What has greed cost America?

Gordon Gecko was wrong. Greed is not good. It’s very, very bad. And, it’s destroying America a little more each day.

This morning on MSNBC's conservative Morning Joe show, rock icon Graham Nash had this to say about the Koch Brothers.

"...it's appalling how many climate change deniers there are in this world that are paid to make sure that the Koch brothers can still sell all the stuff to us. And I often wonder, don't the Koch brothers have children? Don't they have grandchildren? Don't they know what they're doing in this quest for more money? They're already one of the richest families in the world. How much more do you need?"

He's right. Greed is threatening to destroy our entire planet. And it's not just greed in the fossil fuel industry. It’s become virtually impossible – if not totally impossible – to name a single major industry in America that We The People aren’t subsidizing and that hasn't turned into a functional monopoly.

Think about it. Each year, we give away billions to Big Oil. We give billions to Wall Street. We fork over our hard earned money to private prison corporations, healthcare giants, and giant transnational fast-food corporations. That’s all money that’s coming out of our pockets, money that was taken as our tax dollars from We The People.

And, we’re giving away these billions despite the fact that those industries and corporations are raking in massive profits all by themselves.

Take McDonald’s for example. That fast-food giant, whose workers are struggling to survive and provide for their families, has seen its profits soar by over 130% in recent years. Yet, you and I are being forced to pick up the slack, and help McDonald’s employees survive.

A study by the National Employment Law Project found that McDonald’s low wages cost American taxpayers nearly $1.2 billion each year. And, a separate study found that in total, the fast-food industry’s low wages cost We The People around $7 billion annually.

Virtually every societal problem in America today can trace its roots back to the overwhelming levels of greed that have taken over our economy and society. But, while greed is destroying America, other countries are saying not so fast, and are putting people ahead of profits.

Take Denmark for example, which has managed to take a lot of greed out of the equation. While fast-food workers here in America are fighting for a modest minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour, the base wage for fast-food workers in Denmark is the equivalent of $20 per hour, two and a half times more than what most American fast-food workers are earning per hour.

As Hampus Elofsson, a Danish fast-food worker, told The New York Times, “You can make a decent living here working in fast food. You don’t have to struggle to get by.” But it’s not just the wages that are better in Denmark. Worker benefits are also far better than they are here in the U.S.

Danish fast-food workers get five weeks paid vacation, paid maternity and paternity leave and a pension plan. They also have to be paid overtime if they work after 6 PM and on Sundays. And, believe it or not, the fast-food corporations operating in Denmark are going along with these better wages and benefits.

They’ve accepted the fact that, in Denmark, people have to come before profits. Martin Drescher, the general manager of HMSHost Denmark, an airport restaurants operator, told The New York Times that, “We have to acknowledge it’s more expensive to operate. But we can still make money out of it — and McDonald’s does, too. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be in Denmark.”

He went on to say that, “We don’t want there to be a big difference between the richest and poorest, because poor people would just get really poor. We don’t want people living on the streets. If that happens, we consider that we as a society have failed.”

Imagine that: a fast-food industry executive who cares about wealth inequality, and who doesn’t want people struggling to survive and provide for their families.

Meanwhile, back here in America, we have corporate executives in just about every industry who don’t give a second thought to wealth inequality and the struggles that American workers are facing. As long as profits keep rolling in, that’s all that matters. America needs to take a page out of the Danish playbook.

We need to start asking ourselves some serious questions about our economy, society, and values. We need to be asking ourselves, "What’s happened to the ideas of civic and moral responsibility in America?" And, we need to be asking ourselves, "Are we here to serve the economy, or is the economy here to serve us?"

There should be no place for raw, naked greed in America. It should be tightly regulated and controlled - it should be seen as the mental illness and social illness that it is. Greed is not what our country was founded on, it certainly isn’t what it was built on, and it’s not what’s going to make America great again.

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