Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Great Thing About Having Been Poor

If you grow up in America, it's pretty rare if you don't love money. One of the first things I ever remember being punished for was stealing money. Five dollars, off my father's dresser. I was so little, I don't think I even knew it was wrong to take something that wasn't specifically mine -- I recall this being my introduction to the concept of "larceny is bad." But somehow, I knew it was good to have cash.


After I left my middle class household at 18, standard of living took a real tumble for a while. At Cornell, I had no money, and boy did I look it. They called where I lived the last three years Collegetown, but Collegetown was really slums in a rural setting. Landlords did not have to work that hard in Ithaca, N.Y. -- every year, there was fresh supply of eager tenants among the students who didn't want to live in a sorority or fraternity. It was a sweet market for a slumlord.

But even that looked good compared to what was waiting for me as I began my illustrious career as a standup comedian in New York City in 1979. First year I lived on 99th Street in Spanish Harlem, a five-floor walk up, toilet down the hall. No shower -- a tub that sat in the kitchen with a snake-like attachment that hooked up to the kitchen sink. Walked home every night from the comedy clubs on the tony Upper East Side, watching the neighborhoods become poorer and scarier as I made my way north, and I'm sure the only reason I was never robbed was, they took one look at me and knew it wasn't worth the trouble. Sometimes, freedom really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

And yet, in a short 33 years, things had turned around enough so that I was able to give a million dollars to the super PAC of a certain mixed-race president who, I would like to remind all my overconfident progressive friends, does NOT have this election in the bag. And a lot of people this last week have said the same thing to me: "You're not picking up the drinks tonight?"

The great thing about having been poor is how liberated it makes you if you eventually become rich. There's nothing like the knowledge that you don't need money to survive. That the money cushion you lie on every night doesn't have to be three feet thick, and you can still get to sleep.

Other people seemed surprised I had a million dollars, which amused me. I've had a television show since 1993; television pays well -- I may even have another million lying around somewhere. Every year when I visit my accountant in December to see how the year went, he always says I'm the best saver of all his clients, which amazes me, because I feel like I deprive myself of absolutely nothing. I once asked him, what do your other clients spend their money on? Because I know who some of his other clients are, and I know they make WAY more than I do. He said that what they spend their money on is always changing, and that's not even the point -- the point is, however much money they make that year, they always spend all of it! That's how they think: have money, spend it, because the real tragedy would be to die and have money left over.

Me? I just don't have expensive tastes I guess -- I don't collect cars or paintings or jewelry, and I gave up my heroin habit years ago. But I also know that, as I said when I presented that giant check to Priorities USA Action last Thursday at the end of my stand up special on Yahoo!, "This hurts!" I was trying to make the point that if I could do it, a lot of other people could do it a lot more easily than me. You know, the only place in America where the millionaires and billionaires are predominantly liberal is here in Hollywood -- with the possible exception of Silicon Valley and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. There's a reason that of the 16 billionaires that have contributed to super PACs this year, 14 have given to Republicans. It is generally the party of the rich. And in a post-Citizens United world, the party of the rich has an advantage like they've never had before. In 2008, the most you could give to a candidate was $2,300. Now it's Infinity. No, the election is not in the bag.


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26 comments:

Rich Goldstein said...

If there are still poor people everywhere, then none of us are all that rich anywhere.

Anonymous said...

You already flushed out this ungrateful beneficiary of everything America has to offer anyone:

Harold Simmons
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/22/harold-simmons-obama_n_1371642.html?ref=election-2012-blog

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bill for your contribution. I agree with you Obama doesn't have this election "in the bag". I am very concerned about how political agendas has been consuming the Judicial branch of our government. The next four years could easily see at least one Supreme Court Justice appointment.
Have always enjoyed your show pre and post 9-11. I started subscribing to HBO again when I heard that you were on their line-up. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I really appreciated your point about the benefits of having been poor before "making it." In my own life, I can remember having to go down to an emergency assistance center to get $ for food. ($9 was what they gave me, and I was ecstatic) I went on to become a lawyer at a national firm, which was great. But you know what? I STILL feel thankful every time I go in a grocery store and can put whatever I want in the cart. That, to me, defines having "made it." I can buy whatever groceries I want without having to worry about the cost.

Jim Grupe said...

What sickens me is the knowledge that the rich people can buy the minds of the non-rich with incessant TV advertising.

Forget the graduated income tax... what America needs is a graduated vote... where votes are counted in proportion to the IQ of the voter... or maybe just a short quiz at the top of the ballot.

Anonymous said...

Bill,

It's not that you have a d*ck, it's that you are one.

cindy R said...

Bill how come Canadians can't log on to your site, they need zip codes and we have postal codes. I had to say mine was 90210. Tonight on your show you said something like Canadians are polite. Fuck you.We fight and fuck just like the rest of the world. Now I'll apologize for saying fuck you because I like you, Bill. Keep up the good work, and could you ask hbo to also put in a place for postal codes so Canuck fucks can log on? Great show tonight. Now I'm fucking off to bed. Good night.

cindy R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cindy R said...

P.S. I am probably posting this at the wrong place. Yep being poor sucks. I am poor and it sucks. I stole from my mom's purse too and bought candy when I was four. Larceny, oooh, that sounds so romantic than just being a little shit. I wish they would ditch the codes to enter a comment, one has to do them (me) quite a few times to get it submitted. Night folks. Rich and poor. Hey lawyer, share the wealth.

PATRICIA said...

I just felt 'unity' of thought when I read this. I am completely disabled and my husband died my final week of chemotherapy for advanced stage three colon cancer in January 03. I was alone and very ill while also being completely disabled from CFIDS/ME since 98. I thought disabled widow's benefits and our system of health care could provide for the in-home support I need to live a quality life. -- 'Wake up call' and here it is year ten where I am mostly ill in bed - the neglect of social workers waiting for me to reach age 60 in four years when the 'money' which will make them WANT to care about my life will become available, if I survive this ongoing neglect of coping alone in my home ill in bed with severe disability to see my 60'th birthday - I have a small savings account and boy, that tiny cushion is all that keeps my life afloat in this sea of slow death given to someone coping alone with severe disability. I had no idea at the time of my husband's death the Twilight Zone nightmare of inhumanity I would find myself left to the mercy of. Thanks to the internet linking us all together I have people willing to fight with indifferent social workers who are trying to leave me for dead until I reach the 'magic age' of 60 when they will appear at my front door with dollar signs in their eyes offering me needed in-home help - that is available NOW for me as a person living alone with severe disability but GREED keeps me faced with daily suffering from neglect that is completely and totally avoidable where with the support of in-home help, and not much is needed, my life as a disabled person would be one of quality. I guard my small savings account as the life support it is as I face daily reality of severe neglect only leaving me very ill in bed wondering when I will reach the place where I simply cannot survive this nightmare any longer. My small 'cushion' of money allows me the right to breathe while social workers provide severe neglect leaving me ill in bed dragging their feet until my 60th birthday when dollar signs will flood their eyes and they will appear at my front door willing, at last, to help, after thirteen years of severe neglect leaving me ill in bed. For the good -- I am thankful.

Skylab said...

No, it's not in the bag. The etch a sketch is a very real thing. Romney won in Massachusetts. He has boat loads of money and Americans are not very bright or deep thinking. They are not rich because of the government. Too many believe this and believe that if they suck up to the rich guys, they too will be wealthy. And they (repubs) want it more. They want this one so bad there is almost nothing they wouldn't do for it. They know they lose congress next time (9%) and the next president will take the credit for the economic comeback which could guarantee the White house for the next twelve years. Here that supreme court?

Conan of Sacramento said...

There is no thing great about being poor. The only redeeming property of poverty is subjecting my enemies to it. Its much worse than death.

OccupyTVNY said...

Occupy The Courts - A Conversation with Lawrence Lessig and Chris Hedges
OccupyTVNY
http://www.occupytvny.org/

jdnow said...

In response to the person who wrote, "hey lawyer, share the wealth" -- I am now permanently disabled due to an incurable brain disease. I'll never work - or have a normal conversation - again. You have a nice day, ok?

Ishmael said...

I worked all week and then on Sundays I watched other people ride the merry-go-round.

Unemployment did not cover evil cultists in those days, so the only place an out of work tattooed man could find work was the circus. And so, for a time, I became JoJo. The previous JoJo passed on the revered mantle of "JoJo-ness" to me, and it was with proud grace that I strutted onto the stage on my first day. Then it was "bastard little dirt throwers", like yourselves, that taught me what it really was to be a freak. After a year of that, I was a prisoner to my own low self esteem. One day though, it all changed, Tchernobog spoke to me, and did bid me to free myself from this mortal mockery. And so I did, but it was not easy...

Anonymous said...

we have billionaires spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbing and campaining, all to fight 1 million in extra tax. sound like we need to tax them alot higher. they are fine with wasting all that money on bad attack ads, instead of good roads and bridges. and the most important fact of all , " no one person needs that much money" just makes you a heartless , shamless, chidish pig

Anonymous said...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-27/wall-street-titans-outearned-by-media-czars.html

Anonymous said...

The best thing about having been poor is that none of the major crises we face are my fault.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Stratfor, the US-based private intelligence company, says that Senator John McCain's campaign knew that electoral fraud was going on in 2008 but chose to do nothing. What is going on now as President Obama faces changed circumstances?

Friday, April 20, 2012By Martin Barillas
http://www.speroforum.com/a/JHJAYHFXYL12/71410-Did-Democrats-hack-the-2008-Obama-election

According to emails obtained by WikiLeaks, which is led by the embattled Julian Assange, Republican Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign staff allegedly had evidence that Democrats stuffed ballot boxes in Pennsylvania and Ohio on election night. However, the candidate chose not to pursue voter fraud, according to internal emails obtained from the private intelligence and analysis firm, Stratfor.

Anonymous said...

Eric Holder et al seem to be the ones that do not care about two hundred dead Mexican and one dead American border patrol agent, Brian Terry (try mentioning him by name in your next set remarks about fast and furious). If they did then why not produce the documents that will help bring closure to the families of these victims. There compasion extends about as far a the nose on their face.
Your comment about these people and I assume you include Brian Terry, would be dead any is cold and callous.

Anonymous said...

Inside Job, Narrated by Matt Damon (Full Length HD)

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