Straight From The Boss’ Mouth
November 7, 2019 9:33 AM   Subscribe

“ Ricketts is representative of a different, and far less chronicled, American elite — plutocrats who are culturally conservative, who don’t live on the coasts (having spent most of his life in Nebraska, he now lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, about as far from the major cities his news sites covered as one can get), who don’t embrace fame or glamour, whose businesses aren’t particularly hip, but who form the real base for Trump and other Republicans. Subjecting ourselves to Ricketts’ own self-conception can help us understand what the media industry, and democracy itself, are up against.” The Heartland Billionaire Destroying the Working Class (Medium: Gen)
posted by The Whelk (30 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
If Ricketts in Jackson Hole, that means he lives in Teton County which is the only county in Wy that goes blue with each presidential election.
posted by Ber at 10:01 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I was going to point out that Jackson Hole is kind of the Wyoming version of the "elite" coastal city.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:35 AM on November 7 [8 favorites]


Ricketts seems awfully breezy about (among other things) driving drunk, and about a bread worker's body part ending up in a loaf. Must be nice to live that way, free of conscience.
posted by witchen at 10:42 AM on November 7 [30 favorites]


I'm not one to put faith in nominative determinism but it seems appropriate for a person named Ricketts to devote himself and his wealth to attacking the interior of the country in order to weaken it and make it vulnerable.
posted by at by at 10:58 AM on November 7 [12 favorites]


I met Joe Ricketts once.

I was at his Christmas party in New York, in the penthouse of some building near Columbus Circle. I was a +1 for my friend who worked for one of the news sites mentioned in the article that Ricketts purchased and subsequently slaughtered.

He spent his whole evening, as far as I could tell, watching the antics of a stage magician he must have hired for the event. He was just endlessly amused by this guy and his (admittedly impressive) sleight of hand — and he loved the fact that there was a whole knot of people standing around to be fooled by these tricks.

So yeah.
posted by saturday_morning at 10:58 AM on November 7 [13 favorites]


Along similar lines (billionaires in the "heartland" screwing over working people), I highly recommend Kochland which goes into a lot of detail on both the Koch business empire and also how they have infiltrated politics.
posted by elmay at 10:59 AM on November 7 [8 favorites]


But now we have the opportunity to understand Ricketts in his own words, thanks to his new book, infuriatingly titled The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get: An Entrepreneur’s Memoir.
So pretentious.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:24 AM on November 7 [6 favorites]


You know the way Kendrick Lamar says "Fuck that"? That's what got in my head as I read details of this guy's self-narrative and what he's done to local news sites.

I've been subscribed to WNYC's newsletters for a couple years, and I recently started getting the Gothamist ones and had meant to read up on how things were going with the site. My thought when I saw the first one was, wait, Gothamist is back?! I'm glad.
posted by limeonaire at 12:24 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get ...

None of these guys ever think that luck has anything to do with their success, it's all about hard work. That way they can criticize anyone less successful as obviously lazy.
posted by octothorpe at 12:42 PM on November 7 [18 favorites]


> None of these guys ever think that luck has anything to do with their success, it's all about hard work. That way they can criticize anyone less successful as obviously lazy.

Just World Fallacy
posted by CheapB at 12:46 PM on November 7 [13 favorites]


None of these guys ever think that luck has anything to do with their success, it's all about hard work. That way they can criticize anyone less successful as obviously lazy.

All these guys love to claim they work 150 hour weeks, but someone got a few to break down their time into specific activities and it turns out that they spend about the same amount of time as any white-collar worker on regular job tasks but also count stuff like having lunch/dinner/drinks with rich friends and even just working out as part of their time spent hard at work which justifies their outrageous compensation. Right this second, Elon Musk is almost certainly shitposting on Reddit or Twitter or somewhere and mentally counting that as significantly more difficult and dangerous work than the people narrowly avoiding injury on the production line at his Tesla factories.
posted by Copronymus at 1:00 PM on November 7 [55 favorites]


extreme wealth is less satisfying than being the boss

This is a really key thing to understand. They don't hate unions because they'll get less money, they hate unions because they have less power over their employees.
posted by PMdixon at 1:22 PM on November 7 [40 favorites]


> Must be nice to live that way, free of conscience.

Almost anyone can earn an honest dollar. It's much, much harder to earn an honest billion of them, however. Maybe impossible.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 1:24 PM on November 7 [10 favorites]


In San Francisco, his preferred vice was to go out with his fellow trainees, all men, “to drink and joke and flirt harmlessly with the waitresses.”

I feel pretty certain that "flirt harmlessly" = supply relentless and unwanted drunken sexual harassment to the service workers unfortunate enough to have a shift when you and your bros decide to male-bond
posted by thelonius at 1:36 PM on November 7 [35 favorites]


Note: perfectly okay to get shitfaced when it's "just beer", and drinking 12 beers in an evening with the boys is "not a problem".
posted by briank at 1:46 PM on November 7 [7 favorites]


I'm a big guy and I couldn't drink 12 beers in an evening if I wanted to. Not even close. I just did a quick calculation and a dozen beers at my weight over say four hours would put me at 0.1375% which is at vomiting levels of intoxication. I'm not sure that I'd brag about that in my memoir.
posted by octothorpe at 1:58 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


yeah it's not really a "social drinker" level of imbibitude
posted by thelonius at 2:23 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I was interviewed for a position that I didn't get a Uline, which is owned by the Uihleins, who, as far as I can tell, are just like Ricketts with the exception of being in a business that doesn't have the opportunity to defraud people and throwing their shit fits over the town that they live in. In fact, when I first read the link title (before going back up to read the rest), I thought it was about them. I figure there's got to be more. Lucky people from the midwest who believe they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and are pissed as hell at coastal people for not acknowledging their genius. People willing to drop millions into a local election to get what they want.

I'm not saying there's many of these people. And some are trying, like Buffett, to be at least somewhat responsible with the immoral billions they've raked in. (Yes, even Buffett's money is made by exploiting and hurting people.). But theses are the true base for Donald Trump. Not the fascists and don't care about the fascists participants at his rallies. Not the people he conned into thinking he was going to bring back heavy manufacturing. But this small group of billionaires, a club he's tried to fake his way into. They know he's a fraud. But they don't care, he's going to get them more money.
posted by Hactar at 4:02 PM on November 7 [12 favorites]


There does seem to be a level of net worth where there is an inflection point where people go from having morals and standards of living broadly similar to "normal" society, just with more toys, to ready to fuck over anyone and everyone to make a buck, even if getting that dollar takes a million dollars from others.

Somewhere between $10 million or so and $100 million is where people's brains seem to break. Obviously, exceptions exist in both directions, but in general I have yet to have the heuristic fail among those I have personally known at some point in my life.
posted by wierdo at 4:37 PM on November 7 [13 favorites]


Yeah, given his ludicrously anti-union (and generally anti-worker) stance, I'd probably put Wisconsin-based John Menard, Jr., founder of the Menards hardware store chain, in the same category as this guy. From his wiki page:
Menard has a pronounced hostility towards organized labor. He imposed an absolute ban on hiring anyone who had ever belonged to a union. One employee described having to fire two promising management prospects because they had worked in high school as baggers for a unionized supermarket. Managers at Menards are subject to 60 percent pay cuts if their store becomes unionized. Managers also have to agree to pay fines of $100 per minute for infractions such as opening late and to submit any disputes to management-friendly arbitration rather than legal courts.
posted by mhum at 4:45 PM on November 7 [20 favorites]


“I believe unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed”
Hey, man, I believe the same thing about all the profits going to private owners.
posted by clawsoon at 5:57 PM on November 7 [32 favorites]


I've just been looking at Forrest & Charlotte Lucas, owners of Lucas Oil, who probably aren't billionaires but well into the $100 millions.

Also he is founder and main funder of "Protect the Harvest" which opposes animal rights groups like . . . the Humane Society.

Lucas also played a key role in arranging for Trump to pardon Dwight & Steven Hammond for their arson convictions. Those convictions were part of the decades of tensions that led to the 2016 Bundy & cronies takeover and subsequent standoff in Oregon.
posted by flug at 8:36 PM on November 7 [9 favorites]


Also in Missouri we have Rex Sinquefeld, who has single-handedly taken on reforming Missouri's tax and political systems to his personal liking. He's also funding a group to study unification of St Louis City & County (which of all the things he supports is about the only one I wouldn't personally vehemently oppose) and he's being a recent scheme to try to privatize the St Louis region's international airport, and resulting scandal.

Note that Sinquefeld isn't mentioned by name in that article, but in fact he is funding both the "nonpartisan" commission investigating the possibility of privatizing the airport, and also the consultants working on it, and also a nonprofit promoting it.

All to the tune of $800,000/month.

Yeah.
posted by flug at 8:45 PM on November 7 [8 favorites]


Previously on Ricketts family's leaked emails (mentioned in the article). The emails are definitely worth the read. I was surprised to learn that the Ricketts really are true believers.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:02 PM on November 7 [4 favorites]


Part of what bugs me about billionaires is that it might be relevant for me to know or care whether this clown really believes in Jesus or not. It’s not just the way massively hoarded wealth distorts an economy: although that’s catastrophically bad in itself, at least it is a natural consequence of the hoarding. It’s the way he claims an outsized right to dictate what other people value as spoils of his hoarding, and in mainstream America we rarely even question that. There’s no way to justify the ethics of allowing a person to earn the right to tell others what they value. Just like anybody else, his opinions are going to range from “nobody’s business” (religion) to "grossly unqualified” (what parts of “Western Civilization” need “saving” and by what means?) to "blatantly self-serving" (unions).

This becomes especially tooth-grinding for me when it comes to the breezy, thoughtless way privileged people claim that private charity can replace public welfare. It sounds at least sort of neutral-ish stated that way, and probably sounds nice to them in the same way that opposing the HPV vaccine helps them imagine a world in which their daughters will never have sex except with that virgin choir boy she will eventually marry. The reality, though, is that relying on private charity means we let the rich hoard all the money, and then we let them decide, because it’s “their money,” who among the rest of society is worth preserving.

That’s just horrifying, imagining (hell, living in) a world where a person and his circumstances need to be marketable for him to stand a chance of getting help. What about having a lot of money qualifies a person to make such decisions across the rest of society?

But a guy like Ricketts, he doesn’t see the horror. He even says, it’s not about the money, it’s that he likes to be “the boss,” which is an impulse I can’t even begin to comprehend (and I’ve long since come to recognize I’m the odd one there—most people could be shift-manager at a McDonalds without feeling incredibly gross about their relationship to the people working on the shift; I can’t). For all their libertarian-cranking blather about “freedom” and “individuality” they really crave a world where they can afford to deprive everybody else of those things, and way too often, we let them.
posted by gelfin at 8:05 AM on November 8 [14 favorites]


"Right this second, Elon Musk is almost certainly shitposting on Reddit or Twitter or somewhere and mentally counting that as significantly more difficult and dangerous work than the people narrowly avoiding injury on the production line at his Tesla factories."

When I do it, it's time theft. When my boss does it, it's "hard work" and "being a thought leader."*


*Not actually referring to myself or my boss specifically here, but you get the point.
posted by asnider at 8:41 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


Chicago sports fans have a lot of thoughts about the Ricketts.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:07 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


gelfin: This becomes especially tooth-grinding for me when it comes to the breezy, thoughtless way privileged people claim that private charity can replace public welfare.

Communism will never work because people are so selfish, and also welfare can be replaced by private charity because people are so generous.
posted by clawsoon at 8:09 PM on November 8 [8 favorites]


Not to derail too much but his son Pete is the governor of Nebraska. This is what kind of a shitbird Pete and Joe are:

"In 2015, the state legislature voted to repeal the death penalty, overriding governor Pete Ricketts' veto. However, a petition drive secured enough signatures to suspend the repeal until a public vote. In the November 2016 general election, voters rejected the repeal measure, preserving capital punishment in the state."

Who funded fully 1/3 of that petition drive? Why, the Ricketts family, of course. They're not just influencing politics behind the scenes, they're opening their collective wallets and spraying money around so that the state has "the moral high ground" which apparently means "what the Ricketts family likes."
posted by ensign_ricky at 8:50 AM on November 9 [4 favorites]


Where's that 91% tax bracket and/or severe wealth tax when we really need it?
posted by ensign_ricky at 9:57 AM on November 9


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