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Greed, corruption and indifference now rule America

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Message Michael Payne

America, today, is beset by a massive economic crisis, two very costly foreign wars, and a collapsing health care system; issues that, collectively, threaten to bankrupt this nation. But, as bad as these may be, there are also very serious problems just below the surface that many Americans do not want to acknowledge; the fact that greed, corruption and indifference are tearing away at the ethical and moral foundation of our society.

Actually, the way that this nation is dealing with these three crises tells us a lot about the state of our ethical and moral health. So let’s talk about these issues and how they relate to our ethics and morals.

By now we are all familiar with sub-prime mortgages, foreclosures, refinancing, bailouts of the banking sector, and unconscionable bonuses for failed executives. The key point is that this entire economic nightmare would not have taken place except for greed and corruption on the part of the banking industry, the U.S. Congress and, yes, the American people.

Wall St. executives went to exceptional lengths to devise new ways to manipulate financial instruments to get around laws and regulations in order to generate greater profits and excess executive bonuses. Congress, the Federal Reserve, the SEC, and other government regulatory agencies were derelict in their oversight responsibilities. They only were interested in keeping the economy growing.

Far too many Americans willingly entered into mortgages agreements even though they clearly knew that they could not handle the high payments. But they did it anyway because they wanted the big home in the upscale neighborhood. Good sense and reason should have convinced them that they were making a serious mistake but they ignored the risks and signed the documents.

So now we find ourselves in this gigantic economic crisis that has spread all over the world because of America’s massive financial outreach, that has now rained financial disaster on nations that had no part in the process. Greed and corruption reigned supreme and totally negated any ethical and moral considerations, and that is a sad commentary on America’s financial sector.

While my continuing tirade against torture, and use of drones, may be wearing thin with some readers, I intend to continue to speak out on these issues. Because what is of most importance is for the people of America to understand that these are examples of moral issues that will not go away – ever. If we, our government, and our president do not have the moral courage to face up to what is going on, then these issues will become eternal scars upon our national soul.

President Obama says that we do not torture. But then says that he cannot and will not investigate crimes committed or laws broken because “we must only look forward.” As far as drones killing hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he is sorry but says it is not intentional, and he allows it to continue unabated. His response is not good at all, but what is even worse is the silence and lack of any sense of outrage by Americans in refusing to speak out against these highly questionable actions.

If we consider ourselves to be ethical, honorable, moral citizens then we should, without a doubt, speak out and refuse to accept these actions. It probably will never happen, and I hope it never does, but if some nation were sending drones and raining death upon our populations, we as a people would call it crimes against humanity and would demand that the world put a stop to it. In refusing to speak out against such actions, we are, in effect accepting and condoning them and that raises distinct questions about our sense of ethics and morality.

And worse yet is the complete silence and indifference of the American clergy over these issues. I would like to ask the leaders of every American church, synagogue or mosque these questions: “Do you understand the huge ethical and moral issues involving the practice of torture of prisoners and the destruction that unmanned drones are raining down on innocent civilians? Do you accept it, do you condone it? If you find it reprehensible and against the word of God, why do you not find some non-political way to get people to clearly understand their ethical and moral responsibilities?

Now to the critical issue of health care reform being debated in the House and Senate that will be the defining moment in determining just who the U.S. Congress works for: the American electorate or the corporate lobbyists and special interest groups. Right now it appears that those who shovel campaign contributions into the feeding trough of our elected representatives are winning this battle.

This congressional debate is going to be one big fight. In one corner we have the American people who want massive reform of the disintegrating health care industry. In the other corner we have the huge consortium of health care special interest groups and lobbyists. This is not just another political fight; no this is a monumental battle that will tell us if we really live in a democracy in which the people rule, or whether the insurance providers, the pharmaceutical industry and powerful entities such as the American Medical Association have the power to override the wishes of the American electorate.

And the so-called referee in this fight over whether real health care reform will finally come to America, or if we will witness yet one more complete failure by our government to resolve this critical issue, is the U.S. Congress. At the center of the debate and discussion is the Senate Finance Committee, led by the Chairman, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, of Montana with Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa as the ranking GOP committee member, Baucus wasted no time in taking a single payer option off the table and refusing to spend any time even discussing the issue. Many progressives do not trust Baucus to do the right thing for the American people and here is why. Baucus career campaign contributions from the health care industry are reported as follows:

$1,170,313 from the insurance industry; $1,016,276 from health professionals; $734,605 from the pharmaceuticals/health-products industry; $541,891 from hospitals/nursing homes; and $439,700 from health services/HMOs; or a staggering total of $3,902,785. And his fellow committee member Grassley, since 2005, took in nearly $1.3 million from health care industries. OpenSecrets.org has lots of data on campaign contributions.

The fact that Congress’ campaign finance rules even allow lobbyists to contribute such massive sums of money to influence our elected representatives is beyond comprehension. This is a faulted system that breeds corruption and it must someday be changed. But now, with these facts in place, it will be quite interesting to see what Senators Baucus and Grassley will accomplish to benefit the millions of uninsured Americans. Bets, anyone?

Will this urgent need for reform to provide health care coverage to all Americans and bring escalating costs under control by including a public option for Americans prevail? Or will the current totally failed system prevail as those charlatans and manipulators, i.e., lobbyists, use all sorts of pressure (and threats to cut off contributions to our congressional representatives?) to exert control over the U.S. Congress.

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