Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Morning Musings - Too Much Money?

A few times I've mentioned on my blog my dismay over the widening gap between the very, very rich and the rest of us. Some folks have wondered, by way of a comment, whether I was suffering from a bad case of sour grapes. They have pointed out that this is the way the free enterprise system works, and people should be able to make as much money as they are capable of. That is true on so many levels, and I have never begrudged the financial success of most people.

What I have railed against are the people who have bajillions of dollars and still want more. Shouldn't there be a point where enough is enough?

Photo courtesy of  SignSpecialist.com
I was pleased to read a column in The Dallas Morning News yesterday written by Sam Polk, a former hedge fund trader. In the article he chronicled his own addition to greed and what it took for him to reach the point of enough. He was honest about how he, and others like him, made money in 2008, when so many of us were watching our retirement fund wither away to practically nothing. He thought that it was perfectly okay for that to happen, until he heard a callous remark by his boss about the financial crisis. "All I'm concerned about is how this affects our company."

Then he noticed "the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash."

Polk then wrote, "I'd always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them and for me. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted."

Polk referred to his, and others, desperate need for more and more money, as a greed addiction. A former drug addict, he was well-acquainted with the signs and symptoms of addiction, and that need for more money to him was just like his previous need for more drugs. That addiction cost him his long-time girlfriend who told him "I don't like who you've become."

So I'm going on the record again. There is something distasteful and disturbing about this mad scramble for more and more money, no matter the cost to others. According to Polk's essay, in 2012 the McDonald's CEO, Don Thompson, was paid $14 million in compensation - $8.5 million of that being a  bonus, while at the same time the company published a brochure for its workforce on how to survive on their low wages.

That is only one example of how this disparity affects people and business, and it is sad to think that could be multiplied thousands of times.

What can be done about it? I don't know. Not government interference, that's for sure. Is there a way to teach financial integrity in business programs at colleges and universities?

Polk has taken one small step toward doing something by helping disadvantaged people throughout the world. He founded Groceryships, a program that provides money for families to buy fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and seeds for six months. The program then provides education and support to empower people to increase health by incorporating more of these healthful foods into their diets. Polk also ended his essay with this plea to others who may be addicted to wealth. "If you identify with what I’ve written but are reluctant to leave, then take a small step in the right direction. Let’s create a fund where everyone agrees to put, say, 25 percent of their annual bonuses into it, and we’ll use that to help some of the people who actually need the money that we’ve been so rabidly chasing. Together, maybe we can make a real contribution to the world."

Maybe they can.

Now a reminder about the special sale at Untreed Reads through Valentine's Day. All romance titles are on sale for 30% off. This includes all categories of romance from sweet to sexy, this includes my romance novel, Play It Again, Sam.

And finally, a reminder that spring will come again.


Photos courtesy of Mother Nature and my Nikon Camera

3 comments:

Jeremy [Retro] said...

i simply would like to have enough to survive and provide for my family... not freak if something breaks with the "where or what" can i do now... the gov should everyone who pays and is part of active society 1,000,000... then tax it 25% and let us all catch up... i mean didn't they give the people who caused the crash money only to crash more... at least we would have a chance. i may have missed the whole point... i am just saying!

D.G. Hudson said...

As long as business rules are used there will always be the fact: Business operates on one code - money is the bottom line. Ethics is forced on corporations, but how many actually practice ethical behaviour?

Laissez-faire capitalism, as defined by Wikipedia:
"The phrase laissez-faire is French and literally means "let [them] do," but it broadly implies "let it be," "let them do as they will," or "leave it alone."

Unfortunately like many other great ideas, they don't work to everyone's advantage. The GAP is getting bigger between the haves and the have-nots.

You make a great point, Maryanne.

Maryann Miller said...

Jeremy, most of us would be happy to be comfortable financially and not have to worry about paying bills every month. Of course, having enough excess to enjoy traveling and other entertainment would be great, too. But I don't want to live in a million-dollar mansion that costs thousands a month to keep up. I admire wealthy people like Warren Buffet who lives fairly simply considering his net worth.

D.G. I think we have come a long way from when the wealth addicts were the few and the business leaders with integrity and character were the majority. In that "let be" environment when there was self-control and consideration outside of "self", I think we were better off.

I blame part of the problem on the fact that now we know so much about the money people make. It used to be considered rude and a bit vulgar to talk about how much money we made. And certainly a social gaffe to ask anyone what an item cost or how much money they made. Now it is all people talk about, so people think they have to one-up the neighbor or co-worker.