Thursday, April 1, 2010

OPINION: Greed Is (Not So) Good

Magdalena Potluck
By Don Wiltshire

"The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.”
-Charles Kuralt, American radio and television Corres-pondent and Journalist, 1934-1997.
Way back in ancient times (pre 1980), greed, along with its cousins wrath, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony were considered to be the seven deadly sins. Today, however, they are all featured and glorified on just about every network and cable channel (except perhaps PBS and LINK).
It was Gordon Gekko (not to be confused with Martin Gecko from the Geico ads who wants to save you money), Michael Douglas’ character from the 1987 movie Wall Street, who blatantly spoke the phrase “greed is good.” So popular was this movie that Oliver Stone could not resist making a sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, to be released in September of this year.
So, “just what’s wrong with greed,” you might ask. Is it not one of the major motivating forces behind our Capitalist Economy? Well, in a word, in today’s world, “Yes.” Today, it all seems to boil down to a question of the degree of greed that is inflicted upon us. When does “Maximizing Profits” cross the boundary between good business sense and ruthless “bottom line ism?” When is it OK to shut down US manufacturing plants in favor of cheaper Mexican or overseas facilities? Will all of that water to the west of us in the San Augustin Basin go to any useful purpose other than to enrich the coffers of one Bruno Modena? When will he stop pumping? When ALL the water is gone? When will we stop having to deal with cutbacks in jobs, in schools, in healthcare, in social programs? When ALL of our money and resources are gone?
The rapidly expanding inequity of wealth and power in this country is enough to make our collective heads spin. The richest 1% of Americans now hold more than $2 trillion in wealth more than the bottom 90% of us combined. Meanwhile, we’re all trying to figure out how to keep our schools, our roads and our social programs from tanking.
Here’s a resource that might prove enlightening on this subject: Sam Pizzigati’s book Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality That Limits Our Lives. It has gone on my “absolutely must read next list.” There simply must be a more equitable and democratic way to restructure the American Workforce. One solution that Pizzigati offers is that of a “maximum wage” cap on an individual’s annual income that would go up if and only if the minimum wage rose first.
Michael Moore also hints at solutions to this problem in Capitalism: A Love Story. He shows us several companies that are operating in a cooperative, democratic framework, where the CEO and the line worker get roughly equal pay and an equal vote in the operation of the business.
In earlier films, Michael freely admits that his viewpoints evolved from his early Catholic teachings encouraging the creation of an economically and socially just democracy. This is not the ugly word “Socialism” that the Tea-party attendees are bantering about, but a sustainable, more humane way to “do business” without degrading the worker or harming the Earth.
Personal greed is also a study with much fruit to bear. We all have our own personal over attachments to material things and pleasures. My personal weaknesses are Pistachios, books, rusty bits, green chili cheese bagels and clutter. How can we find the proper balance of providing what our inner-selves need and avoiding the selfish drive to attain more than is good for us?
Books about these and other questions can be found at the Magdalena Public Library. The Library will be celebrating Library Day on Saturday, April 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come, enjoy food, friends, books, videos and public access computers. If we don’t have the book that you’re looking for, we’ll order it for you. Satisfaction guaranteed! Does it get any better than that?
Yes, it does! The Magdalena Eggsibition opens this Saturday, April 3 from 2 - 4 p.m. The show will run through the month of April at the Bear Mountain Gallery, Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. Come see ways to decorate an egg that you’ve never dreamed of!

If you have any Comments? Problems? Solutions? Up coming Events? Other Deadly Sins? Contact me at or (575) 854-3370.

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