The One Percenters – And The Rest of Us
Last Friday afternoon, a buddy of mine and l took the Art Fort Lauderdale tour of four multimillion dollar homes on the Intracoastal, sporting art from some of the top galleries in town, which we reached via water taxi that left the Bahia Mar Yacht Club. It was something only a place like Fort Lauderdale, the Venice of the Americas, could pull off. The homes themselves, all vacant and up for sale, were magnificent in size and style but frankly lacked any warm, homey feeling.
But as we passed through “Millionaires’ Row,” a not surprising yet nonetheless stark fact l had just heard in the news came to mind: 82% of all the new wealth created in the United States last year was held by just one percent of the population. Yea, the One Percenters, with annual incomes averaging $400,000+. Worse, over half the American population saw no growth in personal wealth at all.
Fort Lauderdale itself is an example of the American City of Tomorrow where the rest of us are headed – probably to the poor house. In 2002, on the brink of my retirement from New York, I bought my home here in Lauderdale for $140, 000. Within a few years, my house value had escalated to $400,000. Then came the Great Recession when those who bought on the high side saw their homes’ worth tumble. Only now are prices rebounding to what they were prior to 2006 but Bank of America predicts another Wall Street Crash is on the horizon. And so the ugly dance starts all over again.
Yet Fort Lauderdale, once a sleepy spring break town and step child of Miami that came into his own over the last decade, is building little in the way of affordable working and lower middle class housing for the very folks cities need to run them, instead constructing luxury homes “starting at $600,000” which might as well be Fantasyland at Disney World for the average Floridian couple making $50,000 a year. No wonder millennials l know are setting their sights on places like the Carolinas or Vegas where living costs are more realistic.
I fear my Lauderdale is a microcosm of where the rest of this country is headed if not already there. The power to run everything concentrated in the hands of a few, what we like to call “The One Percenters.”
And the rest of us be damned.