How Much Is Enough? A Million–Two Million?

I don’t know-I guess it could be a million dollars. I remember a time when a million dollars was a great deal of money but for some these days it’s ‘chump change.’

Yesterday, as I was sitting in a parking lot in the little town I live in, a man came up to me, using a walker, and struck up a conversation with me about how he was looking for work but no one would hire him. I found out later, from him, that he had lost a leg to a medical condition from mid thigh on down. He looked to be dressed in every piece of clothing that he owned (that would be my guess anyway) with a toque on and an old baseball cap under a hoodie. He had the bluest eyes I have ever seen and a white beard that had been growing for a year or two. He seemed very mild mannered and articulate. We talked a bit more and then he said-“Say you wouldn’t have any spare change would you?I’d like a hot chocolate from Timmy’s and today seems like that kind of day.” So I honoured his request and off he went. When he had shuffled out of sight I wondered what has to happen to a man-a human being-to live a life like his?

Of course my mind took me to several different scenarios but always returned to this one: I do understand that there are many folks who genuinely care about others and do what they can to make those others more comfortable on the planet. As a complete community, however, we don’t spend much time thinking about people like this man and his story. We are too busy making money or struggling to keep what we have or have made it our mission in life to collect all the money we can before we go.

Then I get to thinking about the enormous disparity between those who get paid far too much to do what they do and those who work so hard for peanuts. How does A-Rod make 25 MILLION dollars per annum to be an also ran ball player now? How does Lebron James make 30 MILLION dollars per annum to run up and down a rectangular piece of flooring bouncing a ball? How does a guy by the name of Jay Cutler-anyone else heard of this guy-get nearly 20 MILLION dollars per annum for throwing a old pig skin full of air to some guy who can run like the wind? And what do the franchise owners say?–there is no money in owning a sport franchise. Don’t tell that to Jerry Jones who owns the Dallas Cowboys. They are currently valued at 4 BILLION dollars and rising.

But the story continues. We have big pharma who has managed to inflate the costs of some life saving medications to a level that no ‘ordinary citizen ‘can afford to pay. If you can’t pay well that sucks to be you because someone else will. How about some physicians (not all thank goodness) who were caught with their little hands in the big cookie jar recently and then had the audacity to complain about being investigated. ‘He doth protest too much me thinks.’ So much for universal health care. Tough idea to sell with a healthy 2 tier system in place now.

Then we have those big Corporations who can afford the top bean counters. The best they could do was come up with the idea of banking in Panama so their employers would NOT  have to pay their fair share of taxes for the privilege of doing business in Canada. So much for patriotic gestures and a growing sense of nationalism. Profit margins are just not BIG enough I guess.

We have lobbyists in Ottawa who get paid millions of dollars to convince the government of the day to screw over the little guy in favour of the bigger guy in the name of ??? making more money while a whole group of folks are literally dying in our streets not to mention the travesty in the north with First Nations Canadians. Shame on us. It seems that for some to make a fortune there has to be those who don’t have enough. Governments have resorted to sanctioning gambling as a method of raising tax money legally. They are in competition for the public’s funds just like the casinos.

The one thing I do strongly believe is that healthcare should never-ever-be for sale. The least the government can do is to provide top level health care for everyone based on availability and possibility and not some predetermined value of what a life is worth today made by a group of people who will never have to worry about their health care plan being inadequate. What you need is what you get. Period.

Our priorities have changed and so has our perspective and, in my opinion, not for the better. At a time when churches are closing–they used to be the guiding light back in the day of ‘do unto others . . . ‘ and schools are closing because fewer folks are seeing the value of educating their kids and preparing them for the new world of business.  GREED is the new director of the day with no sign that that fact is going to change any time soon.

Anyways, that’s how I see it. All the best, Jim

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Having Money Ain’t So Bad . . .

For as long as I can remember I have heard or seen the indicators of great wealth. For as long as I can remember I have felt some resentment towards those who have great wealth. I saw them as greedy and uncaring bowing down to the great Satan–money. I believed them to be snobbish and aloof–above most of us and not subject to the same rules.

So I ask: Is it OK for so few to control so much of the wealth in the world? The deciding factor for me is what did they have to do to make it or to acquire it?   If they stole it, cheated people out of their life savings, came into their money through violence and threats then yes there is definitely something wrong with that. But if they earned it by being smart, by taking risks, by paying attention to those who have done well and done it legitimately then good for them.

Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for president, has targeted the wealthy saying there are too few controlling too much money and they should give some of it back. We must be careful that we don’t penalize those who made their fortunes honestly otherwise why be industrious, innovative and creative? Are these not the basic characteristics of capitalism? Is this not part of the free world dream?

Obviously I have no way of knowing how many of you watched 60 minutes on Sunday evening but the program turned my view  on the wealthy around 180 degrees. Do I now favour those who acquire their wealth by means other than by honest business dealings and decisions? No-not at all. Actually it solidified my feelings and thoughts about wealth–especially enormous wealth. A money manager once told me that anyone can make a million dollars IF they are willing to do what it takes to get it. In other words are you prepared to spend 80 hours a week pursuing your fortune? How long are you willing to continue your efforts?  Are you willing to give up your family for a period of time? And so on.

The 60 Minutes program was about a very special group of billionaires–that’s with a ‘B’. Among the folks who are members of this group are names like: Bill and Melinda Gates (Microsoft),Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Arthur Blank  (Co-Founder of Home Depot), Bill Ackman (Hedge Fund Manager), Mark Zuckerberg  (Facebook), Elon Musk (PayPal and SpaceX), Richard Branson (Virgin Group–over 400 companies), Tim Cook (CEO of Apple Inc.) Sara Blakely (Founder of Spanx-Intimate Apparel), Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (Biocon), David Rockefeller (Banker and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank), Azim Premji (Indian Business Tycoon and Chairman of Wipro Limited-Outsourcer), Hasso Plattner (Co-founder of SAP  AG Software), George Lucas (American Filmaker-Founder of Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises).

These are a few of the 142 members of a group who have agreed to honour a non-contractual pledge they made to each other to give away at least half of their particular fortune by the time they pass away. So, in the case of Bill and Melinda Gates, who are reputed to have amassed a fortune of 76 billion dollars they are agreeing to give at least 38 billion of it to charities and foundations (their own included) that forwards the causes of the world–education, health care, research for better medicines and vaccines, brain injury, providing medication to those who don’t have access to them, developing alternative energy sources, global warming and new ways of dealing with poverty and hunger. It is hard to judge but that suggests hundreds of billions of dollars that could be earmarked for global programs that could have a positive bearing on the development of many third world countries who are having difficulty securing or creating any kind of contribution to their own well being. They could actually become self sufficient with a bit of support from folks who don’t want anything from them in return.  

If you are interested in the whole list of members please click on the underlined text.

There are, of course, a number of detractors and critics who suggest it it just another tax haven or a way of hiding or protecting their own vast fortunes mostly in their foundations and pet charities. Are we so cynical and so jaded that we have to be critical of those who might want to actually do something good for people who would otherwise NEVER have an opportunity to experience any kind of stability. Do we deny people an opportunity to have the very basics of fresh water and decent food to eat every day? Do we take away any chance for third and second world citizens to have a semblance of a decent life for their children and their families. It has been proven and determined that societies which are even minimally educated tend to be more stable politically, socially and democratically. They also tend to require much less foreign aid to survive.

I have decided to see some of the world’s wealthiest people as those willing to reach out and do what many governments are reluctant to do and that is give up their leverage over people who may not have any choice. Isn’t that an interesting way of helping to level out the playing field so that more could do better. All that without a shot fired in the process–amazing. I guess having money ain’t so bad after all.

Anyways, that’s how I see it. All the best–Jim

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Author Jim Cloughley's 
Brand New Blueprint For Learning