WILTON, CT—Michael Chandler looks out the windows of his sun room, past the swimming pool and guest cottage, to the wide backyard where his two children are playing with their pet dalmatian, Scotty. At a time when Americans everywhere are sharing the struggle of a once-in-a-generation recession, Chandler can't help but wonder how he and his family fell through the cracks.
"It's just not fair," said the 49-year-old real estate developer and grandson of oil baron Duncan Chandler. "Everyone is worrying about an uncertain future and coming together to express their outrage, and I don't get to be a part of it."
Staring out at the ornate garden where workers were installing a large marble fountain, Chandler sighed and added, "It's like I don't even exist."
According to the multimillionaire, the past 18 months have been incredibly difficult to endure, as he is often left feeling excluded from an American populace that includes millions who struggle every day to make ends meet. Chandler, who watched helplessly as his enormous fortune easily withstood the market freefall, has been "completely left out" of one of this nation's most significant cultural moments.
"Everybody's suffering," Chandler said. "And here I am, not scrimping and saving at all, with no demoralizing periods of financial hardship, or frantic weeks living paycheck to paycheck. What about me, you know? Where's my struggle?"
"Everyone's supposed to get a fair shake at this misery," Chandler added. "Even incredibly wealthy people of privilege like me."
Throughout the economic downturn, Chandler has tried to tap into the recession and experience some of the sorrow and widespread desperation he has so cruelly been denied. Sadly, all of his attempts have been thwarted by his seemingly insurmountable stack of riches.
According to longtime financial adviser Ben Schultz, Chandler "constantly" inquires as to whether any of his diversely invested mutual funds are losing money, but is always let down.
"Michael's portfolio is better than ever, to be honest," Schultz told reporters. "In fact, his only real connection to the recession is that he helped to cause it by artificially inflating home prices and making millions off unstable derivatives trading."
Chandler has been so devastated by his inability to feel the same anguish and hopelessness the rest of the country is enduring that he took the extraordinary step last week of speaking openly with a chauffeur about how hard the recession has been on everyone. He even went so far as to tip the driver 50 percent less than usual in an attempt to show the man that he, too, was hurting financially.
"I kept waiting for him to say, 'Well, times are tough on all of us,' or 'Who isn't feeling the pinch these days, eh?'" Chandler said. "But he just seemed really angry."
Despite his best efforts, Chandler told reporters he knows that someday the crisis uniting so many of his fellow Americans will pass, and that the far-reaching anger will give way to the worship of money that preceded it.
But until then, he admitted, it will hurt to be excluded.
"Every month they announce tens of thousands of layoffs," Chandler said, "and every time, I'm not one of them. No matter what I say or do, it'll never be me. My only memory of this historic point in time will be the prosperity I have always known."
Added Chandler, "Dear God, when's this recession going to end?"