Confessions of Philadelphia’s One Percent

They’ve been mocked, maligned, protested, pilloried, and generally blamed for the downfall of the economy. So what’s it feel like to be rich these days? We asked. Five wealthy (and anonymous) Philadelphians answered.

One-percenters. We’ve been hearing a lot about them lately, ever since wall street became not just the seat of finance, but a place to hang out and get angry. In demonstrations and in large swaths of the American psyche, rich people have been vilified, as if the economy going SPLAT back in 2008 meant that anybody with a certain lifestyle still intact must have had a hand in the takedown.

And it seems like everybody has weighed in on what’s wrong with America these past four years—everybody, that is, except one-percenters themselves. (Warren Buffett doesn’t count; he’s got too much money.) So we thought, let’s hear from a few. How are rich people around Philly doing? What’s on their minds? And do they care what everyone else is saying about them?

We found five local one-percenters quite happy to talk, after we promised anonymity. They had a few things in common: Nobody wants to pay more taxes. Everybody has issues with the Occupy movement. Nobody’s happy with Obama. And all five are rich. That, though, might be the extent of what they agree on.

Confessions of Philadelphia’s One Percent: click here to hear from The Inheritor.

The Inheritor started working for her parents as a young child, and after college helped the business expand. She eventually bought her own company, which she sold a few years ago; she’s now a consultant. The Inheritor is worth $11 million herself; her parents have assets well over $100 million.

eople say tax the rich, they can afford it. But you don’t know what my lifestyle and my budget is. I’m already paying for everybody to stay home and have babies and live in houses that they can’t afford and do all kinds of things that they shouldn’t be doing in the first place. That’s coming out of me working my butt off every day.

Our government doesn’t put money to good use. Private industry puts money to good use, and it’s one of those things that somewhere along the line, we went from being the land of opportunity to being the land of entitlement. And the one percent missed the memo—the one percent still sees this as the land of opportunity, and if you have half a brain and you put it to work, you’re going to rise up by your bootstraps.

After college, my father called me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, because the family business was growing significantly at that point. I found myself being on the road and all over the map. I loved it.

During Occupy Philadelphia, I was working one day and I had to cross through Dilworth Plaza, where the protests were happening. I’m walking through in my Gucci boots and looking around. Nobody had any idea what they were doing there. A good portion of the people that I saw there were 20-something, educated, handing out water bottles and thinking they’re doing the world a favor by saving the universe, and I’m sure Daddy’s paying the bill for it.

There are always jobs in restaurants—always. And there are always jobs in fast food, and there’s always jobs in retail. You may not be able to get the six-figure CEO job today, but wouldn’t that make you one of the one percent you hate so much?

I was at a lunch with a group of men. It was late afternoon, and we were talking about the Occupy movement. And we hear a tumult outside of the window. They’re marching down Broad Street, and a bunch of us went out. They’re blocking traffic, with of course police escorts, which are costing us money, and they’re interrupting thousands of people’s business day. It started as a joke: Well, I’m the one percent, are you the one percent? So as the tail end of the protests were going by, we started putting our fingers in the air and going, “We’re the one percent! We’re the one percent!”

A lot of people in the march turned around and booed. We went back inside, laughing so hard.

I probably spend 40-plus hours a week on the clients I have now, then on charity another 40 hours a week—it’s nights, weekends. My play is charity. There’s a grand responsibility that comes from having money—you have to really help the community. And that’s something that the 99 percent constantly misses—how we make a difference.

Amongst the younger group, they would rather stay home than earn what they call a negative wage. A nicely dressed black man, in his late 20s or early 30s, explained that one day: “Well, if my rent and my entertainment, eating out, taking people out, and my utilities and my groceries and my monthly clothing expenses add up to $1,800 a month, but I have a job that’s only going to pay me $900 a month before taxes, that’s a negative wage.” And I said, “No, that’s you being an idiot.”

Our socialist president is looking around and saying, it’s not your fault, it’s the rich people’s fault. So let’s attack them. No, Mr. President, it’s your fault, for telling everyone in America that hope and change is on the way, and that hope and change is going to be paid for, by us.

We already have hope, and we don’t really need to change. So thanks very much. I’m going to keep my money, my guns and my freedom.

Confessions of Philadelphia’s One Percent: click here to hear from The CEO.

The CEO has run and owned several companies, which has made him worth tens of millions. He grew up middle-class, and as a young man was more interested in the arts than business. But he started working in business before he was out of college, and that changed the course of his career.

When I was at college in the ’70s, the smart guys were taking philosophy or mathematics, so it never occurred to me that making money was an objective. I don’t think to this day I’m interested in making money. It’s not an interesting thing.

I think the thing I liked about art was inventing things. As soon as I got into business, it was apparent that your whole job was to take whatever was being done and figure out new, better ways to do it, and figure out new things to do with it. I had to be creative, almost constantly.

After I sold my first company, all of a sudden we were entirely liquid. The first time you really have a lot of money, so that you never have to work again if you don’t want to, is a bit of a crisis. Because you don’t really know what your purpose in life is anymore, briefly.

If my children had their druthers, I would not have the money I do, because they prefer an environment where they are not thought of as wealthy kids. I got hit up for years by their private schools to make a contribution, and when I finally do, it becomes known and my kids get teased about it.

Charity plays a huge role in my life. I recently gave a few million to cancer research.

I raised money for Obama, and I voted for him this last time, but I’m not thrilled with him. He went in and escalated in Afghanistan, a total waste of money. My stand on wars is this simple: I wish we had spent that money on ourselves, because it’s $3 trillion. We are spending $115 billion a year on a country whose gross domestic product is $15 billion—explain that! [laughs] So I don’t feel like paying more taxes.

I think protest movements generally are a very healthy dimension of American life and have been all along. The Occupy movement was right—the banks did get away with it. It’s one of the things that drove me out of the banking industry.

In periods of stress—in the 1870s, 1890s, we’ve had plenty of protest movements—the American public has reliably cried out. There is a native intelligence, but a lot of times that outcry has been that there is something morally wrong. The diagnosis has almost always been wrong, but the expression of pain has almost always been appropriate.

What interests me is how much we seem to need an enemy. That’s the more fascinating part of this outcry to me. It relates to the fact that fear is the most fundamental human emotion.

Terrorism, frankly, in some large respect, is evidence not that the world is backsliding, but that their world is moving forward too fast. It’s evidence of how rapidly things are getting better, not that things are getting worse.

We were in Saudi Arabia two years ago, guests of the crown prince, who took us on a tour of the country—about eight of us. They had just done a study to find industries that could become number one in the world. One of them was nanotechnology. They were spending $30 billion on the nanotechnology industry. To me, that seems smart. We’re spending $700 billion on military, and spending nothing on things like this. And that’s how you create jobs.

Once, we led in telegraphs and railroads and cars. It wasn’t that Americans were smarter or more moral—we were doing the hottest new stuff. When public funding of stem-cell research was banned, it was an example of sending the wrong message. Italy led the world coming out of the ­Renaissance—all the brightest minds wanted to go to Italy, that’s where all the smart guys were. Then Galileo puts out a new theory that the planets revolve around the sun, he’s taken to trial, spends the rest of his life under house arrest. All the bright people in Italy didn’t have to think twice about that—the place where they could pursue things unimpeded was the north, in Amsterdam. Guess what? The next big world empire was the Dutch, because that’s where intellectuals could go to do what they wanted to do.

I wish there was a different level of dialogue on almost all issues. But I’m not naive, either. In my lifetime, when there has been economic stress, rich people get portrayed in unflattering ways. It will continue to be the case long after I’m dead and gone.

Confessions of Philadelphia’s One Percent: Click here to hear from The Marketing Mogul.

The Marketing Mogul lives in the Philly suburbs and also has a house at the Shore. He’s built his firm into an international business, and he’s worth north of $20 million.

I sleep the sleep of angels, being in marketing. If I worked for Goldman Sachs, I’m not so sure. They’re moving money around. And making billions and sticking it in their pockets. But they’re not producing anything. I am stimulating the economy. I’m producing something. I’m getting people to buy products. Look what happened when we didn’t have consumer demand for two, three years.

I’m one of the highest-level flyers with U.S. Airways. So that gives you an indication of how often I travel. And my kids love to travel. I want to give them experiences. I think travel’s the ultimate luxury.

You know what? I’m surrounded by people who have so much more than me that I actually don’t feel rich. I actually, a lot of times, think I’m not successful. It’s weird. I’m a piker compared to these guys. And I don’t have a prayer of getting there.

My daughter is the most money-­conscious of my kids. Because as my business came on, she grew up in a little more money. So she doesn’t know any different. And she actually asked me not long ago, “Dad, what do you have, like $250 million?” She thinks I’m Bill Gates. No, honey, no—not even close. Not even close. And by the way, you’re poor. Get to work. You have nothing.

I love giving back to charity. To me, it’s like—it kind of rounds me out. I feel pure.

If you have money, I think you have better health. There’s less stress. And access to—you know, you can get a massage. Get someone­ to come to your house. My wife—we have a woman who comes to our house every two weeks, and we get a massage. And it’s great. Your body needs that. It’s better health. You can afford—even little things, like my wife gets these special creams that you put on your skin. And the really good, ridiculously priced shampoos. I see the prices on them, I’m like, where do they make these things?

I’m fiscally conservative. But I haven’t found a party I like. Because the Republicans scare me.
Obama’s fiscal policies scare me. You saw what he’s doing. He’s going after the rich with increased taxes. So I’m going to pay five percent more taxes under him starting next year? That scares the hell out of me. I pay plenty in taxes. All I do is pay taxes. I pay the maximum.

The Occupy movement around City Hall repulsed me. I felt like these were people who were wasting time, could’ve been more productive than sitting there and camping out and creating unsanitary conditions in a public place. Every time I drove past, I was just tempted to shout out to them: “Get a freakin’ job! Get a freakin’ job!”

I laugh when rich people are criticized. I feel that anybody can have wealth if they want to. It’s all about getting an education, filling a need in the marketplace. Anybody can have money.

My kids have all bought in—they’re drinking my Kool-Aid. They’re workers. But they’ll create something, yeah. They aspire to—they want better than us, financially. Why not?

I think we need more scientists. Science is not cool. Do you know how many friends’ kids want to go into my business? That’s great, but we need more kids becoming scientists, and inventing things. So I can market them.

I think most people still aspire to have wealth. And I think as I get older, money is more of a motivator for me. I don’t know why. Because I keep score. I keep score as I get older. And I kind of wish I didn’t.

I take about $2.5 million a year. But my wife only sees $400,000. That’s it. That runs the house. Well, she does email me, I got one today: Transfer money in. I get these all the time from her. Transfer money into my daughter’s account. You add it all up, it’s another 50, 75 grand. Travel’s another 50 grand. That’s just for personal travel, not corporate.

But that’s it. The rest I invest.

The Boss is married with children and lives on the Main Line. He comes from an upper-middle-class family. His business employs more than 1,000 people, and The Boss is worth some $50 million.

Am I ever work-free? You know, I try to find moments to be with my family and shut down. It’s hard. But I don’t think when you’re running a business you can ever be totally away from it. Too many people are relying on you.
My wife and I probably spend a million dollars a year—that’s a fair ballpark.

When you are educated on how to give money away, you can really make a difference. And it actually motivates me to work harder, to make more money to give it away. I’d say I give more than $150,000 a year to charity.

I think Obama’s rhetoric against business and rich people has been brutal. I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t love the other ticket either, by the way. If McCain had had a stronger VP, like a Tom Ridge or somebody like that, that would’ve been great for me.

Listen, Obama got dealt a shitty hand: Lehman Brothers, the war, the recession. I don’t think anyone could’ve gotten us through it. The problem for me fundamentally was when I watched what he did with GM and the car companies, and he said to the bondholders, You need to take a hit. To me, that was fundamentally un-American.

Think about where Obama is today on rich people or big business. Over a thousand people work for me, okay? And they get up and do a good job. But you know what? Not one of them goes to bed every night knowing that they owe the bank tens of millions of dollars of debt. But I do. Okay? I take that risk. Every day. You can’t chastise the people who create industry, create opportunities for people to work, for people to have a better education, people to better themselves. And attacking people who have sacrificed to build businesses that employ Americans—to me, that’s crazy.

I think the worst is when Obama stands up there and says, All these rich guys flying around on their corporate jets. Well, you know what? Me and a lot of other executives, I work 18 hours a day, 20 hours a day. So if I can be in three cities in one day, I’m doing better for myself, my company, my employees, my shareholders. Do we want executives who are running big business to be stuck in an airport for five hours and not be able to get their work done and be productive? I don’t get it.

Obama had no problem collecting millions of dollars of royalties on his books. He should give that money away. If he’s that adamant against rich people—but he’s rich. He’s a one-percenter.

I think that when you watch all that Occupy stuff that went on, that was scary. Because that was, to me, like the beginning of class warfare in our world. And I’ve never seen something like that before. It was uncomfortable. It was wrong.

I think Occupy was very focused, and they were very well organized—on getting the word out that the masses need to be thought of differently. And I guess shame on those businesses that have done a bad job on making the workers feel important and appreciated. That’s not productive, either. But they’re also—America in general is lazy. And there’s a sense of entitlement that exists here that doesn’t in other countries.

I guess Occupy was showing me that it’s one thing to be bitter about what’s going on in your situation in life and say, I want a job, I want to work but we’re not creating jobs. But I was shocked to then see them also turn and say, You know what? We also hate the one-percenters. Rich people. I think they’re two separate things. It’s as if the rich people kept all their money and fired everybody.

Confessions of Philadelphia’s One Percent: Click here to hear from The Housewife.

The Housewife grew up in a big family, and her father never made more than $40,000 a year. She had her own career when she was younger and is now married to a self-made man worth $20 million. She spends $1 million a year running their household.

When it started getting crazy, campaigning about taxing the rich for all the entitled things, I thought to myself, If I’m going to be taxed to pay for social services and social programs, then I’m not in a position to do it myself through charity. So I stopped giving to charity, cold—I still write checks to diseases and organs, but not the big amounts anymore. And it was kind of out of protest. The accountant laughed when I gave her all the receipts in ’09 and said, “I’m not doing it anymore.”

I’m a poor girl who made good and worked hard to get there. Period.

I run the house, the cars, the bills, this and that. And I would say, if anything ever happened to my husband, I would go to counseling, and I would get a job as house manager for Oprah Winfrey. And I’m telling you, the cabinets would be perfect, the floors would be redone, the vases would all be full of flowers when she arrived. This is kind of like an empire. It’s a well-oiled machine.

And our bills are big. Nobody is going to cry me a river, but if you have zero in your checking account at the end of the month, it doesn’t matter how much you went through. It’s still zero. And if you hit that zero on the seventh of the month, you got the same problems as anyone who’s got a zero on the seventh of the month.

I have issues with this word fair. I’m tired of hearing about it: It’s not fair that the rich people don’t pay their fair share, it’s not fair that we don’t have jobs and the rich people do, it’s not fair that the one-percenters are able to give themselves huge bonuses and have lavish parties for their company, and it’s not fair that they have stock. What’s not fair about that? I don’t get it. You work hard, you play by the rules.

But if you do the right thing, you go to school, you work hard, you take care of your own issues, you excel, you get to a place, and then to have someone say by virtue of the fact that you’ve done all this, we need to take some more money just because you have it—you tell me what’s fair about that.

I went to a party in 2008, right after everybody lost all their money in the ­market—and rich people lost money, too. A friend of mine had on a beautiful necklace, and I said, “Oh, that’s lovely. I’m not wearing any jewelry because I feel guilty. Everybody’s hurting.” And she said, “Oh, that’s crazy—you own it, you worked hard for it, you deserve it. Wear it!”

Now, I would wear jewelry or whatever, because I feel so nervous about the future. It’s kind of like enjoy it while I can. Because I don’t know what’s happening down the road—you just don’t know.

I think Warren Buffett’s an idiot. I think he should keep his mouth shut. I think he’s lost some brain cells, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. He wants to give back some money, give back some money. Don’t ask me to give back my money.

I would have lived under a bridge and eaten Spam before I would have expected anybody else to support me. And I know that’s not fair, because I know those people at Occupy can’t find jobs. And I graduated college in a time when I could find a job. But what I don’t understand is how that frustration is somebody else’s fault. And I just don’t think camping in a tent at City Hall is any way to go about it.

I’m going to vote for whoever the Republican candidate is. If it was Mickey Mouse, I’d vote for him.

I took the train into the city last night. I got off at Suburban Station. I have to walk two, three blocks, and I was scared to death. I’ve never seen so many young black ­people—maybe a flash mob was about to happen, I dunno, but they’re all tattooed, the guys all have their pants down below their rear ends, and it’s frightening to a white housewife from the Main Line. Let me qualify that. …

I think the dissolution of the nuclear family and ergo the dissolution of the family structure is the basis of everything that’s happening in the country. I’m not kidding. I think it’s that one single thing. Because if you have a husband, you work hard together to make it. If you don’t make it, you have family to rely on.

Nobody has any ambition anymore. What’s that about? It is really weird. Nobody wants to rule the world anymore. I want to rule the world.

Around the Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.