Ruth Bass: Happiness is sharing the wealth



The stock market is going up, perhaps to a new record high. Corporations are reporting record earnings, making their shareholders happy as clams, whatever that means.

It's doubtful that clams have moments of happiness or depression, but who knows? And banks - those that emerged from the disasters of 2008 and 2009 - are flush with money. So why are the natives restless? And not only restless, but unemployed? Well, corporations dumped a lot of people - some of whom they were undoubtedly pleased to get rid of - when times were bad. And they're taking their time adding people back.

Banks are accused by many experts of not lending out enough of the money that's in their coffers. And everyone who has a checking account that pays interest or a certificate of deposit that was supposed to help with college tuition or retirement is well aware that none of those growing profits are showing up in the world of ordinary people.

Even as politicians talk glibly about the need to improve education in the United States, local and state funding for schools and colleges decreases. Many public schools have watched their staffs shrink over the past decade, which means larger classes, program cuts and much less time to counsel students.

Governor Patrick's new budget for Massachusetts, which involves increasing some tax rates and lowering others, recognizes these problems.

But his proposals, which would include increased local aid, may hit that Great Wall of Boston known as the Massachusetts General Court. So many of our elected representatives these days are like runners in a marathon.

They spend their years in office apprehensively looking over their shoulders or listening for the footsteps of those who are coming after them. They look at people as voters rather than constituents. When someone like Deval Patrick expresses his vision of the future, their vision is dominated by the next ballot - and whether the voters will resent their support of higher taxes.


Some critics say the aim of corporations and other businesses is to create an environment where people are so delighted to get a job that they won't complain about lower wages and fewer benefits.

Those of us not yet consumed by cynicism can only hope that's not a universal truth. Even so, a little more patriotism - not flag-waving, but support of the nation as a whole - would boost the economy. More corporations could expand hiring instead of loading more duties on present employees. Lots of small businesses could add a person or two.

Banks could make their money markets and CDs more appetizing. Right now, many of them don't pay enough to cover the gas it takes to get to the teller window. That makes the old mattress storage place quite appealing. Another thing that's curious to the outsider is the overtime phenomenon. It was recently reported that a public sector employee with a $58,000 salary had made an additional $150,000 in overtime.

So, why not hire two other people instead of paying the overtime? In a time of high unemployment, it hardly seems fair to give three salaries to one person. We are in a tough time in the marketplace. Robots are grabbing jobs in all kinds of places.

One of them is that machine where you check yourself out at the supermarket; another is the ATM where most younger people do their banking. And the empty cashier booths and teller stations testify to people jobs that are no longer needed.

Some mall stores have so few clerks that shoppers must wander around with an armload of stuff in search of a desk where someone will take money.

Employees and bank customers invest in businesses and financial institutions daily. They need better returns from both.

Ruth Bass, a resident of Richmond, is author of two historical novels. Her web site is _www.ruthbass.com_ (


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