Guest Editorials


Call my mother greedy and I’ll knock your wooly head

Now it’s personal. Now they’ve crossed the line. Now they’ve insulted my mom, a defenseless 90-year-old who lives in a dementia nursing home.

Don’t mess with the moms of Italian men.

Who is messing with her? The woolly-headed snivelers who claim that one percent of Americans own 99 percent of the wealth, or some such nonsense. They no doubt would lump my Mom into their expansive definition of greed and privilege, because she has a net worth that is about eight times larger than the average net worth in the country and that probably approaches infinity compared to the net worth of the snivelers. In their wooly thinking, it’s not possible to acquire money without taking it from the disadvantaged.

Many of the wooly heads are college students who stupidly went into debt to get easy and useless degrees. Confused and incoherent, they’ve joined neo-Marxists, labor union radicals, President Obama, and run-of-the-mill losers in calling for the overthrow of the capitalist system and the redistribution of wealth.

Actually, I agree with them on one of their issues: that the banking system is corrupt. But their diagnosis is wrong. It’s not corrupt because of free-market capitalism. It’s corrupt because the system is the antithesis of free-market capitalism. Banking is a franchise of the Federal Reserve monopoly, which in turn is a franchise of the U.S. government – which, as it has grown into Leviathan, has transformed the market economy into a bizarre combination of crony capitalism, mercantilism, and Mussolini-like corporatism and fascism.

Alas, it’s impossible to have an intelligent discussion with uneducated people, especially those with college degrees obtained at a high price at institutions of low learning, particularly the Ivy League. If the wooly heads were educated, they’d be demonstrating in front of the Federal Reserve, the White House, and Capitol Hill.

Anyway, let me tell you about my Mom, whose story is special because it is so ordinary, and because it tells an important part of United States history, a part that is no longer told in government K-12 schools and institutions of low learning. It is the story of how many ethnic immigrants became wealthy--or at least wealthy in the eyes of the envious wooly heads, who define “wealthy” as anyone who has more money than they have.

Orphaned as a toddler, Mom was raised by her aunt and an alcoholic uncle who worked as a waiter. They lived in a rented flat in the Italian section of St. Louis and never owned a car. But, oh, could they ever live frugally and save money--not only pennies, nickels and dimes; but also string, buttons, newspapers and anything else that could be reused. They were the original recyclers.

The coins weren’t put under the mattress. They were invested in such blue-chip stocks as Anheuser-Busch and AT&T. In other words, my Mom’s aunt and uncle were evil capitalists. They saved money from their labor, invested it for a return, and in the process funded jobs for others.

The aunt and uncle saved enough money to send my Mom to Catholic grade school and high school, because taxes back then were about a third of today’s confiscatory levels, including taxes for public education. That meant that even poor immigrants like them could afford private tuition. They also could afford gourmet meals, which my Mom’s aunt, a wonderful cook, would make out of inexpensive ingredients in her tiny kitchen, with its tiny stove and refrigerator. Today, Americans go into debt to buy granite countertops and Viking stoves the size of Mini Cooper cars and then they wonder how the Chinese can save money on their much lower income and thus have capital to invest in factories and shiny new cities.
My Mom would later marry a man from the ‘hood who had the same values and similar childhood. That would be my Dad, who is buried in a Veteran’s cemetery. His immigrant father (my Grandpa) worked as a coal miner (aka carbon producer) before moving to St. Louis to be a barkeep. Grandpa and Grandma saved enough money to send their kids to Catholic schools and to buy a two-flat. Their daughter and her husband (my aunt and uncle) lived in the downstairs flat and raised five kids in a tiny place that had only one bedroom and one bath. Today, the government would classify it as substandard housing for people on welfare.

Grandpa also loaned my Mom and Dad money for a down-payment on a 1,000 sq. ft. dilapidated brick bungalow, which my Dad would renovate through sweat equity. They lived there for 55 years. Such lending from one generation to the next was common in those years and is still common within Asian-American families.

My Dad worked in a warehouse. On weekends he worked as a scab tile setter for extra money. He would take me to job sites and tell me to warn him if a big black car full of big men approached. They would be union thugs who would break his arms if they caught him exercising his right to sell his labor to whomever he wanted. These are the kind of creeps that today’s demonstrators are linking arms with in solidarity. Actually, they are linked together in a common desire to use coercion against others, under the fig leaf of fairness and justice. They are living proof of Lionel Trilling’s astute observation that left-liberals hide their true desire to dominate and control others under a façade of moral superiority.

Mom and Dad scrimped to send me to Catholic schools, including a Catholic university. Still, they were able to save their inheritance as well as a lot of their own earnings instead of squandering the money on Vikings stoves and the like. They understood the concept of a virtuous cycle: If each generation of the family worked hard, saved money, and passed it to the next generation, it would take only two or three generations for their progeny to live like blue-blooded WASPs and never be dependent on the government. Now the wooly heads want to steal the output of this virtuous cycle and give it to those who chose to live in an un-virtuous cycle. Then, to make sure that people no longer have an incentive to work hard and save money, they want to make medical care and college tuition free, as well as give everyone a living wage, whatever that is.

On second thought, I’m not going to knock their wooly heads. They already have brain damage.

Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at