Greed is good.
It was a line from a movie in the 80’s. It was spoken by the villain. It was intended as an indictment by the filmmaker. It was adopted as a mantra by a generation. Apparently no one noted that the speaker of the iconic line went to prison at the end of the film.
I think the line spoke to the spoiled children of the baby boom and told us just what we wanted to hear: It’s not only okay to be selfish, it’s a good idea. There’s only so much prosperity pie to go around and if you don’t get a slice, there won’t be any for you.
Greed is just fear gazing into the future.
Thirty years later we have disguised our greed, our fear of the future, with a thousand rationalizations. Social Security won’t be there for me so we need to end it now. Those greedy teachers are ruining education even though we stopped paying for it in the 70’s. Health care reform means I’ll have to pay poor people’s doctor bills. And the end of all these scenarios is that there won’t be any left for me!
What do we have to show for our lack of investment?
At the time the movie Wall Street came out, we were busy planting the seeds that we are harvesting today. Companies were being bought and traded like used cars, broken up and sold off for parts and scrap for the profit of only the traders. Those who had counted on those businesses to support them and their families were out of luck. The industrial foundation of the country was broken up and shipped overseas. We shifted to a “service based” economy – had any of that “service” lately? Then we shipped the services overseas.
Retail was gutted by the “buy more cheaper” philosophy so we that those who’d lost their good paying jobs could still afford to buy large quantities of the same crap.
Today our great country can’t even make its own TV’s but we can buy ‘em cheap at the WalMart.
The computers and smart phones that are supposed transport us to our roadside markets along the information highway aren’t made here. I don’t even know if we can still make anything.
In short, the greed born in the 80’s has made the prosperity pie smaller. Fewer people control more of the money than ever before.
Henry Ford did one of the smartest things anyone ever did. He paid the people who worked for him enough that they could afford to buy his product. Before Henry, automobiles were like those electric Tesla sports cars driven by the George Clooney crowd. Only rich people had cars and nobody much worked in the auto industry. Imagine what the manufacture and sales of cars have added to the prosperity of this country. I know, they’ve added a lot of particulate matter to the atmosphere too, but that’s another blog.
The point is, the greatest thing about this country is that we’re the greatest market in world. That market is made up of an affluent middle class. And having an affluent middle class means sharing the pie. The richer we make more people, the more pie there is for everyone. Even the rich people get richer if more people are making more money.
How does that happen? Well, first we need to spend a fortune on education so that there is a future. Then we need to provide the best and most lavish infrastructure on the planet – how else to get all that crap to WalMart if we’ve no roads to ship it on? That’s right, the freeways made WalMart not the Waltons, we all made the single largest investments in their billions dollar empire.
All that evil tax money gets spent on us. They don’t keep it in a vault. They buy us stuff and they buy that stuff from us. They build us stuff and they hire us to build it. They give our neighbors jobs so our neighbors can afford to shop at our store so we afford to hire their kids to work so they can pay more taxes so we can all have more stuff. They allow us to take care of those least able to take care of themselves – the old, the young, the poor. The 80’s gave us street people. Maybe we should start calling them Wall Street people.
The trouble with greed is that it tells me that I’m better off alone.
The truth is, it’s only together that we’re able to be our best.
So, don’t forget to vote and don’t forget what’s at stake.