Everyone has heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. Maybe it is time for Greed Anonymous to shake the addiction out of the Truly Greedy Wealthies in this country. Such a voluntary society may attract self-doubting zillionnaires into a higher quality of life for themselves and many others.
This musing came while perusing the latest issue of the superslick, controversially-regarded magazine called Regardie’s which covers the doings of the rich and powerful in the Washington, D.C. area. Its September issue features the 100 Richest People in Washington.
Flipping through the pages reveals mogul after mogul starting with billionaire, Jack Kent Cooke and moving down the lucre ladder to the Mars Family which sold $8 billion last year in worldwide candy sales to the half-billion dollar families such as the Hafts, the Marriotts, the Charles E. Smiths and on and on through one real estate giant fortune after another.
Not too surprisingly, the rich in Washington make it mostly on real estate appreciation brought about by the spending of taxpayer dollars. The Eighties witnessed the biggest spender of taxpayer dollars of them all -Ronald Reagan — and that pot of money swelled farm acreage outside of Washington into churning cauldrons of gold.
Once regarded among the top echelon of Washington’s Wealthies, David Lloyd Kreeger finds himself way down in the mere $50 to $75 million category. Kreeger, now a patron of the musical arts, made his money by building a weakening insurance company, Geico, into a powerhouse. The magazine has Kreeger declaring: there is nothing more meaningless than to be judged and compared to others by how much money you’ve accumulated.” Aha, now he can say it.
In Regardie’s profiles of the Washington One Hundred, there is much mention of how all this wealth is doing well and very little said as to whether it is doing good. These Superrich certainly know how to make it; the interesting question is whether they know how to spend it — on anything or anybody other than themselves.
Around the country, a few of the Superrich have been having further thoughts than those bridged to their bankers. Eugene Lang, who made a fortune selling foreign licenses to American knowhow, started the “I Have a Dream Foundation” after spontaneously throwing away his graduation
speech before a junior high school in a New York City poor area and guaranteeing the stunned pupils the finances for their college education. Other affluent persons are emulating his move to fund the college education of students in an entire school class if they persevere enough to reach that level of learning.
Lang, now in his seventies, told a reporter that his deed was the one thing that gave his life the most meaning.
Down in Atlanta, Ted Turner, the Mouth of the South, who made big bucks in television and who owns the CNN network started the Better World Society. This group reaches out to adversary societies like the Soviet Union to rise above differences and disputes and focus on the future peace and well-being of the Planet.
West in Los Angeles, megarich television producer Norman Lear (“All in the Family”, etc.) started People for the American Way which has a quarter of a million members who believe that freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and other human rights have to be defended and promoted daily. This grass roots organization is now a firm firmament in our democracy.
All these gentlemen will acknowledge the richness beyond both dollars and measure which these activities have brought to them. For they have done what many of their confreres in wealth know in theory but are reluctant to take the leap into practice.
Let’s recognize that being Superrich and just piling it up year after year is a form of addiction. Which is why the first dozen of these affluent ones who start Greed Anonymous may well launch a cascade of humane initiatives rising out of their mutually addictive relief. Or shall we call it their golden withdrawal pains.