If the people of this nation ever decide to kill the goose (capitalism) that has laid the golden eggs (American prosperity) it will be largely the result of two quite different influences. The first is the righteous anger provoked in people by the sheer greed and opulence flaunted by the modern captains of industry. Maureen Dowd gives voice to this execrable insensitivity in a recent New York Times column:
Despite losing $28.5 billion in the past 15 months and receiving $345 billion in government investments and guarantees the corporate Marie Antoinettes at Citigroup went through with plans to purchase a new $50 million corporate jet.
Real people are losing real jobs at Caterpillar, Home Depot and Sprint Nextel; these and other companies announced on Monday that they would cut more than 75,000 jobs in the U.S. and around the world, as consumer confidence and home prices swan-dived.
The former chief executive of Merrill Lynch, John Thain, handed out over $4 billion in bonuses as the failing firm was bought by Bank of America.
"If you don't pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise," Thain reasoned, "and they'll go elsewhere." So, these guys are rewarded by Thain with billions of dollars of investor's money for losing $15 billion in three months for their clients.
Meanwhile, Thain himself spent $1 million to renovate his office. Big-ticket items included curtains for $28,000, a pair of chairs for $87,000, fabric for a "Roman Shade" for $11,000, Regency chairs for $24,000, six wall sconces for $2,700, a $13,000 chandelier in the private dining room and six dining chairs for $37,000, a "custom coffee table" for $16,000, an antique commode "on legs" for $35,000, and a $1,400 "parchment waste can."
Socializing financial institutions and industries would be a terrible move, but the anger that causes people to no longer resist it is certainly understandable. The goose has brought it upon himself.
The other factor that will lead us to kill the goose is the fact that so many people in this country are the recipients of government largesse, and so few, relatively, provide it. When a large percentage of the population in a democracy really have nothing to lose by socializing the economy and much to gain they will eagerly favor more government largesse. What do they care if the people who have the wealth are squeezed if it means more benefits for themselves? Neither capitalism nor democracy will survive a large lower class comprised of poor, uneducated, unmotivated people living at the expense of those above them on the socio-economic ladder. The lower classes will always vote for those who'll provide more benefits and those who seek their votes will be only too willing to oblige them.
The GOP is looking for a Moses to lead them back to the political Promised Land. What they need is someone who has a plan for teaching the poor that they have a stake in capitalism and freedom and someone who can shame the corporate "Masters of the Universe," to use Tom Wolfe's phrase in Bonfire of the Vanities, into setting an example of frugality and modesty for the rest of the society which has bestowed such good fortune upon them.RLC