Where Capitalism Reigns, So Does Charity
CAPITALISM – PART III: CHARITIES – GEORGE STRAKE
“Defend our shores, deliver the mail – and get the hell out of the way.”
By Sharon Sebastian
Capitalism, led only by faith and freedom, has deep roots in America’s history. It is the economic system that built the greatest nation on earth, yet today it is under assault. For those who choose achievement over government dependence, it is important to go to ground zero in today’s economy: Houston, Texas. Why Houston? A global city, Houston’s economy ranks #1 as the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and tops New York as America’s most ethnically diverse. Nationwide, as companies flounder in a down economy, insight is gleaned from three of Houston’s top business leaders. Through them, the primacy of American Capitalism is on full display.
GEORGE STRAKE, JR. – CHARITABLE FOUNDATIONS
George Strake, Jr. is a myth buster. It is a label he likely has never contemplated, but there he is – an American capitalist and an oilman with a big heart. It is the nature of the man. It is the nature of the city where he stakes his claim. It is also a dynamic that explodes the oxymorons of the most rigid anti-capitalists. George Strake wears two hats. He is CEO of Strake Energy, an oil royalty trading company. He also heads the Strake Foundation, a Houston charity that was founded by his father, a pioneer southeast Texas wildcatter.
Filled with entrepreneurs, hard-working capitalists and defenders of free enterprise, Houston ranks as one of the top charitable cities in the nation with its focus on human services, medical care and education. Today, attacks against capitalism are that it is a heartless economic system driven by greed and lacks compassion for people in need. Anti-capitalism protestors, victimization-purveyors and spread-the-wealth socialists have a hard time explaining away George Strake and Houston. Strake shrugs off critics of free-market capitalism. It has allowed him to support causes as diverse as literacy, health care, housing for vets, a business program that guides inner-city students towards professional careers, a children’s center, arts and humanities – among a myriad of other causes.
What he does not shrug off is “big daddy government” getting between charitable foundations and people in need. “The Strake Foundation has existed for more than fifty years,” he explains, “and I venture to say that we know more about the needs in Houston than Mr. Obama, Mr. Bush or anyone else in Washington. Big daddy government is about control. Foundations have government oversight, but when the government gets out of hand, there is no one to control it.” He rejects government as the sole provider to those in need, since government can take away as quickly as it gives.
As a benefactor of Houston’s world-acclaimed medical system, Strake cites Obamacare as a prime example, “I think it would be a disaster if Obamacare is implemented. There will be an erosion of quality of care. The Texas Medical Center, known as the finest in the world, is subject under Obamacare to excessive government control.” Another concern is President Obama’s half a trillion dollar cuts in Medicare. As a result of Obama’s mandated cuts, America’s seniors, the mentally and physically disabled and those who are homebound are already being impacted as they face a reduction in available medical services, access to doctors and cut-backs in home health care.
As a safety net, Strake wants the thousands of charitable foundations across the nation to function as providers that are independent of political influence or ideology. Strake insists, “What needs to be checked are the big foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie that have been taken over by what I call ‘foundation socialists’ where they themselves have become little government money-dolers where it too frequently ends up going to very liberal causes.”
Strake views government as increasingly having its hand out. “There are people in government who think they are the best managers of your money and believe that the money you give to others in need should be taxed and sent to Washington and Austin. It is a constant battle. To eliminate or reduce tax exemptions to those willing to give would destroy the culture of this country.” Dedicated to helping others, he adds, “In this world there are people who cannot get on the train to success and as a Christian, you have to know that they need a break with a hand-up and not a hand-out.” Strake warns, “The way we treat this issue is really going to have an effect on the world. In regard to every other country when it comes to charity, we have done more good for more people in more parts of the world than any other system yet devised by mankind. Why would we give up a system under capitalism that this current administration is trying to destroy?”
Strake points to renowned capitalists who became philanthropists and changed the world. “So what if Henry Ford became a millionaire, he gave us all transportation. So what if Eli Whitney was a millionaire, he gave us clothes we could afford, so what if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs became billionaires, they gave us computers. They did not do it out of love for mankind and reject their own personal benefit. Henry Ford benefitted, his family benefitted, his city, his state, his country and eventually the world benefitted.” He wagers, “You can round up all the smart people you can find in government and I bet you none of them would have invented the car, the cotton gin or the computer.”
Unless there is a “change in Washington,” Strake’s biggest fear is the loss of free enterprise, “I am terrified of it. When Obama was elected, I used to worry about the America my grandchildren would grow up in. Now, I am worried about the impact on all of us. We are going at mach speed toward Socialism. Obama told us he wanted change and that change is from free enterprise to a socialistic system.”
George Strake served his country in the military and in politics as Secretary of State in Texas. He now creates jobs and helps others. He has been pro-active in growing a nation that he believes has even greater potential. Potential that lies with the people and not government. Strake credits fellow capitalist, the late Eddie Chiles, who employed 5,000 people at his oil services firm, with his favorite quote and best advice to government: “Defend our shores, deliver the mail – and get the hell out of the way.”
George Strake, Jr. – free market capitalist, businessman, and philanthropist. In the purest form of what it is to be a patriot, Strake is illustrative of all who serve their God, their country and their fellow Americans.