Greed versus Growth
Updated on June 9, 2015
During the 20th century fourth quarter, the source of investment capital was democratized by the workers’ ownership plans and retirement savings. The rewards from this capitalism, however, were not democratized. Wall Street “investment” banks, by then public companies dedicated to their own profitability, diverted trillions of dollars of this workers’ capital into speculative trading. On top of that, they charged management fees ten times index fund fees for no better performance. In 2013, three-quarters of big bank revenue, $105 billion, came from “trading” in everything from derivatives to currency.
The workers’ capital could have gone into economic growth, dividends, and profit sharing as well as bonds to pay for the trillions of dollars of overdue infrastructure repair. The workers’ capital was instead borrowed for trading which-along with nearly zero-cost money-caused the asset bubble crash and the 2007 recession.
Reform has been limited by arguments in Congress over the government’s providing money to stimulate consumer spending to grow the economy. One obvious source of investment money is the trillions of dollars of surplus built up in companies by years of no-growth investment. Instead of these funds being recycled into growth, much of it went into stock buy backs to hype the stock price, a self-serving action of “shareholder capitalism.” More money has been taken out of Wall Street for deals and stock buy backs than has been invested in new growth. Corporate CEOs had by then been seduced by huge stock options to align their priorities with Wall Street.
I argue in Democratic Capitalism that The Way to a World of Peace and Plenty (sub-title) is plenty through workers motivated by ownership, and that peace will result during the 21st century when nations unite in economic common purpose, the alternative to the stupidity and waste of war. This economic alternative, however, will depend on understanding and support by the educational community.