Recently, Pope Francis made a speech that, in part, spoke of "unfettered capitalism." While most anything the pope says or does makes headlines, this in particular made quite a stir. Many who have consistently spoken out about problems within the Roman Catholic Church were applauding the pope, and others typically in support questioned his stated position. Being raised Roman Catholic, I was taught that the pope is infallible, so rather than choose to take a side, I wanted to pursue a better understanding of the lesson the pope may have been looking to impart. This can only truly be achieved by reading the whole speech, rather than just the snippets aired on television, radio or in print.
What I came to understand is that, unlike the popular line from a movie, greed is not good. However, wealth is good. Some level of wealth is gained most often by people going to work and earning it. Some people are fortunate enough to gain great levels of wealth. Many of these fortunate few use that wealth to create opportunities for many others to likewise earn wealth, and they often donate large amounts of their wealth to institutions and organizations, including the Catholic Church. These institutions use the wealth they have been gifted to generate wonderful advances in science, medicine and education that benefit society as a whole. This really is the very definition of trickle-down economics, a term that has come to be so vilified.
Now, recently I have heard several politicians, in the effort to promote continued funding of government programs, speak of how it is important for these programs to be extended or even expanded for the benefit of the economy. They state that when the government grants people these monies, they then spend the money, which is good for the economy. Well, they are half right.
People spending money is, of course, good for the economy, again a shining example of trickle-down economics. But any time the government gives one person money, it must take money from someone else. As these people who are earning wealth see more and more of their earnings confiscated by government - federal, state, local, etc. - it becomes a disincentive to attempt to earn more wealth. Eventually, this will lead to an insufficiency of earners able to provide for government programs.
Now, certainly there are people who cannot take care of their own needs, and they need institutions, even government, to provide for these needs. Just as certain, there are people who are perfectly capable of going to work and providing for themselves but choose to take a government handout instead. What we need is a system that is able to differentiate between these two and properly provide for the needy while forcing the able to work for what they receive. When this happens, two things will result. First, the needy will actually be provided more assistance, and secondly the United States will be able to, along with the reigning in of other excessive expenditures, begin to reverse this trend of spending more than is taken in. When this happens we will all be better off.
I am skeptical that our current group of politicians, Democrat and Republican alike, have the resolve or even the desire to make this happen. But, I pray to the same God as the pope that some individual or group will step forward and make it happen - before it is too late for all of us!
-- Gerard Bean, Warren