When money talks, politicians are too eager to listen

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Considering that so many people believe the false image that charlatans have implanted in the minds of many Americans (they are superior in every way to all other people on the planet), it’s not surprising that some believed that if the government bailed out the big bankers, those guys would become good citizens.

Surprise! According to an annual study from the Institute for Policy Studies, the CEOs of the top financial firms receiving TARP funds, last year averaged a little over $13 million each in personal compensation. The report, Executive Excess, found that these fine individuals also eliminated over 160,000 jobs since Jan. 1, 2008.

Some, of course, believed that the bankers would conduct their business as usual. Still, the government didn’t have much choice since the collapse of the financial sector would have forced the country into an even deeper recession. The Senate did pass a salary cap on executive pay for bailout firm employees of $400,000 in the president’s stimulus package. However that provision was eliminated in conference committee. The bankers will continue to pocket as much money as they can for as long as they can until we elect enough people to Congress who want to put a stop to them. Frankly, I don’t see that happening.

When it comes to doing the will of the people, this Congress seems to be operating like all the other past Congresses. When money is talking, too many of our senators and representatives are listening. It seems to me that our governing process needs a major overhaul. But I don’t know what it would take to bring our representatives to their senses.

Governing the country seems to be a game for some of political leaders. I really don’t believe they take government seriously. The fact that they hold the success or failure of the United States in their hands does not prevent them from behaving in their own self-interests.

Most of us looking at these executive payouts would say without a doubt that capitalism is out of control. Yet, there are these free-market people, who no matter how many times they are proved wrong, keep insisting that the market will adjust itself. Somehow they don’t get it. The majority of us would like for the market to do that without the government having to bail them out. What they seem to want is taxpayer money without taxpayer restrictions on how that money is spent. Unfortunately they seem to have enough clout in the Congress to get what they want.

The tragedy of it all is that the country’s officials can’t seem to get a handle on the fact that the future of the country really is at stake. When these politicians look into the faces of their children and grandchildren, does it not enter their minds that they are responsible for building the kind of nation that their progeny must live in? This seems to be a no-brainer for everyday people. The majority of working-class people are constantly looking for ways to make things easier for generations to come.

The society of the future is about more than the accumulation of money. It’s about education and the ability of Americans to compete on the world’s stage in scientific research, in energy production and consumption, in job creation, in the management of natural resources and the maintenance of the country’s infrastructure.

It’s about more than maintaining a political party, it’s about passing down a value system that will ensure the security of the republic and the well-being of all of our citizens. A nation divided is currently standing, but how long can it last? All Americans need to remember that we are still in the midst of two wars in which people are being called on to sacrifice their lives. When it’s all said and done, does it really matter if the dead or wounded are Republicans or Democrats? And of what consequence is that to a mourning family?

Obviously, the world changes every minute, but we need to hold on to our hats and begin to ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be. If we seriously want to be bigots and haters, I think there is no shortage of people of that kind ready to lead the world. I am not sure we have the manpower to take on many more wars, but if we persist in presenting that image to the world we can probably expect a few challenges. If we want to approve of torturing foreign prisoners, there are many countries to whom the Geneva Conventions mean nothing and would like to test our mettle.

Hopefully, if people want to clean up the mess they are exposing to the world, we will have time to do so. Otherwise, the next generations will be forced to start from behind.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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ann fluer September 18, 2009 | 9:57 a.m.

I find your column to be 1 of the better and less divisive, but I found an error in this editorial. I agree that greed will always be an obstacle to a fair economic system, but in a true "free market" system, there would have been no bail-outs. There would have been no companies "too big to fail". True, with people's investments tied up in the insurance companies and bank, there would have been painful ripples from that too, but the companies who made poor choices would have failed, the 1s that made wise choices would perhaps have picked up the pieces and maybe become the "new big companies". I guess we will never know.

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