As a teenager, while those in the stands around me cheered for the local hometown team, I secretly hoped that the away teams from the poorer neighborhoods would win. I knew they had it harder than me. My dad was like that. So was my mom. My whole family was always rooting for those who were less fortunate.
My parents were progressive, but not overtly so. The cultural designation meant something different back then. In 1963, they moved from Minnesota to Beltsville, Maryland, which is where I grew up. I was the kid who would go to school with the whole wheat sandwich with alfalfa sprouts. We used to do a lot of bird watching and hiking on the weekends. My parents were donors to the NAACP. The tradition of challenging conventional wisdom coursed through my family’s culture and values.
From a rather young age, we were taught to work hard. I earned money working a paper route and digging through dumpsters for aluminum cans to trade in for money at the local recycling center. My first official job came at the age of 16, running the fryer at Burger King for $3.10 an hour.
In 1987, at the age of 22, and with a $100 initial investment, I founded MOM’s Organic Market out of my mother’s garage.
The organic foods industry was in its infancy at the time. When I would tell people what I did, most would react with confusion, sometimes even ridicule. But given the concern for environment and society that my parents instilled in me, it was hardly surprising I chose such a counterculture route.
I have always been a passionate environmentalist. MOM’s Purpose is to protect and restore the environment. MOM’s does not sell products that advertise to children. We also fight for a higher minimum wage- and for higher taxes on the very wealthy.
As an entrepreneur with a thriving and growing business, I reject the theory of Trickle Down Economics- it has never worked. Businesses like mine exist and grow by offering something of value that captures a slice of middle-class consumer spending. The economy- and companies like mine- thrive only when the middle class expands and thrives, not visa versa!
I am grateful for the cards that I have been dealt. I was taught to work hard, take risks, and challenge conventional wisdom. I had great parents, opportunities, and support from others. I found success. Or better put, success found me!
When it comes to corporations, I do not necessarily think that big equals bad. I believe that what matters most is how socially responsible a corporation is. In fact, the more socially responsible a corporation is, the bigger I hope it will get. And remember, many of the largest, most innovative, and most industry-dominant corporations today are founded and run by socially responsible ideological progressives such as Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla, Costco, Whole Foods, Google, Ikea, Starbucks, Apple, Chipotle, etc.
Many corporate C-level executives are not socially responsible, but rather seek wealth by any means necessary, even if it is at the expense of others and society. They are quick to privatize profits, yet socialize the problems created by corporations. They play the role of victims, whining and complaining about taxes and government regulations- using corporate lobbyists to reap the benefit of corporate welfare and lawmakers’ pandering- while forgetting the US infrastructure of roads, education, military, law and order, and research that have paved the way for a land of opportunity.
Wealthy people are far more likely to be from wealthy families. In my opinion, when they criticize the poor for their “dependence” on government assistance and then point the finger of blame at those born into poverty for their own plight — it is the pinnacle of hypocrisy, completely devoid of gratitude, empathy, and humility. Too many of the uber-wealthy were born on 3rd base, but think they’ve hit a home run…
But we should not fall into the trap of automatically demonizing success and wealth. For many, wealth is deserved- and if used well, can benefit many. However, those who, pursue wealth at the expense and well being of others, should be criticized and held accountable!
I do not believe in ensuring equal outcomes, but I do believe in equalizing opportunity whenever feasible. I have been lucky in life. I was born with natural gifts, my parents raised me with respectable values, and I was born and raised in the US. I am a Patriotic Millionaire because I am grateful for the foundation and opportunities this country has provided me.