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Our Giant Experiment With "Greed Is Good" Has Failed

By       Message Thom Hartmann       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Another day, another example of the disastrous effect Reaganomics has had on our country's business culture.

Ever since his bank was fined $185 million for illegally opening millions of accounts in its customers' names to help boost profits, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf has insisted that he only discovered what was going on in 2013.

That's what he said when testifying before Congress, and it's what he's said in all public remarks on the scandal.

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There's only one problem: John Stumpf appears to be lying.

The New York Times reports that Wells Fargo employees began complaining to their superiors about the illegal practices they were seeing as far back as 2005, eight years before John Stumpf said he heard about them. What's even more damning is that many of these complaints were apparently addressed to John G. Stumpf himself.

As the Times reports this week: "For years ... identical complaints from Wells Fargo workers flowed into the bank's internal ethics hotline, its human resources department, and individual managers and supervisors. In at least two cases in 2011, employees wrote letters directly to Mr. Stumpf ... to describe the illegal activities they had witnessed."

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And what happened to these brave Wells Fargo employees after they blew the whistle on what they were seeing? They were punished. Some were outright fired, others were accused to ethics violations themselves, and still others were fired and then rehired again for lower pay.

Meanwhile, the culture of greed at the company continued to fester.

According to one Wells Fargo employee who testified this week before the California Legislature, the pressure to boost sales was so great that he and his co-workers were actually denied bathroom breaks if they didn't meet expectations.

You really couldn't ask for a better example of how much damage Reaganomics has done to the business culture in this country.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but when President Ronald Reagan and his free-market cronies came to town in the 1980s, something changed in US corporate culture. Businesses were no longer just encouraged to make money -- they were encouraged to make as much money by any means possible, no matter what the cost.

This new way of thinking was captured brilliantly in Oliver Stone's film Wall Street when Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gekko, tells an audience of stockholders that "greed is good."

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This point of view was shared by President Reagan, which is why he and the Republican Party did everything they could to reward greed in our economy.

It's why Reagan functionally stopped enforcing the Sherman Act -- so that big companies could merge with other big companies to create giant monopolies, kicking off the "merger mania."

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War (more...)
 

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