This is the fourth installment in my intermittent series of articles that answer the question ‘what is a liberal?’ The previous three articles are these:
Liberals love to finger-point about greed. President Barack Obama puts it this way:
We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money…We didn’t become the most prosperous country in the world just by rewarding greed and recklessness.
Greed is defined as ‘excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness’. The adverbs might lead to a discussion about what’s excessive or reprehensible, and the definition also begs the question “acquisitiveness of what?” Money, power, or trophies like Super Bowl rings?
For a liberal, the gold standard (pun intended) of greed is probably the Koch brothers: plutocrat capitalists that contribute to right wing causes. On the liberal side, with little publicity and no objections we have Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and less known figures like the Steyer brothers.
What’s wrong with the Michael Bloomberg, the Kochs and the Steyer brothers? They built great companies that enriched their investors, helped develop the country, and provided gainful employment for thousands of people, along with contributing to left wing and right wing political causes.
And what’s so bad about greed? As an attribute of a person or a business, it’s private behavior and really no one’s business. I assume Greed Corp obeys the law, and none of us is forced to buy Greed Corp products, or work for Greed Corp. Why should anyone care about the moral nature of Greed Corp, Mr Koch or Mr Bloomberg?
Regarding private greed:
- Assuming behavior is legal, then motivation is no one else’s business.
- If you feel that George Soros or Greed Corp are unsavory, you’re free to take your friendship and patronage elsewhere.
However, in the public sector greed can be a big deal. Private citizens can’t ignore government attorneys and the tax laws. A greedy public sector can suck resources out of the private sector, and use powers like escheat laws and eminent domain to confiscate private property. We face a greedy public sector today. They never have enough, they incorrigibly waste what they have, and use their power to abuse private citizens. With greed, rather than the people Pres Obama had in mind, it’s liberals and government we should look at.
Hoarding and selfishness
If by ‘greed’ we’re talking about selfishness, the numbers point to liberals.
Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).
Living off the fat of the land
If we’re talking about living off the labor of others, the numbers point to liberals. Government employees tend overwhelmingly to be liberal, and they do quite well. Six of the ten richest counties in America are in Virginia and Maryland, clustered around Washington, D.C.
It’s a cliché that once you get a government job, you’re set for life. A USA Today story in 2011 reported ‘When job security is at a premium, the federal government remains the place to work for those who want to avoid losing a job. The job security rate for all federal workers was 99.43% last year and nearly 100% for those on the job more than a few years.’
Government employee pensions are crippling cities and states across the country. The cities of Stockton, Vallejo, San Bernardino and Detroit have all been pushed into bankruptcy. The National Bureau of Economic Research recently put the level of unfunded pension liabilities for the 50 states at $2.5 trillion.
Rep Jim Moran (D-VA) was quoted in 2001, referring to a disaster relief package: ‘It’s an open grab bag, so let’s grab.’
It’s never enough. The US Federal budget has doubled since 2001. In fiscal year 2014, federal government revenue reached a record of just over $3 trillion.
Regardless of record budgets, there were accusations that the Ebola crisis was exacerbated by cuts. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said “There’s no doubt that the deep health care cuts that we’ve seen have made it more difficult to respond in a rapid and comprehensive way to the Ebola outbreak”. However, according the Cato Institute, “Between 2000 and 2014, CDC outlays almost doubled in 2014 constant dollars, from $3.5 billion to $6.8 billion.”
It should be no surprise that there is significant waste in the CDC budget. A 2007 US Senate report found ‘a pattern of mismanagement, a lack of oversight’ in CDC management. A news story said the Senate report pointed to lavish employee facilities and a new visitor center including ‘a greenscape with a stream running over artificial rocks into a pond, limestone bridges, waterfalls, Japanese gardens and fountains and a $200,000 fitness center with saunas and zero-gravity chairs.’ Also, ‘a statue of a woman made of vegetables’, intended to encourage visitors to eat healthier foods.
Whose money is it?
Why is it that corporations or private citizens are greedy when they try to keep money they’ve earned? At what point is government greedier than a typical restaurant owner? Who is more entitled to the restaurant’s profit: government or the owner?
Greed implies that money is not put to its best use. It’s easy to argue that it’s better to build a school than another yacht for Larry Ellison. However, forced redistribution is also bad, because there’s a taking involved; because of waste through inefficiency and corruption that always occurs in the process; and because of misuse and incompetence by the recipient.
It’s your money. You earned it.
Greed in the private sector seems harmless. Turn around and walk the other way, it’s between that individual and his God.
Public sector greed however, is omnipresent, omnipotent, and unavoidable.