By: CONNOR MABON – OPINIONS EDITOR
It wasn’t long ago that President Obama announced what he considered the defining challenge of our time, to drastically shrink the gap that has distanced us from our anchored notions of economic fairness and opportunity.
The rhetoric is inspiring, yet alarming. It encourages making effort to recalibrate the scale of opportunity to enable the pursuit of happiness for more Americans. At the same time, Obama’s words on inequality face a formidable obstacle rooted in human nature: Greed.
Starting in the late 1970s, we began to see stark disparities between the affluent and the not-so-fortunate in regard to real wages and incomes. Despite progress in workplace diversity, the growing income gap has continued ever so forcefully into the present day.
For the last four decades, real wages for the majority of the nation’s workforce have remained largely unchanged and stagnant. On the other hand, the incomes of the infamous “1 percent” practically quadrupled, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan analysis for the U.S. Congress. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessarily an issue of equality. I believe it’s an issue of good morals and knowing limits.
One former hedge-fund trader and Wall Street club member described in his recent submission to the New York Times an egotistical atmosphere where wealth acquisition has become an incurable addiction harming more people than it benefits.
His name is Sam Polk, a former wealth addict who got off on spending benders like a drug addict would with their daily fix.
Ironically, it was his use of drugs and alcohol during his college years that led him to see wealth acquisition as a form of addiction. Polk argues “wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor.” As the Great Recession settled in, there were small groups of individuals profiting on the majority’s losses. They made money off “people who didn’t have millions in the bank,” as Polk put it. Healthy bonuses were handed out to the few as the majority struggled to cope with financial security.
Wealth addiction is greed, pure and simple. It’s the inability to barricade the mind from the barrage of selfish desires.
Personally, I think it’s inherent in human nature for us to want things that make life better and to protect those things at all costs. But there’s something about greed, this primal behavior that drives certain people to haphazardly develop an addiction to wealth at the expense of others’ efforts.
Money speaks in this world, there’s no doubt about it. But we should ask ourselves, is wealth simply a matter of luck?
Is it a matter of individual effort and discipline? Will greed always linger in the DNA of humanity and continue to maintain this gross imbalance of fairness, equality and opportunity?
Nothing is too great of a challenge for humanity to conquer. Curing ourselves from greed may require more accountability, or a slight adjustment to the American Dream. We may have to re-evaluate our concept of what is enough and work to reverse our selfish desires into selfless acts of giving back to the less fortunate.
To do so, we must stop, think and act.