By Jack Engelhard
Those who have read the book or seen the movie “Indecent Proposal” know what it’s about – what would you do for a million dollars? At the time that I wrote and published the novel back in the mid-1980s, a million dollars was real money. That’s how we defined RICH, by the millions.
Larry King (when I appeared on his radio show) asked me why I chose the figure a million dollars for a night of infidelity and before I could answer he agreed. He said, “That’s right. A million dollars is the magic word.” That was then and this is now, and how times have changed!
Suddenly, you are nothing if you are not a billionaire with a b. (I’m not changing a thing. A million dollars is still plenty in my book.)
Donald Trump is actually suing a man, a writer, who claims, in a book, that Trump is a mere millionaire. Trump says it’s ruining his image and his business.
Imagine that – we’ve arrived at a moment when being called a millionaire is an insult. (The rest of us should be so insulted.)
If you’ve been following the men who play with our money – Congress – you’ll recall that a generation ago when they discussed roads, dams and deficits (were there bailouts back then?) the talk was always in terms of millions, and the same was true of banks, which bragged about the millions they had in deposits.
Why – there was even a time when a thousand dollars was money. Your grandparents and maybe even your parents called it “a grand.”
Today, in all this talk between Congress and President Obama about who’s going to pay for this and that boondoggle they’ve pretty much agreed that “the rich” ought to pay for everything and that rich begins at a million dollars, maybe. They’re not sure and still deciding how to divvy up our blood, sweat and tears.
Well, it might help to remember that the man who sells me newspapers and tobacco most likely makes a million dollars a year a nickel at a time – but not personally. It’s the business. He spends almost as much as he takes in and he is not a bad man just because he makes a living and puts his kids through college. He also employs people, gives charity. We used to call this the economy, stupid.
There really is no defining wealth unless we agree with the Talmud that the person who is rich is the person who is happy with whatever he’s got.
That makes most of us poor. We can never be too rich or too thin – right?
Lottery winners don’t go jumping up and down unless they’ve hit a jackpot amounting to hundreds of millions, soon to be billions and finally trillions. That’s the trend. Almost every project now being discussed by our lawmakers suddenly costs trillions of dollars. This happened practically overnight. I never heard the word “trillion” until about three months ago. Suddenly it’s all over the place and we’re waiting for our first trillionaire.
My dictionary still has no definition for “trillionaire.” The word doesn’t exist, but it’s coming.
It does define trillion as, “The cardinal number represented by 1 followed by 12 zeroes.”
We’ve come a long way from Tevye who asked God to make him a rich man. Rich? Half an acre to plant his potatoes was rich for Tevye (and for most of our grandparents). .
A decade ago a leading New York magazine surveyed Manhattan bluebloods to find out where rich begins; it begins at $50 million.
Trump, in suing about that book, is fuming that according to writer Timothy O’Brien, he, Trump, ONLY has $250 million tucked away. That same survey, then, if taken these days, would define wealth as beginning with a billion dollars with a b. (“The cardinal number represented by 1 followed by 9 zeroes.”) Less than that and you’re a bum, also beginning with a b.
Bill Gates is worth around $60 billion last time I checked. (Actually, what is the difference between $60 million and $60 billion? I cannot fathom the one from the other.) Some say that Gates is really our first trillionaire and more power to him for all the money he’s giving up for charity.
He is so busy being truly generous that I doubt he’ll sue me for calling him a mere billionaire – which is always a good start toward real wealth.
About the author: Jack Engelhard’s latest thriller, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” which centers on media deceit against America and Israel with a Biblical twist, is available in paperback at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Bathsheba-Deadline-Original-Novel/dp/0595470793/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1248629852&sr=8-1
Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel “Indecent Proposal” that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. He can be reached at www.jackengelhard.com