Michael Jackson’s creditors have been victimized, and they “deserve” a taxpayer-funded bailout.
No, wait. Michael Jackson was victimized by “predatory” fans, managers, and concert promoters, and the surviving family “deserve” a bailout.
How do we apply the Obama era’s “economics of victimization” to the business debacle that is Michael Jackson? Right now, as the initial shock of his death has begun to fade, it appears that “the king” left this world owing people about $400 million.
I intend no insensitivity to Jackson‘s legacy, and I respect the amazing place he and his brothers holds in the history of entertainment. Long before I went to graduate school, and then worked my way up to being an Author, and a Columnist, and a Talk Show Host - once a long, long time ago, I (like Rush and Glenn Beck) was a music radio “disc jockey.” The release of the “Thriller” album, the Michael Jackson / MTV entertainment era, and the Jacksons’ historic “Victory” tour are all intertwined with my high school and college years, and my former career as a “deejay.“ Suffice it to say that I still know every beat and note of “Billie Jean” and “Beat It,” and I respect the fact that the Jacksons are “serious business.”
Yet while all these great, “historic” things are true about Michael Jackson, it’s also true that this one, individual human being so severely mismanaged his own life, business, and finances, that he died owing people almost half a BILLION dollars. And there are some things to be learned from this debacle.
For one, the behavior that seems to have led to Jackson’s personal financial disaster should suggest that similar behavior in the public sector could create a public financial disaster.
Michael Jackson apparently had a propensity to spend money he didn’t actually possess, and his recklessness will likely hurt his surviving family and closest business associates. That‘s sad, but at least the pain will likely be confined to his “inner circle.”
Unfortunately, our President and the majority of the U.S. Congress are also displaying “Jackson-like” behavior, spending money that they don’t actually possess. And to the extent that “public funds” are ever actually “possessed” by the President, those funds don‘t actually belong to the President anyway- - that money belongs to we, the people, and so does the debt that President Obama is accruing.
Americans can afford to “tune out” millionaire celebrities who do stupid things and financially destroy themselves. But Americans of good faith and with a moral conscience cannot afford to ignore the financial destruction that is transpiring in Washington. Dangerous financial behavior is what it is, regardless of whether it happens in the private sector or the public sector. The distinguishing questions between the two are “whose money and debt are in question?” and “who gets burned?” With our government, the answers to those questions are “our money,” “our debt,“ and “all of us.”
Jackson’s calamity should also tell us some things about our American economy. During his campaign, Barack Obama railed against America’s “failed economic system,” and since becoming President, he has undermined our free-market economic system fairly consistently, spending our money to rescue certain individuals and corporations that behaved their way into economic crises, and seeking to legislatively put an end to economic “risk taking.”
But if certain middleclass Americans who bought more house than they could afford or accrued too much credit card debt, can now claim to be “victims” of so-called “predatory” lenders and need to be “rescued“ by President Obama, couldn’t we also say that Michael Jackson was, in his final days, a “victim” of a “predatory” concert promoter? As recently as March, Jackson was persuaded to do business with the risk-taking billionaire concert promoter Phillip Anschutz and his ‘AEG Live” entertainment group, the company that was producing Jackson’s “come back” tour. And despite the fact that Jackson had missed nearly all of the recent rehearsal dates, the tour plans remained in place, right up to the day Jackson died, and now Anschutz is left with unpaid bills and Jackson fans are left wondering if they’ll get a refund on the concert tickets they pre-purchased.
My point here is that our American economic system has not failed, as President Obama has asserted, and the thought of the President of the United States rescuing people from the “risks” of the rock-n-roll industry is absurd. But the thought that the President should “rescue” people from other sectors of the economy is equally absurd, and equally destructive.
Whether one is wealthy like Michael Jackson, or middleclass like most of the rest of us, being “free” and ‘taking risks” are good things. But our risk taking has to be tempered with the adult virtues of discernment, delay of gratification, self-restraint, and so forth.
Risk taking, alone, is insufficient. And President Obama’s special “ rescue programs” are no substitute for adult virtues.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.