Thinking Out Loud: Are We Witnessing The Decadence in U.S. Society That Makes Disintegration Inevitable?
November 23, 2015 by Herbert Daughtry
Greed: The Root of All Evil?
There is another kind of greed that does not come with the stigma of criminality, but does raise the question of fairness, decency, and excess. This greed is seen, as I have stated before, in corporations leaving behind ghost towns, which were once vibrant, as they seek more profits in other places.
In an article written on May 2011, McDonald’s was to order 7,000 touchscreen kiosks. The effort would actually replace human cashiers. At the time, Mr. Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO, indicated that the touchscreen kiosks should help speed up customer transactions up to three or four seconds. Let me emphasize that thousands of cashiers will lose their jobs. What will happen to them and their families? It seems not to be of concern for McDonald’s. Their service will speed up by three to four seconds; and, for that, thousands of families will be thrown into hardship which may result in sickness, early death, and even suicide.
This is in line with what I was told by a former employee of McDonald’s who, upon becoming a manager, was told that he would have to terminate some of the employees. When he objected, he was told that the reason for termination and hiring of others is to cut back on the benefits that longevity would demand. The person was told that he would have to do this or he would be fired. He chose termination. These are the kinds of cruel games which seem to be inherent in American capitalism which give birth to greed, or is driven by greed, or both.
In our last article, I mentioned the greed in selling poisonous products, knowing that they would lead to sickness and premature death. Billions of dollars were/are spent to promote tobacco. I remember when cigarettes were advertised by men dressed as doctors, extolling the virtue of smoking. When I was a teenager, there was an Indiana Senator – I can’t remember his name – who wanted to put a skeleton and crossbones on cigarette packages. Thus, delivering an unmistakable message of death.
I did not mention in my last article, which dealt with substance abuse, that sugar is another addictive, destructive, and death-dealing product. This came home to me a few days ago when one of my old friends called from the nursing home. This friend recently had toes amputated because of diabetes.
Early one morning, another old friend and member reported to me that he/she had been taken to the hospital during the night. The blood sugar count was high, and as usual, diabetes always comes with friends, and so there were other health problems.
Type II Diabetes is a common and increasingly prevalent illness that is largely preventable. In adults, Type II Diabetes accounts for about 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. 29.1 million people in the United States have diabetes – 8.1 million of whom may be undiagnosed and unaware of their condition. In adults 20 and over, more than 1 in every 10 people suffers from diabetes; and in, 65 and older, that figure rises to more than 1 in 4.
This problem and the greed which produces it becomes clearer when we remember that, at the turn of the century, diabetes was almost nil. Manufacturers induced or created the habit by putting sugar in almost everything and by billion dollar marketing budgets. While the debate continues how much DNA influences the development of diabetes, surely, the pressures of life on some people make the delight of sweets almost irresistible. Then, when doctors or scientists reveal studies which indicate how destructive these substances are, there are always refutations coming from doctors, scientists, and politicians hired by the corporate world.
We have just been through another make believe season called Halloween. The observance of this holiday carries deleterious influences. Halloween, which is a debatable tradition among Christians, encourages, at least, harmful practices. It encourages costumes and acts which belittle or minimize death, witches, ghouls, devils, etc. Secondly, it promotes candy consumption. Candy makers’ profits skyrocket during the Halloween season. The health of children and adults are jeopardized. In a country and time when sugar is wreaking havoc, we ought to be discouraging the consumption of sugar. During the Bloomberg administration, the Mayor sought to reduce the consumption of sodas because of its sugar content.
A recent Swedish study stated that men who drink 2 or more glasses of soda or other sweetened drinks a day may have a greater risk at heart failure. So, we see, again, that the sugar demon contributes to diabetes, heart failure, and other illnesses.
Another look at greed is the disparity of wealth. In preparation for this article, I came across a magazine or a newsletter which was postmarked on May 1995. The front cover had the picture of a pig dressed in a suit with a bloated stomach, and with a fork and knife in hand, sitting before a globe that sat on a plate.
It conveyed the idea, of course, of an obese pig eagerly ready to carve up the planet. This caricature, obviously, represented the insatiable greed of the very wealthy. There was a phrase on the front page that said, “Looking for politics that takes on greed and gluttony? Introducing America’s first newsletter devoted to capping excessive income and wealth.”
Newsweek, November 21, 1994: “The gap between high-and-low income families has widened steadily since about 1980, hitting a new high every year since 1985. Last year, the top 20% pulled in a record 46.2% of national income. This was a 1.6 percentage point leap from 1982. The largest jump since the Census Bureau began keeping track since 1947.”
Newsweek recorded that 27 companies in the United States have announced 10,000 or more job cuts since March 1991. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, at the 23 companies for which figures are available, CEO pay rose 30% in 1993 to an average of $1.9 million. While the gap is lengthening, unemployment rate is rising, but the salaries of CEOs are accelerating.
Here are some interesting figures. By the end of the 1980s, the richest 1% of Americans had amassed nearly half of the nation’s financial wealth. The world’s 358 billionaires had a combined net worth of $760 billion – equal to that of the bottom 45% of the world’s population. In the 1980s, as corporate profits rose 78%, CEO pay rose 212%. After Congress upped taxes on income over $250,000 in 1993, tax rates on the wealthy were still lower than rates in 1980.
In 1993, Newsweek listed the “100 Most Highly Compensated Wall Streeter.” To make the financial world, one had to make a median income of $10 million. Here’s another piece of information. When Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt was President, he proposed a cap on the incomes of the very wealthy. Finally, in 1945, the Chairman in General Motors (GM) asked Congress to lower the top tax rates on the wealthy to 50%. The widening gap of wealth has proceeded full steam ahead for a long time, and it has never been without credible critics constantly warning of a “certain shipwreck or societal wreck if there were no cessation and change.”
… to be continued.
(Originally published in the Daily Challenge in November 2015.)