Rich People, Poor People

“If you’re really rich, you can buy your doctors,” she says. “Mike Ovitz famously bought a couple of cardiac surgeons.”

“You don’t have anything like that, do you?” I say.

“No, of course not,” says Ellen.

Thank God, I think. Becoming aware of what’s just out of your reach can be disconcerting. It’s comforting to know that having my own doctors would be massively out of my reach.

“But I know a guy who knows a guy,” says Ellen. “I’m at a level where I don’t have to suffer. I’ve been sick. I had cancer. If you have money, you call the guy who knows the guy who’s the head of the department. The truth is, rich people with cancer versus everyone else with cancer? Longer life! And I didn’t think about bills at all! I have a bill? I throw it in the box. And that box goes to my business manager. This is a key item if you have money. You don’t look at the bills. When I got money, I vowed, ‘Never again will I suffer the small stuff.’ To me paying a bill is the small stuff. ‘I don’t care how the fuck it happens; someone pay that fucking thing!’ It’s a good feeling.”

GQ correspondent Jon Ronson interviewed five people from different income levels, ranging from a dishwasher living off $200 a week to a billionaire living off $625,000 a week, and the vignettes he provides of these people’s lives are fascinating. The dishwasher living off $200 a week in Miami, and the couple living off $900 a week in Des Moines live similar lives in that they both leave their homes to go only to work or church because they can’t afford to do much else (though the couple can afford to live in a nicer and safer neighborhood). The wealthy people in Ronson’s story mostly worry about being considered “an enemy of the state,” or receiving letters from people they know begging for money. To Ronson’s credit, he also puts himself into the story by revealing that he earns $250,000 a year (he’s a successful author), but worries about paying his taxes and bills like everyone else. Well, relatively.

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