Send the children out of the room. We’re going to talk about a controversial subject. Yes, it may get ugly. There may be things said that you don’t want little ears to hear. There may be things said that you don’t want to hear, but now that I have your attention you just can’t turn away. Because the truth is, we’re fascinated by money. We need it, but can’t seem to keep it. When we do have it we want more. If we don’t have it we beg, borrow and even steal it.
Money is a very personal thing. Most people are more secretive about their money than they are about their sex life. I’ve figured out that if people tell you about their money it’s usually because they are trying to provoke one of two responses in you: envy or pity. They want you to be envious if they have a lot of money, but are still feeling insecure. They want you to feel pity if they don’t have enough money and they hope to beg or borrow it from you.
I’ve known a few wealthy people and a few poor people. Most of the people I know fall somewhere in between, but think they are at either end of the scale. The wealthy people I’ve known have had just as many personal, spiritual, family, and health problems as anyone else. Money really doesn’t buy happiness. It just buys bigger toys. You can live in a big house and drive a fancy car and watch a gigantic television screen and still have a wife who cheats on you or a child who uses drugs or a parent who has Alzheimer’s. There are some things that money just can’t fix. So there goes your dream of winning the lottery and solving all your problems.
That’s what a lot of people do. They buy lottery tickets and live on dreams of someday solving all their problems in one fell swoop of the checkbook. Most of us don’t want to scrimp and save the way our parents or grandparents did. We don’t want to “do without”. We have grown up in a culture that says we deserve the best and the biggest and newest. We just have to figure out how to pay for it! For some people that means working long hours. It means having two or even three jobs. It means borrowing. It means credit cards and life-long debt. For a few it means gambling, lying, cheating, or stealing. Yes, I lumped those together for a reason. If you really become devoted to gambling you are lying to yourself about your chances of winning, cheating your family of time and money, and stealing from something else in your budget.
I’ll tell you a secret about money that I’ve just learned in the last few years. First let me say that I’m not an accountant and I do well to manage my own meager budget. I don’t have any training in finances and I really don’t understand the stock market. My son says I’m ignorant of the way a lot of things in government and politics work. I think that’s the whole intent of government and politics, but that’s another blog. Anyway, the secret I’ve learned is this: there is enough money in the United States to do anything we want to do.
Consider the problems we have in this country. We have homeless people who are sick and hungry. We have children who are crowded into crumbling schools. We have seniors who can’t afford their medications or pay their electric bills. We have veterans who can’t afford even modest housing. We have jails overflowing. I could go on for another page just listing some of the problems confronting us. Most of these could be solved with money. Oh, I know there are laws and social problems and politics involved. There are things that might take another generation to actually solve. But lots of money would certainly be the place to start. And we have LOTS of money! If you don’t believe me then you haven’t been listening to the news.
Our president pledges $50 billion here and $50 billion there like he was printing it on a copy machine in the oval office. We don’t have the money for education. We can’t afford healthcare. But if a disaster strikes we find the money to help. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be helping. I’m just asking where we found the money. A recent election report said a candidate had spent $100 million on his campaign. Why didn’t he use that money to actually do some of the things I’m sure he promised the voters he would do once he was in office? Sports figures earn millions of dollars to impress us with their abilities . Movie stars get millions to entertain us. Why have we elevated them to the place where they make more money than people who save lives? Lottery winners win $340 million dollars and we don’t even think about the implications of where any of that money came from. Well, it came from the pockets of a lot of people who could have done something better with it. Think about the concept of the lottery for a moment. If we can pool our little dollars together so that someone “wins” $340 million dollars, then why can’t we pool our little dollars together to solve our problems? Because we don’t want to.
Our priorities are out of balance. Our values are slipping away from us. Greed is eating away at our lives. I’m not saying I don’t want a better house. I’m not saying I’m ashamed of driving a new car. I’m not saying I always make good decisions about money. I don’t. But as a society, as a nation we must start making better decisions.
We must hold our leaders more accountable. We have to start demanding answers about the millions and billions of dollars that seem to be wasted on things that don’t help us improve the lives of everyday people.
We must stop revering people just because they can entertain us. We have to make salaries more equitable in more professions.
We must punish, really punish, those business leaders who lie and cheat and steal from their companies and employees.
We must start paying more attention to where our money comes from and where it goes.
We have LOTS of money.
Lets do something good with it!