& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & ime for another peek into Lifestyles of the Rich and Cranky. Those of us in the riff-raff class rarely realize how hard life is for the rich. I don't mean the merely rich, but the richy-rich -- the billionaire class. Yes, if you're one of them, you've got half a dozen luxurious houses around the world, servants galore, private jets and helicopters, your own chef, and... well, anything you want. But what if you don't make it?
The "it" is the list -- the annual Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans. This is the ultimate social register, the measure of whether your wealth is really "wow" or just common. Well, this year's list has come out, and even being a billionaire no longer assures you of making the cut. In fact, being at the very bottom of the list, the 400th richest American, now requires $1.3 billion in wealth. This means that 82 certified American billionaires failed to qualify. How embarrassing is that? You can practically feel their pain, can't you?
Part of the problem for run-of-the-mill billionaires is that a horde of Wall Street speculators have recently zoomed to a level of & uuml;ber-wealth, thanks to the unregulated schemes of hedge-fund managers and private equity executives. Of the 45 newcomers to this year's Forbes list, half made their bundles in such schemes. With these operators pocketing billions of bucks, such regulars as the honcho of Starbucks and an heiress to the Campbell Soup fortune were bumped right off the Forbes list. It's a cruel world.
Interestingly, these high-flying Wall Streeters have been lobbying furiously in Washington to stave off any regulation of their financial flimflammery and, especially, to forestall efforts to tax their pots of gold. After all, if they were to be regulated and taxed -- even at the low level of other billionaires -- they'd be less likely to make next year's list.