Thursday, October 04, 2012


We have a distrust of wealthy people in the United States. And it's hard not to when you consider how badly many of the most wealthiest have behaved. Consider, for instance, the shameful antics of Paris Hilton or the robber barons who build railroads by enslaving Chinese immigrants or the Wall Street bandits who gleefully devastated the pensions and life savings of millions. We have reason to know that the love of money can compel people to do terrible things.

So we distrust wealthy people. And we should if wealth truly is their god. But many wealthy people became wealthy because they loved what they were doing and the wealth resulted from it. The late Sam Walton comes to mind. He continued to live a fairly simple lifestyle after making his money because the money wasn't his motivator. Or Steve Jobs who pursued his single minded dream, many times not making the money he could have because of his adherence to his vision. When people build something, they almost never do it because they're trying to become rich. They're doing it out of passion.

It's their heirs who usually waste their money on $13,000 hairstyles and $50,000 dresses or $1,000,000 cars. People who don't have to work for their money never learn the value of money or hard work or anything else resembling ethics. They truly are a different species, uncaring and self-absorbed. Naturally there are exceptions, but they don't make the headlines.

Many wealthy people give generously to charities. And not just because they want the tax exemptions, either.  They want the world to be a better place, and they have the money to attempt to make it so. They don't love their money; they love what they can do with it.

Anyway, this distrust is why (I think) that so many Americans who hate taxes will go quiet when taxes on the wealthy are raised. We don't trust what they will do with their money. Part of us says, "They have the right to do what they want with their cash." But another part goes, "Really? Starving children in the world and they're buying diamond-paved toilet seats for $9,000?"

I'm always amazed by the wealthy people who don't understand how this type of outrageous spending offends people, particularly those who are struggling. I suspect they simply can't or won't understand. They've given their souls to Mammon, and he's a terrible god.

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