Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yes Dammit, Spread the Wealth Around!

If they won't invest in America and hire American workers, then tax them.

Spreading the wealth is like sharing a loaf of bread with's a good thing. But the propaganda that has been put out for many decades by the wealthiest and most powerful among us has demonized this concept of sharing, equating it to evil and communism (and we know how Stalin and Mao mass-murdered their own people).

Media pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck who spew their fear-mongering would have you think that taxing the rich is akin to a socialistic plot to destroy America. Pure nonsense. Tax rates during Dwight D. Eisenhower's time was 3 times higher than they are today, and he was just as American and patriotic as anyone I've ever read about in U.S. history (and he was a Republican too).

And Ronald Reagan, another Republican, despite his misguided ideas about economics, knew that responsible governments needed taxation to fund government, and that millionaires should pay their fair share. We ARE government. And if we're "bigger government", it's mostly because our population has grown by a third -- over 100 million on the last 40 years...since I was 16 years old.

Greedy people don't want to pay fair wages or their fair share of taxes. Greedy people don't want to share at all. And not sharing is greedy, and greed is evil.

In the thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas, an Italian priest of the Catholic Church and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian, had wrote that greed was "a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things."

Greed or avarice, after all, is specifically cited as one of the Seven Deadly Sins by the Catholic Church. And Dante Alighieri's Inferno dedicates an entire circle of Hell to the painful punishment of the greedy. Greed or avarice was seen by the Church as sinful due to its overvaluation of the mundane, rather than immaterial or spiritual aspects of existence.

Avarice can describe various greedy behaviors such as betrayal or treason for personal gain, hoarding of material things or wealth ($2 trillion on the side lines in off-shore accounts), theft (such as all those on the TV show American Greed), robbery (such as the investment banks like Goldman Sachs), and fraudulent schemes such as Bernie Madoff's, designed to dishonestly manipulate others for personal profit.

Greed is about never being satisfied with what one has, always wanting and expecting more. It is an insatiable hunger. A profound form of gluttony.

Addiction is a form of greed. Addicts always want more of what gets them high, gives them pleasure, enables escape from anxiety, suffering, themselves. They greedily crave that which their substance or rituals of choice provide, be it drugs, sex, gambling, food, pornography, internet, television, fame, power or money.

We all have our own personal addictions to some varying degree, it's human nature: workaholism, rationalism, shopaholism, perfectionism etc. This is our futile attempt to fill a spiritual and emotional emptiness within, to gratify some long-buried need, to heal, or to at least numb some festering psychological wound.

Greed is a type of selfishness. And most of us are taught from childhood that selfishness is sinful, bad or evil. When does selfishness cross the line into egoism, self-indulgence, greed, sociopathy and pathological narcissism? When does one cross the line from being just stingy to evil?

How many "Gordon Gekkos" are there really in this world that truly believe that "greed is good"?

Is it Bill Gates with $59 billion, Warren Buffett with $39 billion, Larry Ellison (Oracle) with $33 billion, the Koch brothers with $25 billion each, George Soros with $22 billion, or Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands casino) with $21 billion? Who's good and who's evil?

Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" could have been about true hostile takeovers (Carl Icahn $13 billion), insider trading (Raj Rajaratnam $7 billion hedge fund), cold calling, investment banking (Goldman Sachs managing $720 billion) -- information asymmetries -- the language of so-called high finance permeates the world depicted in the movie Wall Street. The film has come to epitomize the culture of that center of financial transactions in the United States called by the same name. That's why the Occupy Wall Street protests are happening there today. Greed and corruption.

But if all the financial markets did was just move money from "weak" hands to "strong" hands, then it would be little more than the casino that many have claimed it to be.

What is the relationship of the financial sector to the so-called real economy? This is an important macroeconomic question. In Wall Street, Lou Mannheim tries, implicitly, to answer this question when he says to Bud Fox that "the money you make for people creates science and research jobs."

In fact, most of the trading in the financial markets has no direct effect on the capital available to industrial corporations, such as those producing tangible products, for building new plants, buying equipment, or hiring new workers (including those engaged in research and development).

Trading in existing equity and bonds simply moves money from one portfolio investor's hand to another such portfolio holder.

House Speaker John Boehner says that the markets need "certainty". In order for these markets in securities to work properly, most portfolio investors must be confident that the market is, for the most part, fair. That's why we have the SEC. So why does John Boehner and the Republicans want to further de-regulate it?

But how can greed ever be good if no jobs are being created and millions of people are either unemployed or earning sub-standard wages?

If someone such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs had used domestic workers (paying a living wage) and domestic suppliers to manufacture their products, couldn't they have been just as competitive in the market-place and still been billionaires, but just had a few billion less that they do now?

Instead of Bill Gates using slave labor in China to earn $59 billion, couldn't he have created middle-class jobs in this country and only be worth half as much today? What would he have been unable to do? What would have kept him from being competitive in the marketplace? And couldn't the same be said for all the other 400 people on the Forbes's Richest 400 List?

Then there is Wal-Mart with low paying part-time jobs and no healthcare benefits for employees who sell products made in China. Together the 4 heirs of Wal-Mart have $81 billion in personal wealth between them (Christy Walton $24.5 billion, Jim Walton $21 billion, Alice Walton $21 billion, and S. Robson Walton $20.6 billion). Do they think that "greed is good"?

How about NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg with $19.5 billion, Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg with $17.5 billion, or those at Google. Or the late Steve Jobs with $7 billion? Did he think that "greed is good"?

And what of all their executives on their board of directors...what do they think?

Some people say taxing them is punishing the rich for their success; and that by asking our captains of industry to hire Americans and contribute to this country is somehow being un-American. Or that asking the caretakers of our nation's monetary supply to improve our infrastructure and pay off national debt is unfair. Some compare it to Socialism and "spreading the wealth around". Well, what happened to their "trickle-down" theory? Wasn't that supposed to also reward American workers with the fruits of their labor? Wasn't their "free market" economic system supposed to be a rising tide, lifting ALL of our boats? (Millions have sank since 2008.)

With income inequality wider than it ever was since the Gilded Age, couldn't greed be suspected by some of the bankers and corporations? Or are poor people just whining for no reason at all? Is it really just the poor people who are waging a class war against the innocent multi-national conglomerates, and it's really just the poor people that are really the greedy, envious, and evil ones?

But can poor people even afford to be greedy, if they have nothing to share?

No matter how the point is argued, even without considering the Forbes 400 list of people's PERSONAL net assets, there is still $2 trillion on corporate balance sheets that's sitting dormant. There is a lot of money they won't invest and can't they only hoard it. Hoarding leads to an inefficient distribution of scarce resources, making the scarcity even more of a problem. And hoarding is evil. Read: Good (us) Verses Evil (bankers)

If I were a successful baker and I had an extra loaf of bread that I couldn't sell because everybody else that could, already bought my bread - and you were hungry, but didn't have the money to buy my bread - should I just keep the extra loaf stored away somewhere until someone else could buy it at a later date? Should I just hold it until it becomes moldy and is no good to anyone else, and then just throw it away?

Or should I just give it to you so you won't starve, by spreading my wealth around? (I wouldn't starve.)

More that 99% of all Americans don't have a net worth of $1 million, nor will they ever acquire it in their entire lifetime (not even as a lifetime total), let alone actually earn $1 million in any one given year. That's who Obama wants to tax. He wants to tax those who have a million loaves of bread. If you want to call that "socialism", so be it. I call it sharing.

President Obama in an address to the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. on February 7, 2011 - "So if I’ve got one message, my message is now is the time to invest in America. Today American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets."

1 comment:

  1. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an astounding 66 percent of Americans said the nation's wealth should be more evenly distributed. A similar majority believes the rich should pay more in taxes. And 69 percent of respondents said Republican policies favor the rich.

    According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, even a majority of people who describe themselves as Republicans believe taxes should be increased on the rich.

    Instead of lionizing the rich, we're beginning to suspect they gained their wealth by ripping us off.