Greed of the Public Servant

Our political, media, and academic cultures are saturated with assumptions of “corporate greed.” The motives of business from the community retailer to the titans of industry are uniformly known to be based in greed. Parodies confirm the stereotype. “Greed is good” says Gordon Gecko without a trace of self consciousness in the movie Wall Street.

“Corporate Greed,” of course, is evil.  To achieve wealth, the greedy will lie, cheat, and steal. Government exists to protect the unwary, the unwitting, the innocent from the greedy. The Roman poet Virgil expressed the thought nearly 2000 years ago. “The noblest motive is the public good,” he wrote. Government, whatever its inefficiencies, cannot be evil like the greedy private businessman because the motive of those who serve the public is pure.

If this laughable notion was ever true in some far off fictional time, it is definitely not true now—nor was it true in Virgil’s Rome.

In today’s U.S. Congress, the greed of the plunderer prevails.

The American body politic is rotten with the disease of OPM—Other People’s Money. Eighty years of members of Congress assuming that they know better how to spend the money you earn than you do has left the once self-sufficient Republic a dependent, bankrupt debtor.

The death of West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd marked the high tide of the OPM era—leaving behind libraries, highways, post offices, and federal buildings named for Sen. Byrd, amidst a state economy still characterized by poverty. Government can take your money and build monuments, but OPM cannot “stimulate” a growing economy.

Every impulse to “help people level the playing field,” impose “fairness” and “justice,” and “spread the wealth” has created expensive, bloated, inept and corrupt bureaucracies which impose a never-ending accumulation of confusing and contradictory rules and regulations until the very joy of life is squeezed out of every living citizen of this once-free country.

To support this monstrosity, a tax burden on the remaining productive citizens not seen since feudal times supports non-productive people in numbers not seen since the “bread and circuses” mobs of the later Roman Empire.

What’s worse is the blatant individual greed of the members of Congress—”worthies” elevated to positions of power by market-manipulation ad tactics applied to elections where no more than 15% or 20% of the eligible voting population bothers to participate.

A few select samples will illustrate the point. Consider House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.)

Her lifetime crusade for “fairness” for workers, enshrined in legislation to increase the “minimum wage” covered all workers in the U.S. except the workers in American Samoa who toil for far less than minimum wage in the tuna packing plants that she and her husband own stock in.

Nor does Pelosi recognize the injustice of the real effect of “minimum wage”—the 40% to 50% unemployment rate for younger workers priced out of the kinds of starter jobs that once launched generations of productive American careers.

Take Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass).

Recently, Kerry has become obsessed with climate-change legislation. He has campaigned so vigorously for his “cap-and-trade” proposal that he has alienated Senate colleagues quite used to scratching each others’ backs for mutual gain. One beleaguered senator told Politico, “Clearly it’s all climate, all the time with him.”

Kerry’s American Power Act (APA) echoes President Obama’s climate proposals which the President admits “will necessarily skyrocket” the price of electricity.

But Kerry’s proposal differs from the President’s by including billions for subsidies for “alternative energy”—including nuclear. The APA would grant large energy firms $1.3 billion to $3 billion for each nuclear reactor with $54 billion in guaranteed loans to encourage reactor construction.

According to recent Kerry financial disclosures, he and his wife own about $20 million in shares in the very large energy companies who are the staunchest supporters of the APA, helped write the bill, and stand to gain the most from it.

Consider Maxine Waters (D.-Calif.)

Rep. Waters is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee.

According to her financial disclosure statements, she has financial ties to OneUnited Bank. At the time that TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) was set up in late 2008, Waters pressured Treasury officials to meet with the bank to consider the bank’s request for TARP funds. Within two weeks of that meeting, the bank got $12.1 million in bailout funds.

Greed is not good—either in private life or public service.

In business, greed is tempered by competition. In politics, greed is unchecked and fueled by money not earned taken from people who’ve forgotten their heritage of freedom.