The biggest threat to the children of the rich is the rich themselves. Like Bob Arnot, the former NBC medical correspondent, who made a frighteningly loopy fundraising pitch for Eaglebrook, a private junior boarding school:
What, exactly, does a fundraising email mean when it's accompanied by a picture of the sender with a gun? Send money or we'll shoot your kids?
Arnot's actual message, once decoded, was a bit more subtle. Arnot recently visited Somalia and met Rama, the most successful of the Somali pirates plaguing Ukrainian military transports and American cruiseliners. Drawing on that experience, he tried to argue that investing in piracy — like mortgage-bond peddlers, they too have financial backers — was a more likely bet than the success of Eaglebrook's fundraiser.
Arnot's letter is the best sign yet of the New Poorness — the desperation of rich people facing the prospect of being even slightly less rich, and the willingness of the wealthy to prey on each other (emotionally, for starters). Is Arnot really that different from the pirates he grudgingly admires?
Like father, like son. Eaglebrook, in Deerfield, Mass., serves students in grades six through nine; it takes both day students and boarders. Its website mentions the charitable activities of Arnot's son, Hayden Arnot, class of 2009. Will Hayden's school go under if his classmates' parents invest in Somali piracy futures rather than their beloved school? It surely doesn't help that Arnot is making the pirates sound like a safer way to go than, say, Bernie Madoff.