Chicago Sun Times, August 20, 2004
America's Disease is Greed
by Andrew Greeley
most serious spiritual problem in the country
today is reckless and untrammeled greed. Greed
caused the disgraceful corporate scandals that
fill our newspapers. Greed is responsible for
crooked cops and crooked politicians. Greed
causes the constant efforts to destroy unions
that protect basic worker rights.
Greed has produced rash tax cuts that have given
money to the rich and in effect taken it away
from the poor. Greed has led to the immigration
policy in which hundreds of poor men and women
die every year as they struggle across the
desert for the jobs that el norte promises
them. Greed accounts for the efforts to take
profitability out of the pensions and health
insurance of working men and women. Greed is
responsible for the fact that so many Americans
have no health insurance and the fact that
the recent reform of Medicare was a fraud.
Greed causes newspapers to overestimate their
Greed is responsible for the obscene salaries
of CEOs. In the '90s the ratio of CEO compensation
to average workers' compensation was 250 to
1, meaning that the boss earned on his first
day of work during a year as much as the worker
did in a whole year. In European countries
the ratio is closer to 100 to 1. Recent estimates
put the current ratio at 500 to 1 -- the boss
makes as much before lunch as the worker does
all year. Greed is the cause of the high wages
paid to the bosses even if the company is failing.
Greed is responsible for the endless stress and
ruthless competition of the workplace and the
strains and tensions of professional class
marriages. Greed (in this instance another
name for relentless ambition) explains much
of the cheating on college campuses. Greed
is responsible for outsourcing, which is incapable
of comprehending that the employees who lose
their jobs are also the consumers who sustain
the economy. Greed generates the reckless ventures
that in part caused the bubble of the late
'90s. Greed causes expensive wars that shatter
the budget. Greed is the reason that only the
wealthy are benefitting so far from the economic
upturn that is allegedly happening. Greed drives
loan sharks. Greed is responsible for the success
of big box stores that tax the poor with low
wages to provide bargains for affluent suburban
shoppers. Greed is the reason poor white Appalachians,
poor African Americans and poor Native Americans
must fight the wars that the wealthy start.
Jessica Lynch joined the Army so she could
go to college. Her Native American roommate,
killed in action, joined so, single mother
that she was, she could support her children.
Greed is the reason why the country is being
run by those whom the president has described,
however inelegantly, as the ''haves and the
No one said during the bizarre deification of
President Reagan that he taught us that greed
is good and that we should feel good about
our greedy country. Greed is the reason that
the country is being run by the insurance,
pharmaceutical, weapons and petroleum industries.
Greed causes worldwide sex slavery of women
Greed drives the murders of the narcotics world.
Greed is responsible for the exploitations
of teen sports stars by colleges and for the
mess in the pro sports world. It is also the
cause of the use of performance drugs by young
athletes. Greed is responsible for the bad
advice lawyers gave the Church years ago to
beat victims of sexual abuse into the ground.
It is behind the scam artists who steal from
Greed may have been a more serious problem for
Americans, say, in the era of the robber barons.
But the Garys and the Morgans and the Carnegies
were a small bunch of men. Now their greed
has seeped down to a much larger segment of
The Catholic Church speaks of four sins that
cry to heaven for vengeance. Two are cheating
workers out of wages and exploiting widows
and children. Both happen every day in our
Ambition is not evil within limits. The struggle
for success is not bad within limits. Hard
work and fair rewards are good within limits.
It is not good to take from the poor and give
to the rich, and that's exactly what this country
is doing today.
Don't let anyone tell you that lust is the most
deadly of the deadly sins.
Copyright 2004, Digital Chicago Inc.
FAIR USE NOTICE
site contains copyrighted material the
use of which has not always been specifically
authorized by the copyright owner. We
are making such material available in
our efforts to advance understanding of
environmental, political, human rights,
economic, democracy, scientific, and social
justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes
a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material
as provided for in section 107 of the
US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title
17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on
this site is distributed without profit
to those who have expressed a prior interest
in receiving the included information
for research and educational purposes.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
If you wish to use copyrighted material
from this site for purposes of your own
that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain
permission from the copyright owner.