Ewww … ick!

Is Columba Bush running for something? If not, why is her taste in jewelry newsworthy?

C’mon, folks! Is Columba Bush running for something? No? Then why don’t Karen Tumulty and Alice Crites of the Washington Post mind their own beeswax? “Wife of rich guy likes fancy jewelry” isn’t exactly man-bites-dog.  

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Ewww … ick!”

  1. Sorry Mark, I think you whiffed this one. The issue is not Columba Bush. It's that people of great wealth live in a different world than most Americans.

    By and large, of course, we're quite content to allow the truly wealthy to pretend to be populists. (Remember when W would relax by clearing brush on the ranch.) But Columba Bush seems to have a bit of a spending problem, a problem that the family can keep hidden because of their rather spectacular wealth. (In this regard, please note that I believe her when she says that she lied to customs agents because she wanted to keep her husband in the dark about her spending habits. The Bush family is wealthy, but generally avoids being ostentatious about it. Columba violated this Family Rule.)

    The income of the median U.S. household was $51,900 in 2013. In 2000, according to the article, Mrs. Bush purchased "a $25,600 pair of diamond stud earrings set in platinum; an 18-karat white-gold and diamond bracelet by the Italian designer Bulgari, priced at $10,500; an 18-karat white-gold and diamond necklace, costing $3,200; and another pair of diamond earrings, for $3,300." This story hits home in a way that the massive statistical evidence and eloquence of, say, Piketty cannot. It illustrates in a concrete and specific way the widening gap in wealth and income between the very rich and the rest of us.

    1. Jewelry isn't consumed, like caviar or first-class flights. It's an extremely bad investment: the resale value is something like half the sticker price.. Is she'd bought a Cézanne, it wouldn't even necessarily be a bad one. Call it "conspicuous investment".

    2. I'm with Stewie. I wouldn't put her in jail for it, but I thought lying was supposed to be bad. And I guess she'd have had to pay some kind of tax on the jewelry, too? There shouldn't be two laws for rich and poor. And in fact, if it were up to me, I would nail rich people harder for tax evasion, on the theory that they have less excuse and should be setting an example. (Remember when prominent people were supposed to do that?) Though again, I'm not big on the jail thing for stuff like this.

      I'm sure she's a lovely person in general though. But it *is* newsworthy, though perhaps not frontpage. (And I'm someone who seldom reads Maureen Dowd, Meghan Daum or Jonah Goldberg. I don't have time for mere personality-based chitchat. Unless it is about someone way more interesting.)

      1. Sure, if she committed a crime or a civil offense she should be subject to the law. That in no way means that it belongs anywhere in the newspaper except maybe the police blotter. It does not merit any additional publicity because of who she's married to.

  2. The authors have chutzpah. From the article: "While spouses are not on the ballot, they too find their lifestyles the focus of curiosity"

    Wonder how they "find" themselves in that situation, passive voice construction and all? Could it be that people like the authors actively examine their lifestyle and put it in the paper?

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