%” delusional and dangerous. I will address these two points separately.

Why Your Statements Are Delusional

Individuals, social classes, even cultures and nation-states develop storylines and so-called “myths” about themselves and how they fit into the bigger picture of current events and human history. We all see ourselves and whatever group(s) with which we identify within a particular social, political and economic context. This is obvious, yet it is much more difficult to look at your owns myths and question them. It is far easier to look at other groups’ myths and heap criticism on them. That is basically all you do.

For the purpose of this letter, I will focus on socio-economic groups that people are now using in these contemporary United States. Ever since Occupy Wall Street popularized the terms, many people have divided themselves into two overly-simplistic groups, the so-called 99% and the 1%. However, this isn’t the real struggle. I was always against the 1% label, because the true cancer, the true problem comes from a much smaller slice of the population. It comes from what I call the “oligarchs,” the 0.01%, and the politicians that do their bidding. This is your class Mr. Zell, so let’s get that straight right off the bat. That doesn’t mean everyone in the 0.01% should be vilified. I am certain there are many well meaning, decent and honestly good people in that bucket. Nevertheless, what the past five years have proven without a shadow of a doubt is that this class collectively represents the most destructive, delusional and counter-productive members of our society.

Your statements on Bloomberg yesterday prove my point exactly. Let’s start with the most offensive and asinine statement. You said:  

The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder.

First of all you talk of envy. Now without a doubt, there is a significant portion of the so-called 99% that would want nothing more than to have the riches and the power of the 1%, but certainly not all of them, or even necessarily the majority. In my life I have had various experiences and met a lot of people. I lived most of my life in Manhattan and the last three years in Boulder, Colorado. What defines Manhattan more than anything else is that it is a money-chasing place. People who live there are generally obsessed with money as well as materialism, and want as much as they can get in the shortest period of time. People in Colorado are not this way. When I lived in NYC, almost every conversation I overheard would consist of how to make more money or get a bigger bonus. In three years in Colorado, I cannot recall ever hearing a similar conversation. Of course this is an over-generalization, but there is certainly truth to it.

It’s fine to want to make money, and it’s also fine to just want to be comfortable, content and fulfilled in what you do. I’m not making a judgement call here. What I am saying is that people like you, who are constantly surrounded by people that think just like you, people who obsess 24/7 about how to make more money on money, you think that everyone thinks just like you. Sorry to break it to you, they don’t.

So this is where your delusion begins. You think everyone that has issues with you oligarchs and how the 0.01% is destroying our economy and society is simply envious because you assume they think like you do. Certainly, if you were poor you would be envious of the the rich. You’ve made that clear. However, that is not the primary motivation of the anger and resentment swelling up from the underclasses.

I will use myself as an example. I worked on Wall Street from the moment I graduated Duke University. By the time I was in my mid-20s my career was taking off. I was well into the “1%” by my late-20s and if I had continued along that path, who knows maybe one day I could’ve been an oligarch like you. If you were me, you would have continued to pound the pavement of the world’s financial centers to one day become a “master of the universe.” But I don’t want to be you Sam Zell. I voluntarily took myself off that career path, at the very top of my game because I became so disillusioned by the monetary and financial system after the crisis and the bailout of the crooks (your socio-economic class) that caused it. I’m not trying to portray myself as special or some sort of a hero. I am just making the point that from your point of view my choice was completely irrational, and probably one you could never comprehend. Yet there are plenty of people like me out there and you don’t seem to understand this because your entire worldview revolves around wealth.

Your misdiagnosis of the root cause of the current dissent in America is a result of your obliviousness to the actual concerns of the 99%. A group about which you speak with such certainty, yet certainly know almost nothing about. In fact, my website is dedicated to highlighting all of the destructive trends happening in this nation today. From record high food stamp participation, to declining real wages and the reality that young people need to take on so much debt they become indentured serfs from the moment they enter the workforce. From a loss of 4th Amendment rights due to illegal NSA spying, to the militarization of the police force. From oligarch immunity from serious financial crimes that average citizens would be thrown in jail for life for, to trillion dollar bailouts with zero strings attached for the financial community. From the over-prosecution of some of our bravest citizens such as Aaron Swartz, Barrett Brown and Private Manning to a fraudulent two-party sham political system entirely controlled by your socio-economic class.

While I agree that President Obama talks in simplistic, imbecilic “class warfare” terms, what does he do in reality? He is the most oligarch-coddling President this nation has ever seen. Talk is cheap Zell. I only listed a few of the root problems causing dissent in the country. They are very real, they are not going away and as long as oligarchs like you pretend they don’t exist and this is all the result of “envy” nothing will get better. In fact, it will get much, much worse. I see very little envy. I see a populace waking up to a gigantic fucking fraud, full of below average cronies thieving and people getting pissed about it. I see a 0.01% class of oligarchs to which the free market and the rule of law do not apply. So I’m not sure what exactly the 99% is supposed to be emulating. Your unaccountable criminality?

Of course I couldn’t end this section without calling you out on the most absurd thing you said: “The 1 percent work harder.”

Where to begin…First of all, I’d like some hard data to back up this statement. You complain about class warfare and then hypocritically say something like that? How is that not class warfare. You, a billionaire, come on television and tell 320 million people that the reason they feel disillusioned and agitated is because they are lazy. If that’s not class warfare I don’t know what is.

But let’s take this a step further. Let’s assume that the average person in the 1% works harder than the average person in the 99%. This reality still means that there are likely millions, if not tens of millions of above average workers within the 99% that work considerably harder than the average 1% person. Even if you don’t accept my numbers, you can’t deny there would still be hundreds of thousands that fall into that bucket. So what do you have to say to them? Furthermore, where does your expertise on the work ethic of the 99% come from? I highly doubt you spend much time hanging around them.

Why Your Statements Are Destructive
There is genuine dissent in America and it would behoove you to actually try to understand it, rather than assuming it is represented by inane political rhetoric from Barrack Obama. In case you hadn’t noticed, Obama isn’t popular. Neither are Democrats and Republicans. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll showed that 42% of Americans identify as Independent, versus 31% as Democrats and 25% as Republicans. This is the highest “Independent” identification on record. People know something is very wrong, they know the system is broken.

Generally speaking, the dissent from both the “progressive” side and the “libertarian” side overlaps on many issues. Issues that you seem to be oblivious to. These are:

1) Opposition to Wall Street bailouts, the concept of TBTF and the growth of crony capitalism generally.
2) The fact that the “rule of law” is not applied to oligarchs, politicians and government officials.
3) The destruction of civil liberties through the nation and the militarization of police.
4) Endless and pointless wars abroad, as well as the destructive war on drugs at home.

As you yourself admit: “the 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.” This is true, and since the 0.01% wields even greater power, you must accept responsibility for these issues. Instead, you just come on television and call everyone envious.

The fact that there is such tremendous overlap on such major issues from activists on the so-called “left” and the “right” is extraordinarily important. These are real grievances that are not going away. Angst on these issues must be dealt with, and no amount of superficial, ignorant statements will change that reality. The only thing that the arrogant oligarch attitude will do is cause more people to despise you. Is that what you want?

I don’t think you’re a bad guy with evil intent. I think you are a money obsessed financier who hasn’t taken the time to actually understand what is really going on within your own country because you have your head so far up your own ass. It’s hard for anyone to actually look at themselves in the mirror and be honest about themselves and the myths they create. However, history shows us that when decadent plutocrats are unable to do so, we end up with disastrous situations. Situations which are often times violent and result in despotism. A situation I desperately hope to avoid, and I truly hope you and others like you recognize your error before it is too late.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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34 Comments

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  1. Who Did Bernanke’s Helicopter Money Drops Benefit the Most?

    When these guys say Bernanke did a good job, now you will know why. Note well: At the top of the list is Warren Buffett who has been a major Bernanke supporter and benefited directly from the Fed bail out of Goldman Sachs by buying stock in Goldman THE DAY BEFORE THE FED AND THE TREASURY LAUNCHED THEIR BAIL OUT PROGRAMS.

    http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/who-did-bernankes-helicopter-money.html

    In Bed with Wall Street

    The financial meltdown in 2008 triggered nationwide outcry over the lack of regulation and oversight on Wall Street. But how much has changed since then? Larry Doyle argues that Wall Street, politicians, and the regulators themselves have conspired for personal and industry-wide gains while failing to protect investors, consumers, and taxpayers. In In Bed with Wall Street discusses recent scandals, such as the multi-billion dollar trading losses at JP Morgan Chase, the manipulation of interest rates via the LIBOR scandal, and money laundering with North American drug cartels and rogue nations such as Iran.

    http://www.wnyc.org/story/bed-wall-street/

  2. Great article, glad to see someone holding a mirror up to the .01%

  3. Bravo MK !!

  4. Well said, Michael!

  5. Your comments are striking the whole issue in the bulls eye.. Although you speak about the US I think these issues are common in the whole “so called, free western” world.

    I like reading your articles and will link them via Facebook so everyone i know reads it too. :)

  6. Thank you, Mike. A bit too kind, but otherwise outstanding.

  7. Great article, Mike. Zell’s opinion seems to suggest that there may be many more Marie Antoinette oligarchs out there who live in a bubble with their head up their ass. Otherwise, why would he ever utter such an inane comment for all the world to hear.

  8. Mike, a lot of good points here… I particularly liked this summation;

    “As you yourself admit: “the 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.” This is true, and since the 0.01% wields even greater power, you must accept responsibility for these issues. Instead, you just come on television and call everyone envious.”

    I would like to add, ‘Either you [the 0.01%} take responsibility, or we [the 99.9%) take names, then heads’.

    Pissed off is right.

  9. this is what happens if you get enough polarization

    Mystery of Prince Rupert’s Drop at 130,000 fps – Smarter Every Day
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe-f4gokRBs

    when the quasi-Federal non-Reserve have built enough stress into US society (and the global economy) with market manipulation, all that will be needed to finish the job is a scratch

    it was a metaphor in classical literature
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Rupert%27s_Drop

  10. Hi,
    You might also have mentioned his recent history. He took over the Chicago Tribune in a classic oligarch deal and siphoned off the employee pension money

  11. Succinct and on the mark. Far more polite than these people may realize. Zell, Perkins and their billionaire cohorts should get accustomed to the public’s ire; it’s not going anywhere. If they want love, they should get a dog. Better yet, they should pull out a copy of The Great Gatsby.

    These things rarely end well. Willful blindness and/or arrogance is not a wise defense.

  12. I’m self employed, Main St merchant. 42 years I’ve watched the 2% get economic advantage – tax loopholes, and privilege unavailable to the 98%.

    It’s not the 1% — but the same ole ethnocentric gangsters who have been looting the world throughout history.

    We call it the 1% – so we don’t assign evil to these perpetual victims of every host country in history.

    But it’s the same group.

    And this time — they have more enemies.

  13. Maybe we should all be more like Zell and destroy the pensions of thousands by tricking them into converting their pensions into billions in debt to take a public company private. Then, like Zell, we can walk away with a boat load of cash and leave the workers with a fat bill.

  14. I just woke from a nightmare. 3.5 billion people were chasing 85 rich guys down the street. It was horrible. Horrible.

  15. As with OWS you completely misunderstand the problem. It’s not the rich or the 1%. It’s the government. Blaming the rich is a left wing strategy. You are falling into the same trap you try to expose.

    • Michael Krieger

      Actually wrong. If you read my blog, at least 50% of the content is attacks the corruption and immorality of the government, intelligence agencies, etc. Oligarchs work hand in hand with these entities. It is not a particular part of the power structure that is the problem, it IS the entire power structure. Politicians, intelligence agency operators and oligarchs.

      Best,
      Michael Krieger

  16. I knew Sam Zell very well when I worked for him in the early 1980’s in Chicago. He is a very nice guy who on more than one occasion financially helped financially troubled workers. Why don’t you all just focus on your own life and stop bitching about wealthy people. Who cares what they think? If you were really secure and satisfied with your decision to drop out of the rat race, you would not need to obsess with the success of others. I personally find complete joy in having a glass of wine with a good friend on my front porch. I have not a care in the world what Sam Zell is up to or how rich he is. I do despise crony capitalism and Socialism….I can’t wait to get rid of Obama. Leave Sam Zell alone.

    • Michael Krieger

      Where to begin…

      First of all, when did I ever say I am satisfied? I have dedicated my life to trying to help in my own little way turn around some of the clearly very bad trends happening in America today. I am pretty explicit about being extremely dissatisfied with so many things out there. So I don’t know where you got this idea that I’m sitting back all satisfied about things. I’m not, my motivation is to help turn things around.

      Bitch about wealthy people? I complain about oligarchs, not wealthy people. This is consistent throughout all my writings, which is why I focus on the 0.01% not the “1%.” This is intentional. This is precisely because (as Zell himself notes) they are the ones creating the policy in this country that is so destructive, and if not actively doing the damage, just sitting around letting it happen without a peep.

      Do you have any idea what my financial situation is? You are a joke.

      Enjoy your wine and your porch. I have work to do, and thousands of my readers globally would vehemently disagree with your silly little ill-informed rant.

      Keep sitting around, it suits you.

  17. Some PIG, “more equal than others” better find a spider of salvation; and if so, change corporate logo to Charlotte Web. Otherwise, look out for the Zuckermen in the street; it’s makin’ bacon time!

  18. Aye Mr Zell, when visiting West Virginia, be sure to drink lots of TAP WATER, I heard this from some of our common world bank pals, that if you can smell licorice your going to have many lucky days ahead.

    Just remember… a glass a day ta keep the 99% away.

  19. Excellent well written article! Great work Michael.

  20. It really disheartens me when I see fools like I like Sam come into these platforms like a they are planted by the oligarchs that are mentioned in your article, Michael.
    They must be drinking fluoride, enjoying the chem-trails, GMO, MSG and Corn Syrup diet. Michael, this is the first article I’m sure I have read as I must have had my head buried but not quite in the sand. I know what’s going on and you say it so elegantly. Thanks for being another person on a Wake Up Call mission.

  21. Dr Stanford N Gerber

    Wonderful as a person who was and is still kind of upper middle class the people like Sam Zell make me want to vomit..even a shark would not eat him he’s so foul. As somebody who claims to be Jewish he gives anti Semites perfect food to dine on.. He is a disgrace to Judism and to all the honorable Jews out there who are equally appalled by this pig if he wanted to keep kosher he couldn’t enter his own house..he’s traif

  22. To Sam Zell: YOUR TIME IS SOooooo UP: Either you take responsibility for your actions and balance this out – fast, or you will face history, and it will not be clement. In case you don’t get it, it is not a time of whether, only a time of when. No one on this planet will tolerate such self enamoured egocentrical irresponsible and disrespectful behaviour any minute more. No one.

    You can stamp that into your loveless heart and wake up, or ignore it and face the consequences. Remember Newton: every force applied one way calls for a reaction the other way. Life is a give and take. You took a lot, now is the time for you to GIVE a lot. You chose how, it just has to be equivalent and come from the heart, or it will be taken from you.

    • @Silent Watcher: What is there to balance here? The truth is that those at the top of the food chain are now acting as parasites, sucking money out of the system on the backs of the labor of others, and then using that money to buy politicians to provide them with tax self serving tax breaks and subsidies,

      These plutocrats make money, they do not EARN it as those who actually work for a living do.

  23. Excellent rebuttal.

    Not sure which smells worse Wall Street, the City or any other you could name. Anyway we call it the “Liblabcon” when being polite.

    Stunning they don’t appear to realise the prevailing zeitgest. Suspect they do and its denial until the crunch point. Where a trigger event catalyses and upsets the status quo.

  24. Enjoyed that Mr. Krieger! Especially the attention drawn to the crucial points where everyone agrees. That needs to done a whole lot more.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTCr3dtDv1o

    Judiciously applied f bomb too.
    GF

  25. A. Skimming money from financial deals does not create value. I am sure Zell personally skimmed plenty of money from even his stinker deals such as Tribune Corp.
    B. Access to bank fiat is not a value adding talent.
    C. The mutual admiration society of cronies at the top of organizations have convinced themselves that their skimming of value adding labor from their workers is no longer worth 30 times the average worker’s salary, as it was in the past, but now 300 times the average worker’s salary. Would Zell say that this happened because the cronies are now working 10 times harder than they were in the past or that they are simply in a position of power where they can demand 10 times more parasitic tribute.

  26. You were to easy on him. The guy’s a P O S and should be put down like a rabid dog.

  27. hate to tell you, but there are 7 million people in NY who are not there to make money… i went there to make art and hang with my girlfriend.

  28. What Sam Zell said is a distraction and fits right into what Jessy Says about the Multinationalists takeover of all water in the world , and bundy is just one of the ones in THEIR WAY !!!!!!
    There might be more to this Taking of the WATER RIGHTS than we think , check this out , Right off the bat in the video Jessy talks about LAKE MEAD right NEXT DOOR TOO BUNDY RANCH !!!!!!!

    Ventura looks into the prospects of “Blue Gold” and why corporations and the super-rich are buying up water rights around the world in what could be a plan in controlling nations and their masses. He looks into evidence that these tactics are going on in North America in what could be a literal theft of the Great Lakes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvaMvAQfUUk

  29. Congratulations on a well-written article. It’s too bad I only just spotted it. My history is similar to yours. Voluntarily left Wall Street over a decade ago and never looked back though I was on the buy side and it sounds like you were on the sell side.

    I would like to point out to Sam Zell and his ilk that they are beneficiaries of theft by conversion. The Fed produces dollar-substitute IOUs but no offsetting real wealth. That is the definition of counterfeiting. This counterfeit is then “loaned” to banks indefinitely at effectively zero interest. What does one call a loan that carries no interest and doesn’t have to be repaid? Why a GIFT of course.

    Those banks commingle the fake Fed dollars with genuine dollars earned by sweat and blood by real producers of wealth. This operation both launders the counterfeit money and dilutes the value of the real money when wealth producers are forced to bid against the Monopoly Money in the economy.

    Those who get preferential access to the counterfeit (in the form of “credit”) bid up prices and steals the symbolic wealth (currency) from the producers of real wealth. Naturally those who are politically connected have great access to the Community Chest of fake Fed dollars. I thought this tied your theme of wealth through political connections directly back to the primary engine of theft. The central banks are nominally economic and financial entities but their actions always tend to concentrate wealth in the hands of the poetically-connected.

    Sam Zell likely reacted so strongly out of guilt and ego. He knows his empire is built on wealth looted from regular Americans via inflation. Yet his pride won’t allow him to admit the truth so he lashes out instead. His response is exactly the arrogant and disdainful thing you’d expect under those circumstances. Keep up the good work.

  30. As a recent article from Nick Hanauer says. Zell, if you don’t pull your head out of your ass, PITCHFORKS ARE COMING!

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