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Gangster World
January 21, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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Smith Doe's finances, or
Gangster Culture Summed Up: More

Gangster: "a member of a gang of violent criminals."

Organized Crime: "criminal activities that are planned and controlled by powerful groups and carried out on a large scale"

Culture: "the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group"

More: "a greater or additional amount or degree" [all definitions from Bing]

Today in the Seattle Times I was struck by an article, After Split, Rebuilding Life at 50.

Seattle Resident Joely Johnson only makes $42,000 per year on her regular writing job, plus more from freelance jobs. She has about $143,800 in retirement accounts. Her ex-husband has agreed to pay the taxes and mortgage on her $807,000 house until 2027. The article does not say if the $288,300 mortgage will be paid off by then, but if the house is sold half the proceeds will go to the ex.

The article is a financial makeover article. Free advice on how to retire comfortably, starting from the very sad, impoverished position Ms. Johnson finds herself in. The solution offered: make more money, say $60,000 a year, shift some of the retirement account into stocks, and cut back spending. A bit.

How much does Johnson spend per month? Her plan is to cut spending 5% to $3,000 per month. I would note that she does have a 7 year old, who attends public school. Note also that she has no housing expense. Note also that a large number of working Seattle residents make about $30,000 per year, or $2,500 per month, before taxes.

Now you might wonder why I use a moderately paid writer to introduce an essay on gangster culture. No, I don't know what music taste Joely has. In fact, forget Joely.

Consider Smith Doe, with finances and goals as stated above, who is a typical 50 year citizen in Seattle. Male or female. What would be typical? M. Doe is a liberal Democrat, maybe even a progressive Democrat or Sanders Democrat. Doe is careful to put recycling in the recycling bin. Doe believes in global warming and supported the Public Transit bill. Doe might even take public transit to work, or works from home.

Here's where the gangster culture comes in: Doe does not see where the $3000 a month in personal expenses contributes to global warming. Doe does not consider cutting back on personal consumption to get to $2,000 per month, which would allow for some savings. Doe wants a higher paying gig. Doe wants MORE.

For those of you who have never seen the movie Key Largo, with Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, let me focus you on one scene. Bogart plays the tough but good guy Frank who is stuck at a small hotel with a gangster, Johnny Rocco, and his gang. The key dialog is:

Frank: He knows what he wants. Don't you Rocco.

Rocco: Sure.

Frank: What's that? Tell him, Rocco.

Rocco: Well, I want, uh . . .

Frank: He wants more. Don't you Rocco?

Rocco: Yeah, that's it: more. That's right, I want more.

Rocco wants More on Youtube [well worth watching]

Now more is an ancient human concept. Not really a problem in itself. Not enough food in 2000 B.C.? Plant a larger field next spring, or kill a fat elk to tide you over. More makes sense when people have too little. Maybe Doe and the financial advisor think Doe has too little. Even though a Seattle worker making $15.00 an hour, typical here, makes just $30,000 a year, or about $6,000 less than Doe needs just for personal expenses. And the typical worker, of course, spends more than half of that $30,000 on rent.

Wanting more, and being willing to contribute more to society in order to be able to receive more from society, is not exactly equivalent to a gangster mentality. Gangsters don't want to give more to society; they just want to take.

Wanting more, without regard to consequences, does provide a connection between organized crime, government, culture, and the behavior of ordinary citizens.

Doe wants More. Rocco wants More. Heck, even I want More. What is wrong with us?

This topic will be further developed in future essays. Be sure to come back here for more.





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