Fitzgerald: "The rich are different from you and me."
Hemingway: "Yes, they have more money."
Such a conversation probably took place before the Great Depression and before many of the Roaring Twenties rich lost everything. Today, as Yogi Berra would say, the wealthy are suffering "déjà vu all over again." In that regard, they are no different than the rest of us.
The latest story of the rich getting poorer lands at the top of page 1 of the Wall Street Journal today, in an article about a huge default by a private investment firm led by Wall Street legend Bernard Madoff. His investors, all of them high-wealth individuals, may have lost upwards of $50 billion in what Madoff confided to his sons -- a day before they turned him in, according to the Journal -- was a giant "Ponzi scheme."
Many of the bilked are members of elite country clubs in Florida and on Long Island (NY). There is no telling what percentage of their net worth they invested with Madoff nor what effect, if any, these huge losses might have on membership rolls at the Palm Beach Country Club, Fresh Meadows Country Club on Long Island and the other clubs whose members considered big investments in Madoff's fund an emblem of status. But we can be sure that other golf clubs in Florida, struggling just to survive under the weight of the housing and economic crises, will be eager to offer deep discounts to those who may no longer be able to bear the expense of keeping up with the Joneses, or the Trumps.