Integrity Matters
September 23, 2008

We'll end up paying greed's price

Question: (E-363)

The New York Times provides this headline on Sept. 19: "Vast bailout plan is proposed in bid to stem economic crisis." So, you ask, how does that relate to integrity?

And, how did this happen?

Each year, major financial institutions - including investment banking enterprises, global consulting practices and powerful law firms repeat their annual drill. They camp out on prestigious educational campuses, recruiting the "best, the brightest and those with the finest of connections" to work for them. With credentials in hand, these "newbies" are provided generous starting salaries with the promise of incredible bonuses. Blue-chip organizations, including political parties and agenda-driven think tanks, attract, groom and reward their protégés; whom they will mold, unfortunately, in their own self-serving image.

Many members of the power elite start with substantial intellectual talent that is refined by gifted professors who help to sophisticate their financial and political language; facilitating their questionable practices. America's "elite" are then positioned to leverage their knowledge to influence markets and create unprecedented financial rewards - most recently for themselves and their cronies. With the willing participation of co-opted political operatives, including greed-driven lobbyists, pathways to even greater influence propel the system to the brink of chaos; which is where we are, now.

The "best and the brightest" in business, education and politics have knowingly taken advantage of the masses, including the poorest and most vulnerable. These wizards of Wall Street and Washington (add state capitols to highlight the pervasive cancer upon our land) are being reprimanded for providing inappropriate and unrealistic loans. A few years ago they routinely charged incredible interest rates on unpaid credit card debt, having targeted those least able to pay. Where were the lessons about real integrity in the classrooms of the business schools? What oversight was being provided by regulators at the local, state or national level? Why weren't business leaders looking out for their stockholders, customers, suppliers or the communities in which they operated? One answer: unconscionable greed!

When institutions fail in their values, they decay from the inside. Once again, the excesses of the self-serving elite have punished the whole of society, especially the economy. Unfortunately, the prevailing structures promote the politics and the economics of convenience over the commitment of leadership. Overpaid "big-wigs" basked in the excesses of destructive compensation, all the while drifting from quick deals to devastating dishonesty.

It should be common knowledge that free markets must operate with integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing government oversight. This current debacle is likely to cost each taxpayer at least $8,000; with the financial fallout threatening to go even higher as more shoes fall. If you have had enough of this greed-driven fleecing, then respond with your vote, buying habits, investment strategy and charitable giving. I am nervous, angry and ready for better leadership, across the board. How about you?

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