Monday, January 16, 2012
So I am a gadzillionaire; I own your mortgage, the loan on your car, your insurance company. I own Visa and Mastercard although few people know it’s essentially the same company; I own the cable TV network and the internet server. My consortium has a majority share of the corporation you work for and I run the bank that has your checking and savings account as well as your IRA. My gadzillionaire friends who are part of the highly exclusive GREEDY (Get Rich Even if Everybody Detests You) country club own just about everything else you and your neighbors depend upon.
I flat-top mountains, burrow deep into the earth, divert waterways, pollute the skies and the earth. I cut down forests, pump oil from the oceans, and am developing new techniques to wrest natural gas from where it lies miles underground. I have homes all over the place, a stable of expensive cars, a truly remarkable wine cellar, a museum quality artwork collection, and a 25-year-old trophy wife who has had plastic surgery and every implant allowable by law. I have moved my manufacturing industries away from the US and plopped them down in third world nations to avoid rules and regulations. I depend on cheap labor and outsource whenever possible, even as I know that doing so creates customer dissatisfaction. No matter. My greed and that of my fellow club-members is all-encompassing.
I have a problem, though. I’ve just discovered that you have $100. I will not rest until I can get that small amount from you. That you have $100 is almost a personal affront. It fosters my insomnia. In fact, though getting my hands your $100 will in no way better my life, I cannot, will not, be happy until I have it.
My gadzillionaire friends feel pretty much the same way about your life savings. They want it and will stop at nothing to get it. They will line the pockets of politicians, influence judges and lawmakers, hire barely legal entities so as to wrest this money from you. They will advertise and sell you inferior products, and promise investment returns that will make your head spin. They will work on your greed, which just because it is smaller in scope than theirs is no less meaningful.
You, in turn, are trying to make your $100 into the equivalent of Jack’s magic beans. You want a beanstalk that will grow so quickly it will impress the GREEDY club members so they’ll invite you to join their ranks. Deep down you too want to become a captain of industry with a surgically enhanced wife and a new Audi 4WD Quattro; you’d do anything to enjoy the luxuries these people have, and so, unwittingly, you and they are in an awkward dance, a pas de deux (or paso doble if you’re from the Southern Hemisphere) of hunger and self-indulgence. You want the big deal they’ve attained; they want whatever small holdings you might have.
Which brings me to the real subject of this blog. Salary and wealth caps.
Does anyone need to earn 400 to 600 times the salary of an average wage earner? This is common in the US, though not in Europe where taking home 10 to 20 times your worker’s salary is considered more satisfactory. Is there a reason to give multi-million dollar bonuses to CEOs who drive their companies into the ground? Wouldn’t the overwhelming majority of us be perfectly happy making a maximum salary of $10 or $12 million?
Well jeezy peezy, I would. You could even take a couple of the zeros away and not hear a word of complaint from me.
A long time ago, I went to a Chinese buffet and at the table next to me sat a monstrously obese man. Every seven or eight minutes, he would struggle up out of his chair and waddle to the steam-table to fill a new plate of dumplings, fried shrimp and kung pao chicken. After the fifth such trip, the owner of the restaurant walked to the man’s table, took the plate from him in mid-chew and said, “You go home now!”
That’s the way I feel about the plutocrats. You go home now! You’ve eaten enough!