Money may be the root of all evil, but in my opinion, greed and jealousy are the branches and leaves of the tree. Greed, defined as the selfish and excessive desire for more; and jealousy, meaning hostility toward one believed to enjoy an advantage: individually they are destructive forces, but when brought together, they can be as volatile as any explosive and as corrosive as any acid. And the real trouble starts when people believe that they can use them as tools without a proper respect for their devastating effects.
Facing deficits and debts of historical proportions, this country is already reaching its boiling point, but lately what’s concerning me even more than the government's inability or unwillingness to deal with the real problem is its propensity to try and divert the attention from this deficiency by creating a scapegoat.
The actual problem is simple: the government does not take in enough in taxes to cover what it pays out in benefits. But, our representatives know something they think most of us are unwilling to deal with--that any potential solution, be it cuts in spending or increases in taxes (or most likely a combination of both) means considerable sacrifice and possibly years of increased suffering as our financial system finds a new balance.
But instead of putting all the facts out on the table and dealing with the unpleasant consequences, some in Washington are choosing a very dangerous tactic. While they should be confronting the issues, they’d rather work at affixing blame. While history will show that we all share an equal responsibility in this crisis, that’s not pleasant to hear and it certainly isn’t popular amongst registered voters, so instead, some will try to tell you that it’s not your fault. They’ll tell you you’ve been wronged, and that the system isn’t fair. They’ll try to convince you that if not for the evil of a few, prosperity for all would be easily achieved. And it’s all a lie.
Over the past few years, the villain has been given different faces: evil corporations, greedy C.E.O.’s, unethical mortgage brokers, corrupt businessmen. But the arguments all share a common thread--it’s an intellectually lazy and logically lacking con-game that tries to suggest that--but for the rich, there would be less poverty. They suggest that success and achievement is a zero-sum game and that their gain must, by definition, be the reason for your loss.
And they hope that by creating this hate and anger towards some intentionally vague demographic, it will alleviate any possibility of blame falling upon them. Unfortunately for all of us, they’re wrong. Because just like with the economy, where you do not make people less poor by making others less rich, you cannot build confidence and trust by spreading disdain and contempt.
Think about this: politicians try to convince us that the rich are not doing enough to help the poor, so every year they take more and more money, and more and more responsibility away from the rich to supposedly solve the problem themselves. They proclaim that more government is the answer. Yet, every year the problems remain, so they continue to cast more and more blame, raise more taxes and spend more on social programs. And again, the problems remain. So just like the label on a bottle of shampoo…"lather, rinse, repeat." I may not be a psychology major, but I believe this is what is called negative reinforcement.
When politicians talk about the rich, they paint a picture of Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island, sitting around waiting for people to bring them flowered drinks in a coconut shell. But most of the rich I’ve met are not the kind of people who sit around at all. Just the opposite, they’re constantly on the move, working 12 to 14 hour days, 6 and 7 days a week. Check out the Forbes list of richest Americans and you will see more and more new faces with stories not of silver spoon upbringings but of hard work, entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.
I’m not trying to suggest that all rich people are saints. I’ve known a few who lacked scruples, lied openly and who don’t deserve to be given the time of day. But, what I’m saying is that developing a hatred for a class of people, ANY class of people, is wrong. If higher taxes are needed to solve our budget problems, then so be it, but taxation should never be used as a punishment in some veiled attempt to right some perceived social wrong.
People make money by selling goods and services, and the rich are where they are because they do it better than most. But wealth alone is not an adequate measure of a man’s soul. And monetary prosperity should never be our life’s goal, nor should it be the reason for envy, jealousy, or resentment. Money may be the root of all evil, but it is neither the cause of, nor solution to our financial problems. A balanced budget will only be achieved when "we the people" return to a foundation of individual personal responsibility. It’s a burden that must be carried by all of us, and a moral debt that we cannot pass off on anyone else.