Public outrage boiled over this week when it was revealed that AIG bonuses were funded by us the taxpayers in the form of bailout money. When CEOs and upper management are making salaries that are 400 times that of their workers and after running their company into the ground and losing 98% of the stock value and 156 billion in market capitalization the general public has every reason to be outraged. That someone would then expect to get multi-million dollar bonuses after a performance like this and hide behind what they claim are unbreakable legal contracts is unconscionable. A contract that by the way would have been broken or worthless had AIG gone into bankruptcy prior to not being bailed out with funds from us the taxpayers.
Greed is most assuredly not good and it never has been and never will be. Greed has not put out a fire, Greed does not keep our streets safe, Greed has not helped an accident victim along the side of the road, Greed has never given a blanket to a homeless veteran, Greed has not taught a child, Greed has not given you the best possible health care coverage, and Greed has not brought neighbors of all colors, sexual orientations and political persuasions together as Americans.
And before someone launches into a "you're a socialist" tirade let me be clear that I am all for capitalism that pays a fair and just wage for the services that a person performs or the goods that they produce. The Webster dictionary defines capitalism as: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.
Laissez-faire capitalism (unfettered and unregulated free markets) is nothing but a bastardization of true capitalism that allows greed to be the primary driver of the "private decisions". The other part of Webster's definition that is also essential to a properly functioning system of capitalism is "competition in a free market". But over the past two decades the basic ideas of the Sherman Anti-trust laws have been either weakened or completely ignored. The result is that we have dozens of companies that are now “too big to fail”. Corporatism in this country has run rampant and as an unseen entity it is now more powerful than our government. Its greed controls our politicians, it controls our legislation and up until recently it controlled the mindset of the general public.
It is time to turn the page and agree that both government and free-market capitalism can and must exist in harmony like two kids on a teeter-totter. But if one side gets too large and powerful it holds the other hostage.