All They Cared About Was…

When I was a teenager, I lifeguarded and taught swimming at the YMCA in Ottawa. When the Health Club manager was away, I was asked to fill in for him. It was a strange experience.

Background: My father had a Ph.D. in chemistry and ran the RCMP’s crime labs. My mother was a nurse, seamstress and artist. Our dinner-table conversations were substantive, interesting and full of humanity.

When I worked at the YMCA Health Club, all they cared about was MONEY and that’s all they ever talked about. The "Y" was where some of Ottawa’s money guys had lunch and regaled each other with stories of profit. It was a sad site for a young man, but mostly it was simply depressing. Where were the tales of helping other people live better lives?

I don’t think much has changed in the last forty-five years. I’m fearful that today’s moneyed elite have completely lost site of the collective good. The two percent of the population that controls ninety-eight percent of all the money appear to be oblivious to what’s happening around them. They even see massive foreclosure stats as a golden financial opportunity. I’ve always worried that Capitalism’s Achille’s Heel was and still is GREED.

Do you suppose Hampton billionaires learned anything from world history, specifically the French Revolution? Are they at all concerned by the Occupy Wall Street protests? I don’t know what to think about the protests, but I suspect sociologists might see them as a warning sign.

Related post: Conservative Greed

Conservative Greed

Q: Is conservative greed synonymous with capitalism or just an unfortunate byproduct?

Greed is defined as an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth and power. It has long been classified as one of the seven objectionable vices that are commonly referred to as the Seven Deadly Sins.

Capitalism is defined as an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

The once enviable quest for wealth has recently spiralled out of control. I’m convinced that some rich people, banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions have become very greedy. My suspicion is that ‘dark market’ OTC derivatives and other complex financial products live on the razor’s edge between ethical and unethical (dishonest/fraudulent). It would appear that these ‘black box’ financial strategies have worked well for the top 1% of income earners. The top one percent suffered very little when the world’s economy melted down in 2008; in fact, many dramatically increased their fortunes shortly after the crunch. Sadly, the unconscionable games corporations and rich people played with financial liquidity devastated working people worldwide.

Michael Moore‘s ’Capitalism: A Love Story’ is food for thought.

In the last quarter century, a lack of regulatory oversight encouraged greedy, unethical business practices to flourish. The goal was profit, the means to that end no longer seemed to matter. When the inevitable happened and the banks and insurance companies were on the verge of collapse, who paid for the bailout? It certainly wasn’t the rich, their bonuses continued unabated.

Ethical Profit Is Good, Greed Is Not.

Right now, the news is dominated by the USA’s debt ceiling crisis. Unsurprisingly, the GOP/Republicans, the conservative political party that most American rich people belong to, is unwilling to end the costly George W. Bush tax cuts and to eliminate tax loopholes. I recently read that the richest four hundred people in the USA, worth over one billion each, paid an average of 16% in taxes. Rich folks are are currently enjoying the lowest tax rates in the last sixty years. Can the US afford to continue to fund tax cuts for top income earners by borrowing billions, every year, from China and Russia? Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan doesn’t think so.

It’s time for critical-thinking, ethical rich people to help. Get in touch with your Congressional Representative and instruct them to let the Bush tax cuts expire. You can’t possibly expect the working poor to shoulder most of the debt burden.

A: Greed is an objectionable vice and a regrettable side effect of the capitalist paradigm. Government oversight is necessary to prevent financial disasters.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke

Update (20110714):

Interesting numbers (SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES S.1323.PCS Findings):

1. The Wall Street Journal reports that median pay for chief financial officers of S&P 500 companies increased 19 percent to $2,900,000 last year.
2. Over the past 10 years, the median family income has declined by more than $2,500.
3. Twenty percent of all income earned in the United States is earned by the top 1 percent of individuals.
4. Over the past quarter century, four-fifths of the income gains accrued to the top 1 percent of individuals.

Note: You might be wondering, “Why is a Canadian commenting on US politics?” If the USA defaults the Canadian and world economies will be adversely affected. Yes, it really is that big a deal.

Aside: The conservative musketeers, Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers and wannabe musketeer Dick Armey that have been manipulating politics in the USA, have also infested Canadian politics.