Sunday, October 10, 2010

A culture of hoarding

As per usual, political campaigns make a lot of noise about why their candidates will promote policies that will induce companies to "create jobs." This is especially the case with Republicans, who blame the Obama administration and the stimulus package for not doing what they promised.

Aside from the inaccuracy of that statement, the rhetoric is basically irrelevant.

You see, the problem goes much deeper than that. More accurately, what creates jobs more than anything else is companies and other entities willing to invest for the long haul. Which means, in essence, taking risks that you won't get your money back. It's not happening -- and, if the folks with the bucks have any say, it never will happen. Reason? Because they're afraid of just that.

Today we're dealing with what I call a "culture of hoarding" -- basically, a form of social Darwinism focusing almost exclusively on the bottom line; someone I knew about 20 years ago called it the syndrome of "can what you get and get what you can." Whatever makes to most amount of money the quickest has to be good for everybody -- except that, in the long run, it isn't.

In our country, this goes back to the period immediately following World War II. The American economy was going great guns because ours was virtually the only economy still standing. Here in Pittsburgh, the steel industry had no problem keeping people employed and its plants were humming. However, attributing to its shortsightedness, it didn't invest in new technology; companies in other countries built more modern plants with which the Americans just couldn't compete. (And then the companies blamed union contracts for their demise.)

In the 1980s, "supply-side economics" became quite the fad, the idea was that were businesses to have controls taken off them they would invest the profits to employ more people. At the same time, however, anti-trust rules were relaxed, which allowed companies to swallow each other, building more of a economic engine for the folks at the top but costing jobs for those in the middle. (The resultant recession pushed then-president George H.W. Bush out the door.) Anyway, today's economy is based more on speculation rather than on making quality products, which is why, for example, large pharmaceutical and health insurance companies maintain high costs for whatever they produce -- for the sake of maintaining stock prices. That's were the easy money lies.

Unfortunately, the church of Jesus Christ has been compromised on this issue, in large part because industry has gotten its tentacles into many of its media outlets. One of the first episodes of the 700 Club I ever watched featured a segment promoting what turned out to be sweatshop labor (called "working at home"), and I understand that a top executive of the Halliburton Co. sits on the board of Focus on the Family!

Basically, we simply can't afford for too much longer to have such economic imbalance, where those with the money figure out how to make more while the rest of us suffer. While I don't expect our nation to adopt consistently Biblical principles, it might be a good thing for wealthier Christians to model less-greedy behavior by hiring more people and being more socially responsible. For if you bankrupt your customers, eventually you'll go out of business.

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