A good friend of mine, Tom, loves to discuss capitalism with me. Often we have heated discussions because we are on opposite sides of the fence, but at least we are both willing to HAVE those discussions. Too often in today’s world, people don’t want to talk about the issues, especially the BIG issues that affect everyone. He endorses capitalism, saying “I don’t want anyone to ‘take a chance’ and not be able to keep their rewards“. I lean towards the humanitarian side of the argument, so I always ask “How much is enough?“
As of this writing, Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, his company Amazon.com is self-described as “earth’s most customer-centric company.” And considering how “consumer-centered” America’s economy has become, it’s no surprise that he has more cash than he could ever need. It’s easy using Bezos as an example of someone who started a company in his garage, worked hard, and made it big; but let’s not forget the $250,000 gift/loan from his parents that he used to start his company. That’s a financial advantage that an ordinary person just doesn’t have at their disposal. And let’s not forget the corporate welfare that he has accepted; it’s an easy way to boost the bottom line. Of course, not paying your employees a living wage is also a good way to keep your profit margins high. How else could one afford to buy an entire newspaper? Another typical trick of the wealthy is to keep your money in an off-shore bank account, so you can bypass all those pesky taxes. And like many other wealthy people, Bezos has branched out through other philanthropic endeavors, which certainly help maintain his public image as someone who gives back, whether or not these projects actually do any good. And then there’s his divorce, which cost him billions in Amazon stock, a mere drop in his overall financial bucket.
Of course, this is an extreme example. Most business owners don’t achieve this type of financial success; most run their businesses as a way to earn a respectable living and pay their bills. Then again, a business is a good way to pay for all sorts of things that an employee can’t buy.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Let’s pretend that you get a job that pays $1 million per year. How many years would it take to earn $1 billion (assuming you only had this as your source of income) ? It would take 1,000 years! Jeff Bezos is worth (as of this writing) $150 billion, so that’s a mere 150,000 years earning your imaginary $1 million per year salary. It’s mind boggling to consider exactly how much money this is, as well as how much good it could do if it wasn’t hoarded away in some rich guy’s pocket.
While I agree with Tom that no one deserves to have their hard-earned profits *stolen* from them, there has to be a happy medium between people taking care of business and the economy taking care of people. Afterall, if the only reason businesses exist is to suck money out of other people’s pockets, then how the hell is the economy supposed to continue through the tough times, like a global health crisis? Taking care of the people HAS to be first & foremost, right? RIGHT?? Improvement of life for ALL people, right?? If not, then we are all just wage slaves, doomed to exist only to toil for other people’s comfort, until the day we die. And what kind of “quality of life” is that for us….???
At what point does having a pile of cash socked away in a foreign safety deposit box actually work *against* the economy, because it’s not out in circulation? The rich get richer and the poor are left to fight over the scraps.
I’m not asking that everyone get a free mansion and 2 Lamborghinis in the garage. Let’s start with something simple – let’s start with the basics in life……
- Why doesn’t Flint Michigan have clean water? Everyone needs clean water to drink, yet instead of finding ways to provide this as a human right, we find ways to charge people for it. Water is the new gold.
- Why does my employer’s health insurance suck so bad that one of my co-workers had to start a Go Fund Me account to help pay for his wife’s chemotherapy treatments? Isn’t that what insurance is for?!?!
- Instead of the government giving away a one time check for $1200 during this pandemic, why don’t they give a check every month? The bill collectors have not stopped, have they?
- Why doesn’t your mortgage company tell you “Don’t worry about making your payment this month, we got this“….? With so many people out of work right now, the foreclosure rate is going to skyrocket, as soon as the courts reopen.
- Why don’t the rich use some of their money to buy and forgive medical debt? John Oliver did it, why don’t more people?
I’ve often said that “An insane world seems sane to insane people“. This is a great quote to print on a bumper sticker, but one of my Facebook friends, Josh Tewell, reminded me of a better way of describing the problem. He quoted one of my all-time favorites, Jacques Fresco, as saying: “I would say the majority of the people of the world today are unsane, not insane but unsane. Meaning having been exposed to methods of evaluation that have long been rendered obsolete.” Josh also added: “People need their mental software updates relevant to today’s society and to let go of the cultural norms and expectations they carry around as baggage–oftentimes holding them back and causing emotional anguish and strife. We’ll be better off for it in the long run because there is no good reason to take tradition with us into the future if there is no other good reason than because “it has always been done this way…” Very well said, Josh!
So how far back in history did things go awry and how do we fix the world going forward from here? something to everyone to think about.
I’ll close today’s thought experiment with another snappy saying that I think would make a great bumper sticker:
Retrain your brain