As Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation, his screed on “the economy of exclusion and inequality" has greatly disappointed those who consider themselves to be religious "free-market capitalists" --- especially those who benefit from the current status quo, and who work tirelessly trying to convince everybody else that our free markets aren't fraudulent markets.
Actually, the best form of capitalism requires government (regulations, laws and taxes) because capitalism benefits from the strong protections it receives by our laws and courts (including the tax code, that currently, greatly favors the ultra-wealthy and large corporations.)
But the Pope's message is not about discarding capitalism, or hating money, or even profits; it’s about pursuing profits ethically, and rejecting the premise that exploitation should be at the center of profit. When financial executives say they can't get ahead without some cheating, even though they want to work for ethical organizations, there’s a real problem.
A report, sponsored by CFA Institute, finds 53% of financial services executives say that adhering to ethical standards inhibits career progression at their firm (Here's the full 30-page report). A former Wall Street trader describes why.
"After a few years on Wall Street it was clear to me: you could make money by gaming anyone and everything. The more clever you were, the more ingenious your ability to exploit a flaw in a law or regulation, the more lauded and celebrated you became. Nobody seemed to be getting called out. No move was too audacious. It was like driving past the speed limit at 79 MPH, and watching others pass by at 100, or 110, and never seeing anyone pulled over."
Inequality has been growing in the U.S. since the 1970s. Economist Emmanuel Saez found that the incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% in the three years after the financial crisis, while the majority of people struggled with a disappointing economy. The other 99% of the population grew their incomes by a measly 0.4% during the same period, while the cost-of-living marched on.
As a result, federal and state spending on social welfare programs has been forced to grow to $1 trillion, just to handle the volume of U.S. households in trouble (many times they as "wage subsidies" for businesses like Walmart). Yet income inequality has been locked out of the mainstream economic conversation, where it is seen largely as a sideshow for "progressive bleeding hearts". (Read more at Raw Story).
The mainstream media has attempted to marginalize organizations like Occupy Wall Street, because the media themselves are part of the corporate elite that also benefits from the current status quo --- just 6 corporations control 90% of the media.
The Pope's comments from his 224-page Manifesto apparently got deeply under the skin of many conservatives, such as Fox Business host Stuart Varney, who said:
"Capitalism, in my opinion, is a liberator. The free choice of millions of people is the essence of freedom. In my opinion, society benefits most when people are free to pursue their own self-interest. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it is not. When individuals are free, we collectively are better off in every way, financially and spiritually."
But as an article in the Daily Kos pointed out, it doesn't seem to matter to people like Stuart Varney that Pope Francis didn't criticize people's "freedoms" or "self-interests"; the Pope criticized the financial markets and the manipulation of those markets, using financial speculation.
It's not by accident that Varney gets this wrong, because he's a knave --- a lapdog of the markets. His job is to make sure that his true religion (unfettered greed) is never in question and is ever criticized. And if that person's veracity and character has to be destroyed, then so be it. It just becomes a little more difficult when that person is the Holy Pontiff.
Stuart Varney uses an antiquated argument when an earlier form of capitalism once was the great liberator --- back in the 1950s-60s, when the CEOs were paid much less and the uber-rich and large corporations were taxed much more --- and when workers' wages were more fair and equitable. The middle-class in America was born after WWII and peaked about 1979, before its decent today. Times have changed since "the old days" that Varney was referencing.
And it's odd that Varney used the word "collectively", when collectively, we have not been better off --- it's wealthy people like himself (net worth $10 million) and other Fox News hosts (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, John Stossel and Neil Cavuto) who are far more better off than everyone else.
The multi-millionaire Rush Limbaugh also admitted to being “befuddled” by the Pope's harsh words about "unfettered capitalism" in the Pope's latest Evangelii Gadium. Broadcasting from his beachfront mansion in Palm Beach on his radio show Rush said, "This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope". And Rush complained that the Vatican "couldn’t exist without tons of money". If Dwight D. Eisenhower were our President today, financial dictators like Rush Limbaugh would also say that Ike was a Socialist.
Just as the Pope had debunked the myth of "trickle down" economics, in an article for Business Insider, a rich investor and entrepreneur named Nick Hanauer also explains very thoroughly (but simply) why the rich don't create jobs, debunking the "job creator" myth as well.
Pope Francis has begun to let the truth out of the bag about the Ayn Rand worship of money (the "job creators'" Golden Calf) that is so prevalent in society today. That is, of course, the last thing that the Republican conservative right-wing corporate protectors want, because it would grant moral, ethical and political legitimacy to many progressive efforts to reduce income inequality and to improve the lot of the working-class, middle-class and poor. The GOP, Fox News and people like Rush Limbaugh only worships and protects the interest of the ultra-rich. But God must love poor people too, because He made so many of us.
New Wisdom on Wealth
- Henry Blodget, Sorry, Folks, Rich People Actually Don't 'Create The Jobs,' Business Insider, November 29, 2013. What does: an economy where most folks enjoy financial security.
- Bob Lord, Estate Taxes: Down to 1 Percent and Sinking, Inequality.Org, November 26, 2013. Why the estate tax is no longer braking the transfer of princely fortunes from one generation to the next.
- John Cavanagh and Robin Broad, Six of the Top Ten U.S. Billionaires Are Kochs and Waltons, AlterNet, November 26, 2013. These two families stand in the way of America's two most urgent tasks: transforming our economy and cleaning up our politics.
- John Harkinson, Why Are Big Retailers Trying to Kill Thanksgiving? Mother Jones, November 27, 2013. The only mega retailer to resist turkey day sales turns out to be Costco, the mega retailer with the smallest pay gap between execs and workers.
- Suzanne Moore, Boris Johnson's philosophy isn't just elitist — it's sinister, Guardian, November 28, 2013. London's mayor seems well on the way to becoming the world's most unabashed apologist for inequality.
- Anthony Hall, CEO pay just reflection of America’s economic apartheid, Florida Courier, November 28, 2013. We've gone from the 1950s, a time when CEOs had vested interests in their communities, to today an era with CEOs interested only in their share value.