Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Greed. Part II

So here is a little more on greed because, let’s face it, it is possibly--no, not possibly, let’s be honest. It is without a doubt--the overarching motivation of our times. It permeates the atmosphere, a sort of greyish greasy cloud that has somehow come not only into fashion but into acceptance. Really, I have to say, the greed factor attached to almost everything that affects us, well, it’s disconcerting.
An excellent recent example was the Supreme Court decision to strike down overall political donation caps. Let me quote the New York Times. “The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.
“The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics.”
In other words, it’s going to become increasingly easy to buy an election and politicians, from aldermen to presidents. You won’t even have to sneak around anymore, or rely on political action committees. No basement pay-offs, like those once given to Vice President Spiro Agnew. It’s now legal to purchase the official of your choice. Openly, I might add.
Reactions to the decision among many Americans have ranged from the frustrated to the outraged, but few people realize this is the natural progression of greed as an ideal. The perfect plutocracy is achieved when leadership goes to the highest bidder.
There’s a slim chance this may not happen. In the last election, Romney spent slightly more on his campaign than did Obama. From January 2011 to November 2012, the Republicans disbursed $992 million versus the Democrats’ $985.7 million and they still lost… But still.
Another good example of truly greedy behavior was General Motor’s decision not to recall more than a two million of its cars despite knowing of a flaw in the ignition system.  Thirteen people died because of an electronic switch that GM knew was faulty, and yet the giant corporation made a conscious decision to commit what the Catholics would call a sin of omission. The company decided not to act. A recall would have cut into the profit margin, and gathered bad publicity that might have affected sales.
My friend Ed, an economist of small renown but valued opinions who analyzes the finances of hospitals, believes we’ve already jumped off the cliff. “The trouble,” he says, “is that greedy entities--people or corporation--believe in instant gratification. They don’t plan ahead. GM is a perfect example of this.  There is absolutely no doubt that GM will lose more money through vanished sales caused by this scandal, than it would have spent repairing all the vehicles that needed attention. But they got greedy, and they got cowardly.  Another aspect of the current culture is that bosses don’t want to hear bad news, so if you want to rise in the ranks and make more money, you don’t handle bad news.  You ignore it. It’s truly short term thinking and long-term stupidity.”
Yeah? Really?

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