A man has an idea for a product he would like to sell. He borrows some money from some friends. He buys supplies, hires some employees and begins. As his product sells he pays his employees and overhead. Then he starts to pay back his friends, and is even able to pay them back a little more than they lent him. As his business grows he can pay is employees more. As he succeeds, more of those friends begin to loan him more money, to expand his business and do more. As he does he can offer more options to his customers and employees. This in turn will also benefit those who sell him supplies etc. This I know is a very simple vision of capitalism. But it will work for the purpose of this article.
My mother began working for a small independent insurance agency right after she was married. I remember as a boy visiting her there, and the excitement when they moved into a larger building. As time went on she often talked of all the new technology that made her job more convenient. As I grew I met the owner of the company. My mother would mention what a great man he was, how working for him was a wonderful thing. The company grew over the years and became a nice size business.
After I got married I got hired there as well. I got to know the owner much better. As an adult and on a man-to-man basis. I too came to admire, and respect him. He would make it a point to once each month take myself, and each of his employees out to coffee. The only rule was we were not allowed to talk about work. He remembered the names of my wife and kids and would ask about them. He remembered what school they went to and their situations etc. As he would see me around the office he would ask how things were going on my job. He would ask for suggestions of how I thought he could make my job better. I remember once mentioning an idea I had to help out a great deal. Later that week he came to me and told me to go ahead and put the idea into place. It improved the job a great deal. Sadly when he passed away the business changed and not for the better.
There are many small businesses in my hometown. They are family owned and have been around for a long time. These included restaurants, book stores, hardware etc. When others and I go into these businesses we are made to feel welcome. I am called by name often and I continue to give my business gladly. To me the situations mentioned above are what I call "capitalism." They are the backbone of this country. They keep it moving. They are the businesses I would bailout if the business was failing. These are the people who deserve the tax breaks. These are the people who need help providing health care for their employees. These are the businesses that need help with unemployment insurance tax breaks.
The problem with this country is that in the past few decades I have seen this type of business get left behind. I have seen politicians and government leave these businesses to wither on the vine in favor of giant corporations. So many politicians seem to be in the pocket of lobbyists and big business. By this I mean oil, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, retail, banking and Wall Street. I have seen a nation give large corporations more rights, freedoms and tax breaks than an individual. Yet at the same time holding them less and less accountable for their actions. I have seen large monopoly style corporations like Wal-Mart and Home Depot use and demand so much from their employees especially their mid-level management that burn out in a few years is unavoidable.
I have seen a country give tax breaks to corporations who hire and purchase products overseas. I have seen Wal-Mart bully several of its midsize manufacturers to sell to them at well below fair market price. Often these are businesses that have over 60% of their income dependent on Wal-Mart. Rendering their ability to negotiate with the retail giant moot. The company then must bend to the will of Wal-Mart many times forcing that business to reduce its payroll, staff, or buy their materials from overseas.
I have seen many lulled into buying homes they could never afford to pay. Made to feel at ease by companies saying your inability to pay due to poor credit will be overlooked. Companies that were agreeing to loan well over 100% of the home's value, at times up to 125%. I fully grant that these buyers are all grown adults and rightly deserve the plight they are in today. But some blame must be placed on the banks and lenders putting up the money. The greater tragedy is the largest evildoer in this mix is the one being bailed out by the government and whose CEO's are taking home millions of dollars. These mortgage companies were selling the note as quickly as the loan was made. Often before the ink was dry. The mortgage was bundled and sold to investors eager for a huge and quick return. The reason this was so terrible in my eyes was that within the bad loans mentioned above the bundles included many loans of hard working honest people. They work hard and pay their mortgage each month. So when the owners of these bundled hedge funds call the notes in the hard working American is now forced to pay 3-4 times the monthly amount. So not only bad debtors are losing their homes.
I see a government then turning around and paying the CEO's of these banks millions of so-called bailout money. Yet the payout had no strings attached. The banks had no requirement to justify their use of the bailout to the taxpayers at all. These large corporations have placed this country in a place that is very dangerous and scary. So when I hear people yelling and screaming at Obama about socialism I say why were they not screaming back when Bush was passing out free money to his Wall Street buddies? I find it amazing how much freedom corporations have in this nation. And many say the way to solve this problem is to give these same corporations more freedom by allowing the so-called "Market" work it self out. They also want tort reform to help the corporations avoid responsibility even more. I wonder why those who condemn "welfare moms" with big screen TVs have no problem at all with companies on corporate welfare paying their executives millions of dollars.
I know what I have presented here is a very simplified version of what is happening. But the anger I am feeling now against these corporations and those who support them is strong. I have not been pleased with everything President Obama is doing but I am glad to see him standing up to the Wall Street power. I am not sure that will solve all our problems but at least somebody is trying to stop the strangle hold big business has had on our nation for a long time.