All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.
If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.
–Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses
The Treasury Department fears that widespread public anger at some of its major economic programs–such as the bank bailout–will deter government officials from intervening in future crises.
As a result, the Treasury Department hopes to regain the public’s trust by issuing a series of economic charts.
Unfortunately, the Treasury’s chart-topping effort will go for nothing.
Emotionally-charged matters–such as child molestation or government bailouts to the rich–don’t lend themselves to “appeals to reason.”
But a different approach might well salvage some public faith in the Treasury Department’s judgment: Greed-test CEOs for future government loans.
After all, drug-testing welfare recipients has become the new mantra for Republicans.
He admitted that he was “shocked” at the breakdown in U.S. credit markets and said he was “partially” wrong to resist regulation of some securities.
“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity–myself especially–are in a state of shocked disbelief,” said Greenspan, who had ruled the Fed from 1987 to 2006.
As a disciple of the right-wing philosopher, Ayan Rand, Greenspan had fiercely held to her belief that “The Market” was a divine institution. As such, “it” alone knew what was best for the nation’s economic prosperity.
“Enlightened self-interest,” he believed, would guarantee that those who dedicated their lives to making money would not allow mere greed to steer them–and the country–into disaster.
As he saw it, any attempt to regulate greed-based appetites could only harm that divine institution: The Market.
Greenspan was proved wrong. And the nation will be literally paying for such misguided confidence in profit-addicted men for decades to come.
So if Republicans want to protect the “poor, oppressed taxpayer,” they should demand background investigations for those whose addiction truly threatens the economic future of this country.
That means the men (and occasionally women) who run the nation’s most important financial institutions, such as banks, insurance and mortgage companies.
Thus, in the future, all CEOs–and their topmost executives–of financial institutions seeking Federal bailouts should be required to:
- Undergo “full field investigations” by the FBI and IRS.
- Submit full financial disclosure forms concerning not only themselves but all members of their immediate families.
- Be subject to Federal prosecution for perjury if they provide false information or conceal evidence of criminal violations.
- Periodically submit themselves for additional background investigation.
- Be subject to arrest, indictment and prosecution if the background investigation turns up evidence of criminal activity.
- If a bailout-seeking financial institution refuses to comply with these criteria, it should be refused the loan.
- If a CEO and/or other top officials are judged ineligible for a loan, the company should be asked to replace those executives with others who might qualify.
- Those alternative executives should be subject to the same background investigation requirements as just outlined.
- If the institution refuses to replace those executives found ineligible, the Government should refuse the loan.
- If the Government is forced to take over a troubled financial institution, its CEO and top executives should be replaced with applicants who have passed the required security screening.
The United States has a long and embarrassing history of worshipping wealth for its own sake. Part of this can be traced to the old Calvinistic doctrine that wealth is a proof of salvation, since it shows evidence of God’s favor.
Another reason for this worship of mammon is the belief that someone who is wealthy is automatically endowed with wisdom and integrity.
By that criteria, the capos of the Mafia must be presumed to be saints and geniuses.
Following these beliefs to their ultimate conclusion will transform the United States into a plutocracy–a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy.
Every day we see fresh evidence of the destruction wrought by the unchecked greed of wealthy, powerful men.
When they–and their paid shills in Congress–demand, “De-regulate business,” it’s essential to remember what they really mean.
It means: “Let criminals be criminals.”