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Money matters more than we think

Thursday, July 24, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:41 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mid-Missouri finally did it. As I pound the keys of my computer, gas has hit $4 a gallon. OK, as of July 21 it dropped back to $3.89.9, but who is sweating the dime?

I have met many conspiracy theorists over the past 18 months as a writer for this paper and will meet many more as I continue. From the assassination of JFK to UFOs, they have come out of the woodwork like the ants trying to share my breakfast on my deck this morning. Yet they are, as Douglas Adam in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” suggests, mostly harmless.

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One conspiracy running through the Internet was given additional fuel in the U.S. News & World Report’s June 16 article on the small country of Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates. It was interesting, informative and a bit too nice to the Dubai government. Yes, Dubai is unbelievably wealthy. Yes, it does have an indoor ski resort built in the desert next to the Persian Gulf. Yes, it may have more skyscrapers than Chicago. But Dubai’s money was made well before oil rose above $50 a barrel.

In fact, according to that article and reports on “60-Minutes” and other evening news shows, Dubai’s wealth comes mostly from other wealthy people. It is the Disneyland for the ultrarich, built with money they made when oil was “cheap.”

Not only does it feature an indoor ski resort but several man-made islands shaped like palm trees featuring skyscraper condos — all waterfront property. The economics are simple; when you can cater to the ultrarich you become ultrarich. Unfortunately the poor in Dubai and other Persian Gulf countries still outnumber the wealthy.

Let’s set the record straight. The majority of our crude oil comes from countries with little if any sand: Mexico, Venezuela, Canada and the U.S. So who is getting rich?

I could say Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, but I would be buying into yet another conspiracy floating in cyberspace. No, it is a much more complicated picture than pointing your finger at one of two people or governments. Yet one of the biggest contributors to the  rising cost of crude is not the members of OPEC but the free marketers who discovered that oil is a commodity and can be traded in the futures market, the same as pork bellies and corn. I know, I taught this stuff.

Sometime during the Reagan administration, financial success and patriotism became one and the same. Somehow, if you were rich you were more patriotic than the poor living across the tracks. War records, legislative records and political advocacy only counted if you had money.

Money counts for a lot more than we want to think. Murices “Hank” Greenberg of AIG made a lot of people rich and was accused of securities and insurance financial fraud in doing so. He is still considered a hero by many AIG employees.

Enron made a few people a lot of money, especially Kenneth Lay, who gave some of the ill-gotten booty to MU. Mr. Lay, who put most former Enron employees in financial straits, was convicted of financial misdoings. Yet MU still has a Kenneth Lay Chair.

The 1984 Savings and Loans disaster started with Silverado Bank in Denver. On the board of directors was Neil Bush, the son of the then-vice president, George H.W. Bush. I knew many who lost their homes because of Neil Bush’s actions. He was never convicted or charged with the fraudulent mishandling of others’ money to get rich.

Money may be the root of evil. Many of the people making money on $140 a barrel oil are the speculators. The working poor suffer others’ greed. Wealth is patriotism. Poverty is somehow not. We hail the rich. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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