What Phil Gramm and Mr. Krabs Have in Common


The following post is adapted from the book, Just a Little Bit More: The Culture of Excess and the Fate of the Common Good.


Congressional Republicans and Democrats differ in a number of ways, but they are essentially united when it comes to uncritical acceptance of the ways of Wall Street. Whereas roughly 1 percent of Americans are millionaires (as of 2010), 50 percent of US representatives and senators are categorized as such. Phil Gramm, who retired from the Senate in 2002, was a card-carrying member of the millionaires’ club while serving on Capitol Hill. He most memorably was on record naming Wall Street “a holy place.” To be wealthy is not an indictment; but to imagine one’s wealth does not affect the way one votes, especially concerning issues involving personal financial interests, is naïve. As an old Russian proverb states, “When money talks, the truth is silent.”

My son and I went to see the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie when it came out in 2004. He was twelve years old; the movie had something for both generations, as the theater was evenly populated by kids and their parents. SpongeBob is the main character in one of the most popular animated cartoons of the first decade of the 2000s. The series features a number of lead characters (all sea creatures); a handful of Internet bloggers revel in the alleged representation of the seven deadly sins in seven recurring characters of the show. Restaurant owner Mr. Krabs (who is, yes, a crab) is especially fond of money, both its procurement and its retention. In the movie, Mr. Krabs decides to open a second restaurant adjacent to his original one. At its grand opening, he confesses his love for money with an interviewer, as he is asked what inspired him to duplicate his efforts. He answers the question instinctively with one word: “Money.”

Sometimes it’s a jolt that comes from a change of scenery – in this case a cartoon – that helps one to hear the truth loud and clear. The implied mocking of Mr. Krabs’s greed drew one of the largest laughs in the theater that day; even children are able to recognize that the inordinate love of money skews a person’s – or a crab’s – perspective.

Phil Gramm cosponsored the 1999 repeal (proudly signed into law by President Clinton) of the landmark Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act that had separated the activities of commercial banks and security firms. The repeal is now widely considered to be a primary culprit in the 2007-08 economic swoon. Gramm never anticipated the economic demise that he helped create. Let’s be clear: There’s nothing wrong with opening a second business or wanting to construct an environment where jobs and capital proliferate. But to be shrewd to the ways of greed is an elusive wisdom.

Gramm was blinded by his love for money – that which he has in common with Mr. Krabs.


This blog and website are representative of the views expressed in my book Just a Little Bit More: The Culture of Excess and the Fate of the Common Good. Distributed by ACTA Publications (Chicago), JaLBM is available on Amazon as a paperback and an ebook. It’s also available on Nook and iBooks/iTunes, and at the website of Blue Ocotillo Publishing.

isbn 9780991532827

If you’re a member of a faith community – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or other – consider a book study series of Just a Little Bit More. The full-length book (257 pgs.) is intended for engaged readers, whereas the Summary Version and Study Guide (52 pgs.) is intended for readers desiring a quick overview of the work. It also contains discussion questions at the end of all eight chapter summaries.

Readers of both books can join together for study, conversation, and subsequent action in support of the common good.

The Spanish version of the Summary Version and Study Guide will be available in September 2016. ¡Que Bueno!

¡El librito de JaLBM – llamado Solo un Poco Más saldrá este Septiembre de 2016!


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