I believe rich people fall into two distinct categories: Those who never flaunt their money or act like they’re better than the rest of us, and those who think their wealth really does separate them from us, and act accordingly. They figure they’re smarter, more attractive, and more “entitled,” as in automatically deserving of privileges and special treatment. They can slip a $100 bill to the maitre d at a fancy restaurant to get a table when the restaurant is booked. They throw around their titles to get in to see hard-to-see doctors. They call their other rich and well-connected friends to get favors they may not be able to get themselves. They expect to be treated royally by everyone from salespeople to hair stylists and waiters.
A rich woman most of us know took her wealth to new extremes. Playing one of the Desperate Housewives on TV she actually became one in real life. Well, maybe not quite a desperate housewife, but a desperate mother so intent on having her older daughter admitted to a top-notch university that she resorted to fraud to make it happen. By now, you probably know that actress Felicity Huffman was one of 50 people charged in a sweeping national scandal involving admissions to some of the nation’s most elite colleges and universities. I’m talking about schools including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and USC. Coaches took bribes to get students accepted who didn’t even participate in the sports they coached. SAT proctors took bribes to change incorrect answers to the right answers.
Sadly, money does often talk pretty loudly, and legally. Donate oodles to build a cardiac wing at a major hospital and you’ll be taken first at their ER, even if someone is dying of a heart attack who got there first. Hire a high-priced lawyer to get your 17-year-old out of a DUI charge, and it likely will be dismissed, even if another less-privileged teen in the courtroom is being led to a holding cell for the same charge.
I get it. I may not always like it, but I get it! That’s the way “the system” often works. But my tolerance stops at rich people who resort to lying, cheating and manipulating the system, in addition to throwing around their money to get what they want. That’s clearly the case with the college scandal that just broke. If your child isn’t qualified enough to get into one of the country’s leading universities, and you bribe someone to doctor her SAT scores, what will you do when she’s about to flunk out of the school that accepted her? Besides robbing a deserving kid of a place at the university, your bribe actually hurts your daughter’s chance of success. Why didn’t Felicity instead give a handsome donation to a second-tier college, where her daughter may have had a better shot at being admitted, and succeeding? Come to think of it, that’s a form of “bribe” too. But at least it doesn’t put you behind bars.
What’s more, your money likely won’t benefit the person who accepted it. My son loves this quote from The Jungle, which says it best: “They must not give up what was right for a little money—if they did, the money would never do them any good.”
Lori Loughlin, the other actress caught up in this mess, did a video with her daughter in 2017 where she claimed she never wanted to push her “beyond her limits” and always told her to do the best she could. “We said ‘give it your all, that’s all you can do.’ We put so much stress on kids and a lot of it is unnecessary. I never overscheduled my kids. I gave them time to sit in their playroom and use their imagination,” Lori stressed. When you think about it, Lori wasn’t lying. Why put stress on your children to succeed when you can bribe someone to make them look good?
A man in a high government position often brags about the distinguished schools he attended half a century ago and how smart he is, but he reportedly had letters sent to his high school and college forbidding them from releasing his transcripts. Curious that he wouldn’t want anyone to see grades that affirm how brilliant he is. Perhaps his wealthy dad donated a hefty sum to the university he attended because sonny isn’t as smart as he now claims. Which leads to a whole other truism: You don’t have to be smart to succeed.
I sincerely believe that every one of us deserves to earn as much money as we can for our talents, hard work and smart ideas. Good for you if you live in a mansion, travel the oceans in your own yacht and wear Chanel from head to toe. But money should not qualify anyone to get the best education, health care or legal advice. A smart, driven person from a poor family, a sick person with no insurance, and an uneducated person falsely accused of a crime deserve the same opportunities, protections and advantages as you and I.
Of course, that’s not the reality in which we live. We’re not on a level playing field. Our society gives people like Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin huge advantages. The fact that they’d try to game the system on top of those advantages is just rotten. Shame on them.