Thursday, April 14, 2005

Value vs. Revenue

It's about how we've lost touch with a touch-stone of our society's core principle. And the heart of the matter is ethics, conduct, doing the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do, and not because it gets you an extra two cents because you screw 6,000 employees. I'm watching re-runs on TCM the other night, and whether it's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or Mr. Deeds, or whatever heartfelt drama is playing from a lost time in America, the key turning point always hinges on the character doing the right thing, the selfless thing, the thing that helps others first, and in so doing helps himself the most. And it used to feel so good to watch - and I watch it now, and it doesn't ring true. "No one would do that," I hear myself saying.

Ethical conduct is handed down to us from the English tradition of honor and nobility, the Greek notion of education and governance, ancient religious doctrine. Socrates pursued the definition for "what is virtue?" his whole life. Certain established ideas about civility have always been about following the "rules" of conduct. No the system isn't perfect, and you'll always find rotten apples in the barrel, but at least there was a barrel. I'm talking about a system that at its core connected to the idea of teaching "right from wrong. Because deep down we all know the difference.

You used to value a person based on their values. How they conducted themselves. If they would do the right thing, not only when it was easy, but when it was hard.

Now we care about revenue. About one more dollar for me, give me more, and however I get it, my personal value has increased because of my net worth. My conduct doesn't matter. Even if I'm caught and arrested, "at least they caught a millionaire" you can hear them whispering in the hallways.

Kids today admire Paris Hilton because she's a billionaire, not because of how she chooses to act as a person. Because if you're a billionaire you can act however you want. Isn't that point?

Well, that that is the point.


Because we used to admire a person who did the right thing. Because we were taught that was the highest value a person could have. Now we admire the person who makes the million dollar contracts, the billion dollar stock sales, or just inherits the estate. Like the President. Because a person's value is linked directly to their dollar value. And damn the steps that got them to sign on the dotted line.

What happened to the barrel? The barrel is an inconvenience to Bush, because it conflicts with his need to get the job done. And the job is to get more for himself and his donors, more for the military establishment, more for the oil companies, more for rich corporations, and make sure everyone else has less - "because if you're not with us, you're against us." So I'd better make damn sure you're weaker than I am. So he gives to his side relentlessly, and takes from every other side.

His 2% of the population will indeed have higher net worth, but begin attacking each other like sharks in bloody waters when there's no one else to take from except themselves. And the other 98% of us will feel the pain when the barrel collapses completely.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cranky Yankee said...

Brilliant! A good friend and I were in a meeting back in my corporate days and we sat there lecturing some corporate scumbags about ethics. It had to do with software licensing. They were saying that they could save a lot of money buying only half the licenses they needed and just "using" as many as they wanted. I said something to the effect of, "I don't care how much it costs. We are not going to steal." My friend made the observation to them that what they wanted to do was unethical and that, "your ethics are measured by what you do when no one is watching." Needless to say some one got in trouble over this meeting. Guess who....

1:44 PM, April 15, 2005  
Anonymous Balloon Pirate said...

What you don't seem to understand is that the current administration does NOT just care for billionaires. That's a crass and overly simplistic statement. They also care about the little guy, too: they're protecting the rights of people whose net worth is often a thousand times lower than that of your average billionaire.

Yes, my friend, the Bushies also have a soft spot in their primordial hearts for the little people: the mere millionaires.

That's why they worked so gosh darn hard to make this new bankruptcy bill fair not just to lazy ol' Billy Billionaire; they also knew they still needed the trust and admiration of hardworkin' Mikey Millionaire and his lunchbucket pals. That's why there's still the safety net of the "Asset Protection Trust." That's right--you can create a trust for your own benefit. You don't even have to pretend anymore that the trust is for your wife and kids. For a measely ten or twenty grand a year, you can basically keep all your assets--your money, your cars, your houses-- in a trust that only you can access! That's right! You can, for example, run a business into the ground, or botch all the surguries you want, and still get to keep all the money.

RRRING RRRING!

"Hello, this is Mikey Millionaire...who's this? A collection agency? You want me to pay the several hundred thousand dollar bill I ran up on my credit cards? Sorry, I'm broke. No, you don't understand...all my money's in a trust fund, you can't touch it...I can touch it, but you can't...oh, and hey, if you run into the guy who built my mansion, tell him not to call for his money, either, ok?"


You see, lots of folks who didn't want this bankruptcy bill passed pointed to this particular loophole as an egregious example of how unfair this bill would be. But the Bushies, bless 'em, stuck to their guns this time.

Ya gotta admire the backbone of a guy like that, who sets his sail and rides so well the seas of hypocracy.


Yeharr.

(oh, and if you want to listen to the story as NPR reported it, go here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4600728 )

2:24 PM, April 15, 2005  

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