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Who exactly are you calling greedy?

It was easy when we were just hunting the bankers or Wall Street types.

It was easy when we were just hunting the bankers or Wall Street types.

It was good sport grabbing them by their long profit reports and dragging them to the ceremonial pyres of congressional committees, where we beat the drums and set them ablaze — sacrifices made so the Recession Monster might have pity on our own villages.

We watched the fat cats twist in the flames of public shame, crying out for just one cool glass of Cristal champagne, and we munched our Krystal burgers saying, “Thank goodness we are honest, hard-working Americans — and not greedy like those selfish prigs.”

The spectacles offered temporary relief from the bitter winter of our weak economy. Now, however, the bonfires have died. We are huddling together for warmth, as the howls of the Recession Monster keep echoing in the dark woods. And we find ourselves looking at each other’s wallets with the hungry eyes of the Donner Party, wondering whom we should push into the forest next.

The best evidence: The streets brawls in Wisconsin, Ohio and heaven-knows-where-else by the time you read this. Of course everyone has an opinion about who we should declare “greedy,” whose income or way of life should be slaughtered to feed the starving state and federal budgets. The unions. The governors. The Republicans. The Democrats. The taxpayers. The government workers. The business owners. On and on it goes.

Each group has a compelling case as to why its “wants” are really “needs,” why they are “reasonable” and everyone else is “greedy.”

The simple truth is, however, all of these fights are essentially about the frantic scramble that always comes when money and power start running low. The hard times are exposing the ugly truth that we are all capable of greed when we start feeling desperate.

“Greedy” is the new “Communist.” It’s a quick label to be slapped onto anyone who is threatening to take anything from anyone else in these tough days. Problem is, it may help us identify whom we’ll give to the monster of the economy and whom we’ll push over the middle class cliff to slide down into those hungry jaws of lower wages and diminished hopes. But it does nothing to help us figure out how hungry that monster may be. Or when he’ll demand another sacrifice.

–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send 300-word submissions to letters@metro.us.

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