Saturday, March 10, 2007

The American Dream

Yet another Mexican determined to get into the Guinness Book of World Records: Carlos Slim, the world's third-richest man, is rapidly closing in on Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Really rapidly - his fortune increased an unprecedented 63% in the past year, to $49 billion (that's dollars, not pesos.) The minimum wage in Mexico is six bucks a day; last year, Slim made $2.2 million an hour. At that rate, he should knock off Gates before Thanksgiving.

Since the Mexican government has not yet officially enacted the new law decriminalizing libel and slander - and because a guy like Slim can probably disappear a couple of gringoes with a barely-perceptible nod of his head - let us be perfectly clear here: just because virtually every transaction we've engaged in during our short time in Mexico has been tainted by spectacular corruption and dishonesty, we have no reason to assume that a man raking in $18 million a day is doing so by any means other than honest sweat of his brow. And, of course, by wetting his beak:

When Mexicans talk on the phone or use the Internet, they're almost certainly doing it through a company controlled by Slim....Mexicans buy cigarettes from Slim's tobacco company, apply for mortgages at his bank and purchase policies at his insurance firm. Shoppers patronize his department stores, eat at his restaurants and browse for CDs at his music outlets.

Travelers fly his discount airline. Industrialists buy his auto parts, electronics, steel and ceramic tile. The government hires his infrastructure firm to build highways, water treatment plants and oil platforms. More than 250,000 Mexican employees draw paychecks from his companies.

...His current net worth is equivalent to nearly 6% of his nation's gross domestic product, a feat unmatched even by America's robber barons at the height of their influence.

Normally, we wouldn't begrudge a man his $49 billion - we're just one $48,999,964,500 payday short of this ourselves, you know - except that Telmex, his phone monopoly, so totally and completely sucks ass. The quality is terrible, the service intermittent, the customer-service nonexistent and the cost is exorbitant. We spent $70 last month for a phone we used only for ordering two pizzas. Our friend David was just over here using our phone to ask Telmex why his phone isn't working. Telmex's robot insists his number doesn't exist, and likely charged us two bucks to tell him this - plus $12 for the pizza that I'm sure we've just accidentally ordered.

Carlos Slim: the man who makes us root for Bill Gates.

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