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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Equal Opportunity

"affordable housing, subprime mortgages, for folks who could not afford houses?”

Where once a single income was sufficient to provide for the average family, it now takes two or more. Top heavy corporations with obscene executive salaries and bonuses have turned many Americans against this ugly side of capitalism. The trappings of our basic economic structure is stacked against those dinosaurs of industry. It's the IBM syndrome all over. The directors couldn't see the wood for the trees in their own forest...and so their arrogance and myopic denial forced them into what good, sound economic principles could have prevented...and so Humpty Dumpty took a great fall...and they came back leaner and meaner. This was totally avoidable, and yet completely necessary. Who got hurt? Everyone! However, we are all arguably the better for it.

The Japanese had a policy that the highest executive salary would be no more than seven times the compensation of the lowest paid employee. (Corporate America seems to have misinterpreted this as: exponentially to the power of seven.) Private corporations that go public should be shamed into compensation caps. How much money does it take to bestow wealth beyond your wildest dreams? How many multi-million dollar homes, planes, cars, yachts, etc does it take to make one person happy? At what point does it become obscene? Good performance deserves to be rewarded...and poor performance needs to be penalized. Perhaps we need to moderate our compensation disparities.

Equal opportunity is an important concept to all Americans. In today's world it may just be "a concept too far." But, hopefully, tomorrow's world will bring a better utilization of the earth's resources, and a more equitable sharing of her bounty. I'm not suggesting that we "throw the baby out with the bath-water!" We need to allow for incentives and encourage personal growth. We need to recognize the uniqueness of individual spirit. We need to fully empathize with our partners on this planet. And finally, we need to connect with the wisdom that we are, each and everyone of us, diminished by the plight of any one among us. There is just one all encompassing rule for socio-economic harmony that makes all others redundant: "if you wouldn't want it done to you, then don't do it to anyone else."

I am certain that our recent economic demise was precipitated by credit card fraud. Not by the user, but by the issuer. Teaser rates jumping to 30%!! People having just one card were logically tempted by the sales pitch, “pay off your high rate card with our 0% interest card.” Before they knew it, there were six cards, and with a late payment on one, their house of cards began to tumble. Surely, this had much to do with the sub-prime fiasco that followed, and it doesn't take too much of a stretch to see "cause and  effect."

Are we really so heartless as to fail to understand the desire to own one's own home? Territory…a primal need for each us; especially for those who are working just as hard as the top earners in our society. But for serendipity, chance, or circumstances they are relegated to serfdom? Are we so blind that we can't see beyond our own station in life. How about some empathy here? Feel it! Touch it! Taste it! If something smells foul, it just might be the discarded humanity within our own social fabric. We are, each and every one of us diminished by those whom are left behind. If only for our own selfish need not to see and be offended by those of less fortune, let’s give a hand up to those willing to contribute…and a swift kick in the butt for those who are not.