April 27, 2020
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Greed is the virus that never goes away, in good times, in bad ones. It is exploitive, growing exponentially with pandemic illness, for example, its handlers quickly looking to seize any opportunity to rake in more cash. It has no soul, this devil.
An example: In a recent direct conference call to the White House (a misnomer of a name for this present dark place of non-leadership), top executives of key large restaurant chains pressed Trump on a $145 billion “aid” package . According to a N.Y. Times story April 25, these companies, though “highly profitable in recent years,” believe they need a buffer against major losses in the pandemic.
Not explained to the White House, of course, was that these chains have not spent their high profits on setting aside a rainy-day nest egg, nor assuring staff, many at minimum wage with little or no benefits, that they would have their back, for a time anyway, in any big crisis.
Instead, the companies followed what banks and other large corporations did in the U.S. government bailout after the near-depression of 2008, itself caused by the constant river of greed. The banks, etc., used taxpayer money, borrowed against what will be your now-young grandchildren’s massive debt, to buy back their own stock, thus increasing share price. More yachts, vacation homes, private aircraft. The restaurant chains lobbying Trump took not a bailout but profits to buy stock, accumulating debt that now has them in a pickle during the crisis.
They were irresponsible. Companies are invested by shareholders who deserve a decent return, but the buck does not stop there. Their products are assembled and offered by the minions who receive comparatively small paychecks in one hand while their wallets are raided by the future instability of the firms’ focus on immediate profit and not on solidifying the companies’ foundation. Future jobs lost. Future taxpayer bailouts ahead. Greed.
This pandemic has brought sea change — sudden, terrible passing of loved ones, closed schools and shops, greater affliction on the poor and poorer and worries by the ton as to what future life will look like. But it has also boosted profiteers in their fixated run for the money.
If anything needs remedying in this crisis and post-crisis, it is the sinister-driven greed machine. Jam the gears so our society can be rebuilt with economic fairness.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org