Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Greedy Wall Street Bankers

There are some protests going on in our country these days which are getting considerable press coverage. Many of the protesters are in New York, and, based on a few press interviews I have heard, are protesting that some people on Wall Street “make too much money. They don’t need $3 million bonuses to spend on luxuries, when there are so many poor and jobless people in the country.”

Hmm. That sounds right. Perhaps you might be tempted to join in their protests.

And you would be wrong.

Do Not Be Anxious! (Where have you heard that before?) That exhortation applies equally to you and the poor of this country: He will take care of you all. Don’t be angry at God or your neighbor because you do not see money being spent in “proper” ways --- “proper” being defined: as you would spend it. But I remind you: His ways are not our ways. Don’t let yourself be like Jonah, who didn’t understand why God didn’t punish Nineveh, the way he (Jonah) wanted it to be:

It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “I pray thee, Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish (and ended up in the whale); for I knew that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil.” --- Jonah 4:2

Jonah saw sin in Nineveh like the Wall Street protesters see too much money: “Nothing good can come of this.” Punish them!! Jonah was wrong, and so are the protesters.

At the heart of the protesters concern is corporate profits, and what should be done with them. They would eliminate this “root of all evil.” So to alleviate our anxieties, let’s address their concerns and look at the possible options for use of those “evil” profits: 1)They can be re-invested in the company to improve or grow it; 2)They can be given to investors; 3)They can be given to employees (“but $3 million is too much” --- although I suspect some unions might disagree); 4)They can be returned to customers in the form of lower prices; or 5)They can be taken/taxed by the government so it can decide who deserves these monies.

Given these options, I suspect the protesters would object to options 2 or 3, grudgingly accept option 1, and prefer options 4 or 5. They would dislike options 2 or 3 because they may give individuals “too much money which they don’t need,” implying options 4 or 5 would result in spending that money in “proper” ways. But the protesters ignore or don’t understand three basic facts. First: All companies need profits/investments, to start up, to grow, and to remain competitive and exist. Options 1 and 2 are needed to provide money for companies to exist, and trying to price perfectly to eliminate excess profits, Option 4, would put needed profits at the risk of unpredictable supply and demand factors.

The Second basic often ignored fact is: All people MAY act out of greed or vanity, whether it is a rich man buying a yacht or a senator buying an unneeded airport to be named after him. Some people MAY spend money frivolously, whether as individuals or part of the government. Options 3 and 5 are basically the same, just different individuals spending the money.

And the Third basic fact is: MOST people don’t act out of greed. The majority of Americans believe in God, and generally accept Christian values and virtues. Americans give more money to charity than peoples of any other country in the world. The government gives no money to charity and is less efficient than charities at helping the poor. Even though some people make immoral choices for the use of their money, most do not --- although certainly ALL people could make better choices, even the poor.

So, given these facts, what should be done with those rich people “who have too much money”? Well, God and the Commandments and the Gospels are about what you, yourself, should do out of love. They are not about what you should MAKE others do. Note: There is no commandment that you should punish others who break the commandments. Do not be anxious about these things. Rather through example and evangelization encourage those who have more --- even “too much” --- to do as Jesus would do with their riches. Jesus commanded no rich man to give to the poor. He asked. He said If you would be my friend, …. And many heeded and followed His example.

The protesters in New York may feel righteous in their actions. Mandatory socialism, equal rewards for everyone, may sound like a good thing. To them I would offer only two additional facts: 1)Only in heaven will there be equal rewards for everyone, and 2)In dictating equal rewards on earth, they set themselves to be more righteous than Jesus, who neither dictated nor coerced any such thing.

Considering the facts, all the facts, and considering the implications of their actions, I for one would not choose to be one of the protesters on Wall Street, nor support their cause. I will not judge --- nor will I be anxious.

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