The trouble with money is us. Whether there’s too much or too little money spells trouble. In the case of too much, it creates the illusion of entitlement, as described in the ongoing property battles between the rich and famous in the Hamptons (“Boundary Issues, by Bob Morris, Town&Country, August 2015, pgs. 108-111, 119-121.). Or, it creates an atmosphere of guilt, as happened to the folks at Charlie Hebdo. The French publication was financially down for the count until 12 of its employees were killed and 11 injured by Muslim protestors objecting to the image of Mohammed published in its pages. Thrust upon the world stage by sympathetic outpourings, this champion of the downtrodden found itself embarrassed by a windfall of 30 million Euros,
What a dilemma. Imagine the difficulty of railing against the rich while standing on the same lofty perch. One employee described the windfall as “a poisoned gift.” (“The Charlie War,” by Roger Cohen, Vanity Fair, August, 2015, pg. 125). On a personal level, however, no one at the publication was above claiming a part of the money. When the squabbling began, critics accused the paper of everything from betraying its leftist past to condoning racism toward Muslims. (Ibid, pg 124.)
A scarcity of money brings its own set of problems. As Michael Kingsley points out in, “Forget About the Middle Class,” (Vanity Fair, August 2015, pgs. 58-61) what worries presidential candidates of both parties in the U.S. is the shrinking membership of the middle class — even though most people, regardless of income, describe themselves as such. (Ibid pg. 64). The phenomena may explain why so few politicians address the issues of the poor. In America, apparently, we have none.
Middle Class or poor, the under classes hold one view in common: the rich should pay more taxes. But, as Kingsley points out, that remedy doesn’t go far. There are 123 million households in the U. S. and of that number, only 5,000 are worth $100 million or more. Crunching the numbers reveals that, “if you took a million from each of the rich households and divided it up among the rest, each household would get $208.” (Ibid pg. 61) That’s not a retirement plan.
Of course, Republican candidates would never talk about wealth redistribution. Their strategy is to “expand the economy.” Until recently, they’ve been attempting to do so through the Import-Export Bank which, “lends money to foreign governments so they can buy U. S. goods…” (Ibid pg 61) This “Rube Goldberg contraption,” as Kingsley calls it, (Ibid pg. 61}, has recently fallen into disfavor and the bank’s future is in question. In the meantime, the Republicans have kept mum about how to expand the economy once we stop making poorer nations our debtors.
Unlike food or shelter, money is a commodity of which there is never enough. How does one satisfy an addiction of the mind? The only way to solve our money problems is to alter our relationship to it. So far, no one has found a way to do that.