Have you read the list of the seven deadly sins lately?
In case you’ve forgotten, they are the sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.
We live in a society that doesn’t talk much about sin, but one deadly sin — greed – has begun to affect me and others in ways that I don’t like.
The late 1800’s in the U.S. was a time of great wealth. Yet, it is now known as the “Gilded Age” due to the greed, excess, inequity and corruption that lay just beneath the surface of the economic expansion.
The 1920’s were also known for greed and excess, as depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The ’20s roared until the Great Depression.
The 1980’s were known as the decade of greed. Michael Douglas even proclaimed, “Greed is good!” in the movie “Wall Street.”
The 1990’s and 2000’s experienced two periods of major economic growth leading to “bubbles” – one in technology, the other in housing – that caused recessions.
The 2020’s haven’t roared much because of COVID-19, but greed has crept in stealthily and has appeared in some strange places.
Recently, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, the current insurance provider for public schools in Texas, has been in negotiations with the Memorial Hermann Health Center in Houston. Initial negotiations failed to produce an agreement, so I found myself in the precarious position of looking for new doctors.
My primary care provider is a brilliant woman who has nurtured and cared for me during some difficult health issues. It is no exaggeration to say that I love this person.
Because a multi-billion-dollar business couldn’t reach a deal with another multi-billion-dollar business, I was searching for a new in-network PCP.
They were fighting over money, plain and simple. If it was over negligence or poor care, I could understand, but it was all about money.
Thankfully, an agreement was reached on Friday, March 11, after initial negotiations had failed, but the fact that nearly 200,000 patients spent a week worrying about who would provide their care moving forward demonstrates the problem.
I would bet similar circumstances have played out each year across the U.S., as executives seek to maximize profits to boost their stock prices, ensuring that investors are satisfied and that their job is secure. All the while, the frontline medical workers and patients suffer the consequences.
Last year, DISH Network entered negotiations with CBS over, you guessed it, money. When negotiations failed, fans who used DISH missed out on watching Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and LSU when their games aired on CBS.
Why? Because of money. Their words, not mine. This is one of several similar contract disputes in recent years.
Professional golfer Phil Mickelson was recently in the spotlight for unfortunate statements made about the PGA with regard to people in Saudi Arabia who are trying to set up a golf tour to compete with the U.S.-based PGA Tour.
In his comments, Mickelson shrugged off murder and human rights violations of the Saudi government in favor of competition and the possibility of more money to be earned from the proposed tour.
I am normally a free enterprise guy, but when Mickelson accused the PGA of having too much control and only caring about money, it seemed a little insincere.
The PGA has helped make Phil Mickelson a wealthy man. In an ironic twist of fate, shortly after his comments, he was awarded $6 million dollars by the PGA for being a golfer who brings in money to the tour.
I don’t begrudge Mickelson’s right to make money. But how much is enough? He is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he is currently second on the PGA’s all-time earnings list at nearly $95 million.
While he has since apologized for his statements, Mickelson has lost major sponsors and the significant pay that came from them. This might be the only thing that allows him to see the error of his ways.
Major League Baseball cancelled games due to contract disputes – in other words, over money. Millionaire owners and millionaire players couldn’t agree on how to split the billions in revenue the MLB brings in each season.
While an agreement was reached after a 99-day lockout, the fans who provide that revenue missed out on part of spring training and at least a few regular season games. And the people who work the games – from the umpires to the ushers – will miss out on needed wages due to the cancelled games.
Truth be known, I have more sympathy for the players, but it is becoming harder and harder to even care – particularly when the average MLB player’s salary was $4.7 million in 2021 and the league minimum was $570,500. Those numbers are sure to rise this year, as the new league minimum was raised to $700,000.
If Michael Douglas’s character was right, that “greed is good,” then it seems like it is only good for those who already have great wealth. An OxFam report released in January 2022 noted that “since 1995, the top 1% have captured nearly 20 times more of global wealth than the bottom 50% of humanity.”
Is greed really good for the people who pay insurance premiums and cable bills, and for those who purchase tickets to sporting events? Is it good for all the hourly wage-earners and seasonal employees who will need to find other sources of income until the disputes are settled?
So how does the story end? Is there another “Great Depression” around the corner?
In deep East Texas, there is a saying that goes like this: “Pigs get fed … hogs get slaughtered.”
Greed is called a deadly sin for a reason.