Wealth gone bad

Friday, June 19
Posted 9 a.m. EDT

Pity the wealthy-gone-bad or, if not, at least anyone unlucky enough to be associated with them. According to an article in The New York Times, Ruth Madoff gets no respect. Worse, she can't even get a hair appointment.

The wife of notorious Ponzi-scheme kingpin Bernie Madoff has not been charged with a crime, but she has been banished to a social netherworld in the aftermath of the spectacular, $65 billion financial fraud engineered by her husband, who will be sentenced later this month.

While her Manhattan penthouse could hardly be considered a prison, Ruth reportedly confines herself inside, away from even her family. Those who perceive her as enjoying the spoils of stolen wealth harbor no sympathy.

According to the article, the spokeswoman for Ruth's hair salon said too many clients at the salon had been swindled, and one of the owners told Ruth they could no longer service her, even at her home. She is also avoiding the pricey restaurants and gym she used to frequent.

It's no secret that obscene amounts of wealth engender awe from the rest of us. Consider the example of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who recently ordered up the world's largest private yacht, the 557-foot Eclipse, to add to the other two yachts in his personal fleet. That scale of spending renders us slack jawed and starry-eyed at the sheer indulgence of it all.

But if turnabout is fair play, then the flip side of wealth's visibility is nothing short of ferocious. The victims of Bernie Madoff's crime, many of them now destitute, have made sure that his sins have been shouted from the rooftops. And in this recession, when we blame greed for much of the economic crisis, he's become a poster boy for our downfall -- a kind of modern-day Midas left to suffer the terrible irony of his quest for gold. Meanwhile, his nearest and dearest await not only his fate, but their own.

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