Bashing away capitalism has become the political sound bite du jour as well as the rallying cry of the 0.0000000099 percent who seem to think the world must listen to their incessant whining.
Sure, there are a lot of inequities and unfairness out there. But guess what: It isn’t capitalism that’s the problem. It’s the usual culprits - the Seven Deadly Sins (gluttony, lust, greed, pride, sloth, envy, and wrath) - plus a relatively newcomer known as “entitlement.”
The eighth - and perhaps most deadly character flaw - is a sense of entitlement. It poisons the heart and soul whether it is a CEO who believes he is entitled to a $30 million bonus even if he has driven an investor-owned company into the ground, a welfare recipient that believes they are entitled to support with no questions asked, or any of the endless variations between the two extremes.
Politicians and what seems like three-quarters of America are blaming capitalism for all of our ills, including the housing crisis. But let’s keep in mind that it takes two to tango and someone to play the music.
It was politicians, through their pressure on regulatory oversight, that changed the tempo of the dance. They wanted more home ownership which is an entirely different goal that affordable housing.
It served their bottom line in some fashion whether it was for re-election or a desire to manipulate the system to achieve goals they decreed were a must.
It is true that most lenders eventually went along with the looser underwriting standards for mortgage loans. And it is also true that some mortgage lenders played fast and loose with income verification and preyed on some buyers who couldn’t grasp what was going on.
But most of the other buyers who joined the dance did not go into it with eyes wide open. Getting in over your head, taking risky loans on your primary residence on the assumption you can flip your way to tens of thousands of dollars in profit, and signing loan documents when you know the income is overstated simply because you want something shows a severe lack of personal responsibility. In fact, it is on par with most of the shenanigans pulled on Wall Street to profit off the mortgage funny money situation
At the same time bashing of capitalism is pretty darn selective. Except for a relatively small handful of hardcore environmentalists and human rights activists, no one is bashing Apple. Even the rush-to-judgment folks of the Occupy Everything movement seem to love Apple, judging by the number of i-Products they are armed with at their encampments.
Last quarter, Apple generated $16 billion in cash flow - some call it profit. They now are sitting on a cash pile of $97.6 billion.
You will note the money isn’t being distributed to the owners of the company - shareholders. While Apple pays a ton of taxes, they aren’t paying proportionately what a lot of working class Americans do that buy their products.
You might say any criticism of Apple is unfair as they are a “good” example of capitalism. That assessment is true - to a point. They do innovate and provide products that consumers want. And they do operate in an efficient and profitable manner without constantly seeking special breaks from the government.
But in feeding our frenzy for relatively inexpensive products that have quick turnarounds, the i-Products are composed of a lot of components from contractors who take advantage of extremely cheap foreign labor. The manufacturing processes included often result in chemical poisoning, injuries, illness, and even death. Workers for such contracted firms are often paid substandard wages and - in a number of cases - cheated out of pay for the time they work.
Yet you will notice no one is bashing Apple as being a greedy capitalist firm. The main reason is they are giving consumers what they want at fairly reasonable prices.
Forget the fact that someone is suffering in another corner of the globe because we want inexpensive electronics and we want them now.
Maybe we are the ones who should be bashed for contributing in our own way to the economic misery.
The world is not perfect. It never has been and never will be. We need to reign in excesses that are criminal in nature and prosecute accordingly. But to use flash mob mentality attacking capitalism in general makes almost every one of us hypocrites given the standard of living that we enjoy compared not only to virtually every country on earth but against the yardstick of civilization.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.