They say that when you point one finger, three more point back at you. With that in mind I’d like to talk about three seemingly unrelated events… the Clinton/Trump debate, the ongoing criminality of Wells Fargo bank, and the desecration of Native American sacred sites for an oil pipeline. All important issues, yes, but are there deeper connections between them? I think there are; greed, accountability, and ethics.
Books could be written about all three of these issues, but here’s a brief summary. There’s much to dig into with the Debate, but I want to focus on Trump’s proud assertion that he is ‘smart’ to lower his tax liability as far as legally possible. We detail Wells Fargo’s latest abuses in this month’s News To Make You Furious, but the relevant point here is that they are only paying $185 million in penalties for a years-long program of conscious deceit, though they make roughly $20 billion a year in profit. Finally, as part of an ongoing lawsuit over the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, Dakota Access took the location of sacred burial sites submitted by the Standing Rock Sioux and used the supplied information to promptly destroy them.
The unifying, ugly truth in all these is that Donald J. Trump is right… all three cases represent the actions of smart people using laws to their advantage. We may complain that the rich ‘should pay their fair share’ but the law is very specific on what a fair share is. It’s not only smart but proper to take advantage of all the legal deductions allowed… I do it, and I’m sure you do too. It’s obviously unethical for Wells Fargo to defraud their clients and the law prescribes punishments for doing so, but ethics are irrelevant to a corporation whose only obligation (by law) is to make money. If Wells does the math and finds legal penalties for unethical behavior can be easily absorbed if they’re caught, then fraud isn’t just the smart thing to do, it’s their obligation to act and make corporate profit. The same logic applies to Dakota Access; it may not be legal for them to destroy sacred places but those ancient sites are holding up progress. Even IF they eventually have to pay a fine for their strategic destruction the damage will have been done and the project can continue without further nuisance… treating fines as a cost of doing business is the (corporate) smart thing to do.
That’s all infuriating and we can all wrap ourselves in indignation, but it’s only comforting until we remember those other three fingers. If the rich can skate on ‘their fair share’ or companies can factor criminality into their business plans, where do those fingers point? At us. Through our governmental representatives WE write the laws, and WE enforce compliance. If we don’t like the behavior the law allows it’s OUR OBLIGATION to change the law to exclude that behavior. Far from being a hindrance to free people in a free society, government is the ONLY advocate for the Common Man against oppression, criminality, and abuse by the powerful. As, the Founders put it, “To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
Government may be our only possible advocate, but that doesn’t mean they’re always a good one. There’s corruption in every form of government and Democracy is no different, the level of cronyism, bribery and greed has grown over decades until government now only seems to represent the common interest when it aligns with the corporate interest or there’s no other option. 99 percent of America would fight to alter or abolish a government that no longer fights to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to its people. The vast majority would choose to overrule a concept of citizenship in which there could be a definition of ‘smart’ that includes predation on our fellow citizens, but that relies on “We The People” being ‘smart’ in the way we’ve traditionally defined it. Trump’s taxes, Wells Fargo, and Dakota Access are just three glaring examples to illustrate the problem… it’s up to us to be smart enough to solve it.
Take Care and Make a Great Day!