The Pope Says Greed Is Not Good

In 1987 the film "Wall Street" summed up the general feeling in Reagan's America with Gordon Gecko's legendary speech that hinged on one phrase.

"Greed is Good."

That became the private mantra for vulture capitalists and hedgefund managers through to today - and it made a catchy case for "trickledown" Reaganomics.

But that film didn't invent the idea - it just spelled it out.

Seven years before that film came out - from the very beginning of the Reagan era - that idea was applied to every aspect of our society.

Public programs were privatized - and common resources handed over to private corporations.

Reaganomics - the idea that greed is good and profits naturally lead to justice and equality for all - has had a number of dramatic effects on American society.

It's led to the rise of charter schools and for-profit colleges and the decline of public education while student debt has exploded.

It's given us a healthcare system that promotes profits over people - a system where pharmaceutical companies spend more on advertising prescription drugs than on research and development of new and more affordable treatments.

It's lead to the rise of for-profit prisons that create profits out of human misery.

But what Reaganomics didn't create is any shared prosperity.

It has created an unholy amount of wealth - but that wealth is concentrated in the hands of very few - while the vast majority of Americans since the Reagan presidency have seen their standard of living decline.

In 1980 - the richest families only owned about 10% of American wealth - whereas the bottom 90% of families possessed about one third of all the wealth in America.

But now - the families in top one hundredth of one percent own nearly as much as the bottom 90% of families.

At the beginning of the Reagan era - homelessness and poverty exploded - and it didn't decline in any significant way for another 20 years.

And during that whole time, America became more and more infatuated with the lives of the rich and famous than with the plight of the growing throngs of poor and needy.

Most Americans could tell you a lot about the personal lives and even the sex lives of rich people like Kanye West and Madonna - Paris Hilton and Michael Jackson - we became fascinated and obsessed with their mansions - their demons - and every aspect of their lavish lifestyles.

Just look at Donald Trump - who announced he was running for president and saw a huge surge in the polls after saying that he's really rich and that's what the country needs.

In other words - "Greed is Good" and our country needs greedy leaders.

And we've come to see unholy wealth as a sign of, essentially, God's blessing - of "Good".

Even many of our country's religious leaders have cultivated followings on that idea - turn on the TV and take a look at any megachurch's multimillionaire pastor begging for donations to buy another private jet.

But there's one world leader who is speaking - and acting - out against the thinking that greed can lead to justice - that greed is good.

Pope Francis.

This Pope is reminding the world how to live simply through his words and his actions.

One of his first decisions as the head of the Catholic Church was to live in the Vatican guesthouse instead of the papal apartments.

And then there's the humble 1984 Renault that he received as a donation and drives around the Vatican.

And as the leader of the Catholic Church - he's pushed his flock of Bishops to lead by example and live simply as well.

Just last year he removed the so called "bishop of bling" - from his diocese after the bishop spent 43 million dollars on his personal residence.

And earlier today the Pope declined a lunch with Congress in order to feed and eat with the homeless in our nation's capital.

When this Pope spoke to grassroots organizers in Bolivia earlier this summer he bluntly called the "unfettered pursuit of money" the "dung of the devil".

In other words - greed is NOT good - greed's the "dung of the devil".

The Pope is reminding America and the world - that multiple mansions - the Olympic-sized swimming pools - the yachts and the private planes - these are not what we should be paying attention to - and the people who own those things aren't idols.

He's reminding us that the endless pursuit of profit and the monetization of everything are not ways to achieve justice and equality for all.

That we cannot worship Mammon - the almighty dollar - if we want to help our fellow man and make a more prosperous society for everyone.

And he's right - it's time to go back to our society's founding principles - to orient our principles in a way that uplifts the poorest among us - to start putting people before profits - and to foster a truly just and equal society.


mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 35 weeks ago

Caller Harvey seemed to lose track of what he was talking about. He kept saying "space moons" (moons are always in space) when what he seems to have meant is generation ships (or space stations). These would be big enough to live in indefinitely without needing to be resupplied very often.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 35 weeks ago

I'd suggest that another possible culprit in messing up the Gulf Stream is surface flows in the Arctic Ocean opened up by receding ice.

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 35 weeks ago

I think what Republicans would say is government greed is worse than private greed, since market pressure can reduvce excess profits in the private sector.

RJ Schundler's picture
RJ Schundler 7 years 35 weeks ago

Back in 1776, Adam Smith point out that it is GREED that moves the economy forward. Take "REAL LEMON", you know that lemon concentrate that come is a bottle ... they make a point of offering a good product to the public. Why? Becasue they are GREEDY, they want more sales, and they want customers to return. In all business transaction people want to exchange that which has less value to them for that which has more ... both the buyer and seller want to make a "profit" on the transaction. .... Greed makes the world goes round ... a young man wants (greed) the love of a woman, so he trys to offer the young lady what she wants ... it is all base on what the economist call Greed. Some people are dishonest, and that is another issue all together.

pattreid's picture
pattreid 7 years 35 weeks ago

Pls explain how market pressures reduce excess profits in the case of the recent sociopath who elevated the price of a single pill 5,000 times? Oh, yeah, he got talked down, by how much? The bottom line is that HE did not pay for the R&D that he believes entitled him to the 5,000x increase.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 35 weeks ago

This is about the right and wrong... good and bad

The definitions of which, in current human minds, have been lost

Ethics and morality have disappeared

We are experiencing nihilism, fascism, lack of humanity going down to the level of animal behaviour

Is this where we are at in the West?

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 35 weeks ago

I love it, Pope Franics, the CEO of the wealthiest corporation in the world, the Catholic Church, telling me I am greedy.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 35 weeks ago

Sociopathic is polite... in a human mind this rationale is crooked

There has to be a way these vultures can be brought to boot!

If not, then there aught to be

Gary Reber's picture
Gary Reber 7 years 35 weeks ago

Some conservative and progresssive thinkers have acknowledged the damaging results of a laissez-faire ideology, which furthers the concentration of productive capital ownership. They are floundering in search of alternative thinking as they acknowledge the negative economic and social realities resulting from greed capitalism. This acknowledgment encompasses the realization that the troubling economic and social trends (global capitalism, free-trade doctrine, tectonic shifts in the technologies of production and the steady off-loading of American manufacturing and jobs) caused by continued concentrated ownership of productive capital will threaten the stability of contemporary liberal democracies and dethrone democratic ideology as it is now understood.

Without a policy shift to broaden productive capital ownership simultaneously with economic growth, further development of technology and globalization will undermine the American middle class and make it impossible for more than a minority of citizens to achieve middle-class status.

Binary economics, whose originator was political economist Louis O. Kelso, and the various credit mechanisms derived from its understanding are not “socialist” or “communist” solutions but are based on the principles and dynamics of a free market economy. When understood, the current system is exposed as a system rigged to continually concentrate the ownership of capital in the 1 to 5 percent of the population. Also exposed are the dire moral implications of the current system, which is presently propelled by greed in our society. A new system that would ensure equal opportunity for every child, woman, and man to acquire productive capital with the earnings of capital and broaden its ownership universally does not require people to be any better than they presently are, but it does enable our society to leverage both greed and generosity in a way that honestly recognizes and harnesses productive capital as the factor that exponentially produces the wealth in a technologically advanced society.

The resulting impact of our current approaches has been plutocratic government and concentration of capital ownership, which denies every citizen his or her pursuit of economic happiness (property). Market-sourced income (through concentrated capital ownership) has concentrated in individuals and families who will not recycle it back through the market as payment for consumer products and services. They already have most of what they want and need so they invest their excess in new productive power, making them richer and richer through greater capital ownership. This is the source of the distributional bottleneck that makes the private property, market economy ever more dysfunctional. The symptoms of dysfunction are capital ownership concentration and inadequate consumer demand, the effects of which translate into poverty and economic insecurity for the 99 percent majority of people who depend entirely on wages from their labor or welfare and cannot survive more than a week or two without a paycheck. The production side of the economy is under-nourished and hobbled as a result.

We need to reevaluate our tax and central banking institutions, as well as, labor and welfare laws. We need to innovate in such ways that we lower the barriers to equal economic opportunity and create a level playing field based on anti-monopoly and anti-greed fairness and balance between production and consumption. In so doing, every citizen can begin to accumulate a viable capital estate without having to take away from those who now own by using the tax system to redistribute the income of capital workers. What the “haves” do lose is the productive capital ownership monopoly they enjoy under the present unjust system. A key descriptor of such innovation is to find the ways in which “have nots” can become “haves” without taking from the “haves.” Thus, the reform of the “system,” as Kelso postulated, “must be structured so that eventually all citizens produce an expanding proportion of their income through their privately owned productive capital and simultaneously generate enough purchasing power to consume the economy’s output.”

Implementing this agenda will effectively meet the challenge set by Pope Francis. It’s time good and well-intentioned people woke up and adopted a Just Third Way paradigm ( beyond the greed model of monopoly, “hoggist” capitalism and the envy model of the traditional welfare state. This will promote peace, prosperity, and freedom through harmonious justice.

stopgap's picture
stopgap 7 years 35 weeks ago

Dear R J Schundler, I think that in 1776 Adam Smith may have put forth the theory that GREED is what moves the economy, but if he, as you say, "pointed out that GREED is what moves the economy", then he must of had irrefutable evidence to that point. What is that irrefutable evidence?

Willie W's picture
Willie W 7 years 35 weeks ago

Pope Francis nailed it, and now the Right is saying he should mind his own business. Nothing religious or political about his message. All I saw was compassion and common sense.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 35 weeks ago

"But there's one world leader who is speaking- and acting- out against the thinking that greed can lead to justice- that greed is good." "Pope Francis."

There's another world leader who has had great opportunity to speak out in favor of social and economic justice, but has chosen instead to remain for the most part.....silent. I find this the most disappointing aspect of Obama's presidency, even more dissapointing than his support for more so called free trade.

Bernie Sanders on the other hand, has spent his entire career speaking out in favor of social and economic justice, which is why he has my total support.....he's not playing political games. He represents the people....the job he was elected to do.

I'm perplexed by today's Obama statement about Boehner. He mentioned that Boehner was willing to compromise to do the people's business. " You don't get all you want 100% of the time."

Let's be clear Boehner's wasn't the business of the people, not even close, he did the business of oligarchical big money. In a representative democracy he is a scoundrel/traitor, plain and simple.

stopgap's picture
stopgap 7 years 35 weeks ago

Regarding the GOP and Boehner resigning…the plop stinkens…

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 7 years 35 weeks ago

Jesus was pretty clear about our responsibilities to aid the poor, the elderly and the disabled -- those who are unable to provide for themselves. In modern nations with populations in the millions, this can only be achieved via govt. programs. Complex issue, but a significant body of proof exists showing how and why legitimate poverty relief programs not only benefit individuals, but the whole of the nation.

The US had implemented a range of regulations, policies and programs that took the country to its height of wealth and productivity from FDR to Reagan. When Reagan was first elected, launching the campaign against the poor, the overall quality of life in the US was rated at #1. By the time Obama was elected, this had already plunged to #43, and we can can no longer adequately compete in the modern world market. Today, we don't know how many are in severe poverty in the US. We no longer have an adequate means of determining poverty rates and, frankly, there has been no interest (by govt. or the general public) in doing so.

When it comes to responsibility for this, we have to consider reality. Not everyone can work (health, etc.), and there aren't jobs for all. The US shipped out a huge number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. The last I heard, there are 7 jobs for every 10 people who are struggling to find one. The consequences aren't difficult to figure out.

It's easy to place the blame on Republicans, but let's be honest. It was Bill Clinton who ended welfare aid, and who took the first steps to similarly "reform" Social Security, targeting the disabled. Liberal media responded by merely maintaining a pep rally for the middle class ever since, very rarely even peeking at the consequences of our "war on the poor."

We have created a poverty crisis. Reportedly, Democrats in Congress are currently planning unprecedented cuts to disability benefits, far exceeding those made by the Clinton administration. As a result of Clinton's cuts (finally reversed by President Obama), the disabled had become the fastest-growing group of homeless people by 2000. They did very poorly on the streets.

If the general public actually had any idea of the consequences of the "war on the poor," or any understanding of who the poor are, I simply don't know if it would make any difference.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 7 years 35 weeks ago

What has been so bizarre about the liberal discussion about "economic inequality" is that is almost always refers only to the gap between the better-off and the very rich, ignoring the canyon between our poor and middle class. I'm not sure if they are even aware of all those who are either unable to work (health, etc.) or for whom there are no jobs, and who have no incomes. We can say that their numbers have increased, but their very existence continues to be ignored. Another decade of agreeing to keep calling for jobs is not going to help this chunk of the population. (At the least, you can't get a job once you no longer have a home address, phone, bus fare, etc. You're just out.) The longer we have ignored this crisis, the wider and deeper it has grown.

Elioflight's picture
Elioflight 7 years 35 weeks ago

The Pope says GREED, excess profits--is bad. He is smart enough to know--which business/corporations seem to be ignorant about--that profit--not EXCESS profit--is good for everyone. He knows people need jobs/income, a safe and just place to work, and income that goes beyond their bills so they can CONSUME what they make.

Workers are paid, workers buy, business profits.

It's incredibly simple. Workers must have JOBS and wages that allow the worker to spend. When we ALL share the burden and don't take more than we need, then everyone does well and business does well--what is wrong with that? It's not a redistribution of wealth, it's a SHARING of wealth and appreciation of EVERYONE WHO WORKS TO GENERATE THAT WEALTH.

The rest of us are 2/3s of any business. Can the CEO, alone, bring in the raw materials to make? With what would the CEO make? Can the CEO make, with his/her hands, the product? What would the CEO have to sell--nothing. If workers make and cannot afford to spend, then what does the CEO have? He has plenty of inventory and NO profit.

Workers/consumers are a severely UNDERVALUED and LARGE PART part of any business picture. I mean, were you all sleeping in business classes or skipping class to play golf? Money doesn't just appear because you wish it or have an idea. Others help you realize it: the government, the worker, the consumer.

Today's CEOs are part of the "Salesman mentality." It involves "short-term thinking." "Getting MY next commission." "Future, what is that?" Half of them don't even know or appreciate what they are selling. They go on to lead companies, run them poorly and recklessly, then retire or move on to destroy another company; their incompetence protected and rewarded with a golden parachute and the money piles up, but it is NEVER enough!

When the rest of us are doing our jobs and creating product for the sales staff, they get their salary AND a commission for just doing their job. What sense does it make to double reward the salesman, when those who MAKE the work they sell are pinched to pay the salesman's commission? It's called GREED and it's main mission is to destroy and that it does, handily.

Thank god, someone has come who is not affraid of the wealthy and powerful to speak for us--the 99%--the people who CREATE the wealth the greedy enjoy at our expense.

ahalls's picture
ahalls 7 years 35 weeks ago

I would like to hear more about the the use of the RICO act to stop the pseudoscience of the Tobaco industry that was briefly mentioned in Friday's show. A quick internet search shows references to US District Judge Gladys Kesser's ruling in a RICO case, which found the tobacco industry guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the American public about the health risks of tobacco. It is important to know who brought the case and why it was successful.

From this background we can look for people to support such a case directed at the climate change deniers industry. I think the recently exposed CO2 pollution study work at Exxon in the 1970's could be the basis for this suit. I would love to hear from anyone running with Thom's idea to use the RICO act to stop the climate change deniers. Exxon Memo on Climate Change

donna ford's picture
donna ford 7 years 34 weeks ago

Thom should recant the story about the Pope &the 5 year old Sophie Cruz girl. The AP and USA Today reported it was ALL a set up. Thom needs to address how the MSM can and does report slanted pieces to pull the wool over the publics eyes and if he does not recant he is just as bad as the MSM shills.

I came here to read the TRUTH not bull shit, please expose the TRUTH!

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 34 weeks ago

Correction to rj shundler:

Smith said greed could drive the economy forward, if people were not moral. He rejected most government laws to regulate the market because to him they rarely worked, not because 'greed is good'. He really preferred people become religous and act morally to each other .

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 34 weeks ago

An answer to pattreid:

Market pressure does not compete away technology profits unless it can be copied or improved. But do we want the government in charge of inventing everything? Or course not. However, we could have patent laws that would enable technology that was critical but could not be copied or improved. Also, research is really a special case, which is why tbe world subsidises it.

Thom's argument that greed is not good is pointless from a political perspective. The pope wants people to choose to be moral. He was not advocating socialism.

Dr. Econ's picture
Dr. Econ 7 years 34 weeks ago

Stopgap wants irrefutable evidence that greed drives the ecomy.

Smith at the time hoped people would become religous and moral, and hence end economic problems. since this did not occur he could say the economy is mostly driven by greed

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 34 weeks ago

The Pope would never admit he wants socialism but I think there's little doubt that the socialiism of the monastery or truly Christian community is what he would most like - and I think he'd, no doubt, like a government with more economic democracy or a democratic socialism, socialism that doesn't dispense with democracy or a Western European, not Eastern European, socialism.
Greed drives an economy but not one that's good for everyone.
As for Adam Smith "knowing that regulations rarely work", why do some people think that current American pop culture is universal? What the main issues of Smith's time were were the doing away with feudalism by capitalist, bourgeois revolutions which were, in fact, a great liberation for human society - although there's no reason to stay stuck in that period and resist progress toward socialism.
I don't know but I doubt Adam Smith thought about government regulation in any way similar to how an American amateur economist of 2015 would. "Socialism", as we think of the term, wasn't to even be conceived of for another two hundred years. The only socialist movements back then were of the Christian churches.
Kend, what you're observing is the first uncorrupted and genuinely Christian pope in a long time. There's nothing wrong with being the world's largest nonprofit corporation - if it truly stays that way and remains true to its mission.
You are too greedy.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 34 weeks ago

1867 (Das Kapital) minus 1776 (The Wealth of Nations) equals 91. Capitalism is so bad it took only 91 years for someone to get as sick of it as Karl Marx did.

bev-lib's picture
bev-lib 7 years 34 weeks ago

I'm appauled that Kim Davis scamed the visiting Pope. How dare she stoop so low.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 33 weeks ago

That's why you're the Mathboy. Also, there was some communist, but not really statist, factional tendency in the French Revolution and there was a lot of communism and anarchosyndicalism in the workers' rebellions and uprisings of the Second Republic of the 1840s when the Paris Commune was briefly established but what we understand as socialism wasn't concretely imagined by the public probably until after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

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