I am sure that some of my more right wing readers may take some exception to this column but I am offering it anyway. I am a capitalist. I believe in free markets. I believe in profit. I believe in success. But, I also believe in restraint. Today greed is killing the very fabric of the society of America. Let us examine some of the more flagrant examples of this greed.
It is easy enough to pick on Wall Street and they are a clear example of what I am talking about. The idea that they can, with a clear conscience, pay themselves the exorbitant salaries and bonuses that have been reported is ridiculous. It would be bad enough if those payments came from profits but the fact that these bonuses came from taxpayer bailouts is criminal. Every one of them who participated should be rounded up and prosecuted.
The clowns who have been involved in Ponzi schemes, Petters, Madoff and others absolutely must spend their remaining years in jail. Every asset that they have including those hidden in other parts of the world must be recovered for those who were cheated. The government agencies charged with the responsibility of over seeing their activities must be cleansed of their incompetence. How many of these regulators are on the take? More jail time.
Who is watching the watchers? Who is watching the peanut processors? Who is regulating the amount pharmaceutical companies can charge for their products? What is the purpose of meat inspectors if they can be paid off by the meat packers and then look the other way when suspect product come to them for inspection? Wouldn’t you think that somebody’s conscience would get the best of them at some point? How many in the Congress are for sale to the highest bidder? Who really believes campaign contributions are for anything but access and favorable votes on pet issues?
All of these are examples of the greed I have been talking about. Corporations say they have to pay these huge salaries to get talent. If what they have is talent, then I would say that they have been sorely misled. Talented executives wouldn’t need the government bailing out their companies. No, the culture of greed has spread like a virus throughout the upper echelons of big business.
This same greed is permeating the entire fabric of our country. You see it in sports, in small business as well as in real estate prices. I remember when people bid up homes often offering more than the asking price in order to buy them. Their thought was apparently that real estate would continue to climb in value. That has proven to be folly.
Today real estate prices are retreating to saner levels. New home starts are down and empty homes are flooding the marketplace. This is called a correction. It needs to be corrected because it was incorrect before. The government is going to do everything it can to stabilize the market, but the correction will continue to take place. In the final analysis the result will be good for everyone.
Government tax revenues are down dramatically. This is also a correction. Programs which were never ending in up times are facing the reality of this correction. Many will be cut back and many will be eliminated.
Capitalism will survive this change. America will survive this correction and will be better for it. Greed will be with us forever, but it will be tempered by the lessons of today.
What we need now is patience. The pain is going to continue for a time but it will come to an end. The crooks and thieves will be rounded up and become footnotes in our history. Our markets will stabilize and better times are ahead. My hope is that in the future we will not forget these times. We absolutely must demand and expect from our elected officials and our regulators a level of excellence not seen before. Those who would practice greed without restraint must face the reality of the law.
Ron Scarbro February 18, 2009
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