WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING WEALTHY?…

…or seeking personal wealth? These are very dynamic questions. Personal wealth can ultimately manifest itself in many ways. My impression is most left wingers do not like wealthy people. They are viewed by them as being greedy, self-serving, and having no concern for the condition of “others”. Unfortunately, over the history of the United States there have been so many wealthy persons that have gained their fortunes by means other than legal and with respect for human rights. There are a significant number of people in contemporary American history that prove these points, from Bernard Madoff, Tom Petters, Denny Hecker, sweat shop owners in the last 100 years, oil barons and ore barons that raped the land for financial gain with no regard for the environment, and lumber sellers that scarred the land and treated their labor without regard to safety. Now look at the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently a “fail-safe” blow out switch that would cap the well in an emergency was not built into the well in the interest of saving a half of a million dollars. Now BP will be charged billions of dollars for clean-up, lawsuits, and economic recovery for all the industry that will be affected by the spill. All in the name of “GREED”.

There are also persons and families of great wealth in our country that aren’t greedy, they don’t cheat on their taxes, and they use their wealth to improve the human condition in the world. The Rockefellers of New York. They gained their wealth via oil exploration and drilling. In those early years of oil exploration and production, the environment took a beating, no doubt about it. The Rockefellers eventually got out of the oil business after making their billions of dollars. Since those days, the family has become a leader in environmental causes, donating millions of dollars for betterment of the physical condition of the planet. They also fund many organizations that give aid to the less advantaged from all points of the globe. Many family members are personally involved in these movements. To their credit, the family as a whole has done wonderful things in the area of philanthropy and volunteerism. Two family members chose public service, Nelson Rockefeller, a very moderate republican Governor of New York and Jay Rockefeller, a moderate to liberal democratic Senator from West Virginia. David Rockefeller served many Presidents. The Kennedy family of Massachusetts is another famous wealthy clan. Joe Kennedy built the fortune in the early years of the last century mostly by “boot-legging” booze during prohibition. He also had many other questionable sources of revenue. Be that as it may, the family used that fortune to be an inspiration to millions of people for the purpose of helping people in need. Each member of the generations after Joe and Rose has worked tirelessly in public service, and volunteerism. John Kennedy began the Peace Corps. He fought for civil rights for African-Americans at a time when that wasn’t particularly popular. Bobby Kennedy, a Senator from New York, was a leader in the civil rights revolution that changed America for the better in the 1960’s. Ted Kennedy, the “conscience of the Senate”, for almost fifty years devoted his life for the improvement of the human condition on this planet. These three brothers probably influenced progressive ideology more than any American politicians in history. It was also Eunice Kennedy Shriver that started the “Special Olympics”, that is now a world-wide power in the exposure of the needs of the disabled. Lyndon Johnson was one of the wealthiest men to ever serve as our President. What did he do? He spearheaded and signed some of the most progressive legislation ever, the Voter’s Rights Bill, the Medicare Act, expansion or Social Security, and the Food Stamp Act. His administration was nicknamed “The Great Society” for good reason. Here in Minnesota we have the lasting legacy of the Dayton family. The department store chain bearing the family name made the Dayton’s into a very wealthy and influential name in Minnesota. The family has always been involved in philanthropic, charitable, and volunteer organizations. One of the family heirs is Mark Dayton. After college, Mark spent a couple of years teaching ninth grade science in New York City public schools. When came back to Minnesota, he worked in the family business before answering the call to public service. He worked in the Governors office before becoming the state treasurer. After two terms there, he sought other offices until finally upsetting the incumbant Senator Rod Grams. He only served one term in the Senate. His voting record was identical to the leading liberal voice of the time, fellow Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. Dayton has been a leading advocate for the poor, for the uninsured, and for quality education.

See, not all wealthy people are greedy! As Americans, one of the wonderful benefits we enjoy is the ability to freely pursue your dreams. If your dream is to become wealthy, so be it! Being wealthy is nice in a capitalist free market society. It allows a person to do many things, whether it be personal or charity.

How does this fit into the world of American politics? Well, I’ve had to listen to the opponents of Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza here in Minnesota. The opponents are bothered by the personal wealth of these two candidates. They seem to be concerned about their ability to fund their own campaigns. This is a total non-issue. It is their right as Americans to pay for their own campaigns if they wish. The ugliest part of politics in America is the money. Many politicians fall prey to campaign contributors who wish to get more than a “thank you” for the money. Almost all major contributors to political campaigns have an “agenda”, or ulterior motive. When a politician goes down, it’s usually linked to their money sources. The beauty of funding your own campaign is you owe nothing to anyone! No corporate interests, no special interests, no illicit “PAC” money. When Dayton ran for the Senate, the Republicans didn’t make such an issue over Dayton’s wealth. They campaigned against his liberal ideology! They were right. Dayton was one of the most liberal Senators on the Hill in his one term in Washington! So, why are his democratic opponents so upset by his candidacy? I don’t know the answer. He has a proven documented record of being the most liberal of the candidates in the field. He will go into the Governor’s office being unsullied by contributors looking for paybacks. I’m not sure why they are so opposed to Dayton or Entenza, who also has the record of being very progressive. Wealthy politicians can do a great job for Americans, especially those in need, because they are unencumbered with promises that can’t be met. If Ted Kennedy’s many years of public service devoted almost 100% to the interests of the less advantaged among us isn’t proof enough that personal wealth doesn’t insulate a person from the “other side”, I don’t know what will. Stop vilifying persons of wealth for that reason. Last November, Governor John Corzine (D-NJ), was soundly beaten by Republican Chris Christy. It’s too bad that many of the “head in the clouds” left-wing idealogues blamed Corzine’s loss on tha fact he financed his own campaign. They are so wrong! He financed his own campaigns successfully in previous runs for the Senate and the Governorship. He lost because he was a terrible manager of the affairs of New Jersey and the residents saw this. He had record low approval ratings prior to the start of the campaign. Now, Corzine did amass his wealth while working for Goldman-Sachs on Wall Street. Corzine is a good guy. He is liberal and does care immensely for the other guy. He was part of a broken system.

We do live and operate in a free market economy as Americans. That, however, does not excuse the acts of certain industries like insurance, banking, and Wall Street that ran rough shod over anyone in their way to greed. Lehmann Brothers, AIG, Goldman-Sachs, and others are proof right there when you leave American business unregulated and left to mind their own P’s and Q’s, greed takes over. It starts with the lobbyists in Washington working for these industries, plying the politicians to deregulate and look the other way. Business in America can and does work if regulated and made to stay within the legal, moral, and ethical boundaries. Contrary to what the Republicans want us to believe, tax cuts for the wealthy do not make for new jobs and growth and expansion of business. They go straight to the bottom line of the business and show up as profits. On an inflation adjusted basis, American taxpayers and businesses are paying less in taxes than they did fifty years ago. Since businesses are paying less in taxes, why are they laying people off? The Republicans say tax cuts create jobs. Major corporations not only don’t pay taxes, but they even go so far to manipulate the system to get tax credits! Fact and documented. I haven’t figured why they Republicans want to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Those guys don’t pay them anyway. It’s the wealthy Democrats that are paying taxes.

Bottom line is, people who aspire for monetary wealth are not necessarily bad. For those that are born into wealth, I admire them if they work hard to increase the wealth, in other words, they don’t live off of it, and those that use their wealth to further causes necessary for the less advantaged. Get off your high horse about the evils of wealth. Embrace the decent people of wealth that can help us promote the causes of human rights and the environment. Knock that chip off of your liberal shoulder and open your minds to the fact that poor and working class folks are not the only ones that can work to make the world a better place to live. Thank for today’s read.

Cam Obert

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