This has happened before according to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Hoard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. Back then people became angry at the income disparity. Some politicians like Roosevelt and Taft had the integrity and courage to fight their own party and take action to remedy the economic disparities. The resultant reforms broke the monopolistic control of the super-rich.
Could that happen now? While the situation today is similar, the circumstances are not. There still are politicians of integrity, but very few. And now we have something that has enabled a vocal few to tear the cloth of honor that has previously held our country together. Social media. These days there is instant retaliation against someone deviating from party doctrine, a doctrine with close ties to the wealthy few, primarily on the Republican side but not exclusively.
I also think, like most problems, this search for wealth has two sides, and I think we have to be very careful what we wish for.
Because I’m not at all opposed to someone accumulating wealth.
Because that leads to the creation of jobs. And that benefits people like me.
There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to have my own business, and a college friend and I even discussed it. But I recognized almost immediately that it wasn’t for me. I needed the security of a steady job that allowed me to do work I loved and support a family I loved.
I was able to have what I wanted because there were others who thought big. Our history has been filled with ingenious and adventurous individuals willing to assume the risk of building the structure to succeed in all sorts of areas from manufacturing to higher education. And, as a result, jobs are created. I think such innovators should be rewarded handsomely.
I have great respect for these individuals. I’m in awe of what it takes to have an idea, do what is necessary to bring it to fruition, and then build and run a viable business.
But my respect has limits.
I do not respect those innovators who are successful, but then whose seemingly insatiable passion for more and more money drives them relentlessly to pursue ever-increasing wealth. Especially if they offer insufficient wages for the people actually carrying out the work on which their wealth depends. Or if profits soar because proper safety measures are absent and dangerous work environments follow.
Another executive I don’t respect is the professional CEO who hops from company to company demanding ever increasing compensation many hundreds of times larger than those working at the bottom levels.
I have a friend who did it right. He had the guts to form and lead a company whose output he developed and thoroughly understood. He did very well, sold his organization, and now lives a comfortable life. I don’t begrudge him a penny. And I admire what he now is doing, using his time and his talent and his circumstances to create a positive impact on the world.
In summary, I admire the innovators. They make the jobs for the rest of us. We could not exist or advance as a nation without them. They should be encouraged.
And I admire the workers at the bottom levels of organizations for toiling days and weeks and months and years to support their families.
Big compensation for the innovators is only fair. Unlimited compensation is not.