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Money Talks


What motivates us? What inspires us to get out of bed in the morning and begin our day? It can be a lot of things. Some of us look forward to each and every day for the challenges and joys that they bring. Some of us have someone in our lives that we can’t wait to wake up and be with.

For many however the thing that motivates us more than any single factor is…money. That’s right, filthy lucre, the root of all evil. We have become in so many ways a society enslaved by money. The gain of it has become the be-all and end-all for many corporate entities; it is what prompts them to bypass ethics and morality and go straight on into greed.

Our current global economic crisis was precipitated by the greed of financial institutions, mainly banks that put the short term gains of lucrative fees over the long-term health of the society that they serve. And make no mistake; even though I’m stating this fact in terms of “institutions” and “banks,” these decisions were not made by machines or impressive facades, but by people. People just like you and I, who get up in the morning, make themselves a cup of coffee and ponder how they are going to bring more revenue into their corporate coffers and by doing so, incur larger bonuses and perhaps advancement in the executive structure.,

There is no doubt that banks and financial institutions have lost their moral compass. Mortgage lenders who are supposed to be assisting homeowners who are in need of it are not only dragging their heels (claiming that their phone lines are being “swamped” by people looking to save money on their mortgage who don’t really need the help as an excuse) but in some cases, turning down those who have applied for re-modifications that are desperate to save their homes and are qualified under federal guidelines for the program. Keep in mind, this isn’t even their money folks; this is money they received from the federal government for the purpose of slowing down the runaway freight train of foreclosures that is sweeping the land.

Beginning during the Reagan presidency and continuing through the presidencies since then, regulations governing the behavior of banks and other financial institutions have quietly been struck down or rendered irrelevant. The results have been that banks have been free to pursue greater profits at the expense of their clientele.

I have always believed that financial institutions are there to provide a service; not only to safeguard our savings but to be a means of doing commerce; a means for us to make purchases, pay bills and so on. For these services, the banks made money on fees, charges and penalties. In post-Depression America, that always seemed to be enough. Banks thrived, made plenty of profit and grew accordingly.

However, it apparently wasn’t enough. Lobbyists for the banking industry were successful in getting Reagan and his Republican congress to strike down banking regulations that kept banks from certain practices that have become commonplace in the 21st century. Smaller banks, attempting to make inroads into their communities have been gobbled up by larger banks.  Mergers and acquisitions have reduced the number of viable banking choices to a very few; Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, to name a few, have swallowed up entities like Nations Bank, Washington Mutual and hundreds of regional banks. Merrill Lynch, the largest stockbroker in America, is owned by Bank of America. That simply sends chills up my spine.

It isn’t in the best interests of the people of America for the banks to control so much of the economy, and there is nothing to keep the bankers from doing just that. Without further regulation, the banks will be free to continue gobbling up the competition until there are only a few international superbanks remaining, controlling nearly every aspect of our lives, entities so powerful that no government on earth can withstand them.

Sound Orwellian? It’s a reality that is coming to pass, folks. The good news is that it hasn’t happened yet and there is still time to make sure it doesn’t.

We need to start holding our politicians accountable. Our votes are valuable commodities; it is time we started leveraging them in our favor. Write your congressman and urge them to author legislation that reinstates the protections that once kept greedy banks in check. Urge President Obama to lead the charge in this regard. Tell him it is time for him to back up his promises and bring America back from the brink.

Jobs are a good thing in and of themselves, but creating millions of new jobs may get the economy stimulated short-term but that won’t stave up economic ruin long-term. We have to hold corporate America accountable. Business has a responsibility to its shareholders to maximize their return on their investments; after all, that’s how businesses attract investors. However, they also have a responsibility to insure that their long-term investments are viable. If nobody can afford to buy anything because their money is tied up in mortgages with obscene interest rates and paying off credit cards with obscene interest rates (notice a theme here?), the economy collapses.

Greed is, in fact, not good. Greed is bad. Greed causes us to inflict harm on others for our own benefit. That’s the definition of immorality in my book, and there is far too much of it.

The greed doesn’t stop at the corporate level, though. There is an awful lot of it at the consumer level as well. Many of our own decisions are based on economic self-interest. If there is an issue that involves the raising of taxes, we’re against it. Our education system has been slashed to the bone because we won’t pay for it. So many of our citizenry have taken the attitude that if they don’t have children (or if their children are grown), they shouldn’t have to pay for schools.

You get what you pay for folks, and what we’ve paid for is a woefully inadequate educational system that falls further and further behind the rest of the world with each passing year. Education is an investment that insures the continued prosperity of our country and if we’re going to continue to compete with the rest of the world in technology, in culture and in economics, we are going to have to make that investment a priority. While I agree throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it per se, we need to become more involved in our educational process. We need to demand excellence from our public schools and give them the ability to purchase the tools needed to achieve it. We need to promote education with our young people and while you can’t make education compete with the allure of a good videogame or an online chat room, we can at least make it less of a chore by exploring alternative learning methods.

We are at a crossroads in history and our generation will be judged by what we do next. We can continue to do what we’re doing – taking the easy way out, numbing ourselves to the issues that are now so overwhelming we can’t ignore their presence – or we can take action. We need to make demands of our political system that they are forced to respond to. Those politicians who continue to act against the interest of the American people and the future of the American nation in favor of short term financial gain should be voted out of office. Examples need to be made.

It is time to kick butt and name names. We have an obligation to our children and their children to take back control of our lives and turn away from our own greed. We need to embrace higher ethical standards; to do what is right rather than what is easy, to embrace what is beneficial to the larger picture over what is beneficial to ourselves. It is time to demand accountability of our institutions, political, educational and business. We deserve it, but only if we’re willing to get off our behinds and make it happen. If we don’t, we deserve the consequences of our own shortsightedness.

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