Friday, August 7, 2009

Radical But Necessary: A New Way Forward

The 13 Commandments of Economic Change in America

Ever notice the formula for moving ahead in America? Catastrophe + democracy = progress.

It takes catastrophe to force democracy forward: Black Friday; Pearl Harbor; 9/11; Hurricane Katrina; and the market crash of October 15, 2008, so many were and remain hurt so desperately by so few.

It’s far more than a crisis management or crisis communication problem. The incompetence, ignorance, and political paralysis of government, combined with the implacable gall of America’s Greed Team—real estate, banking, Wall Street, insurance, and the commercial credit industry—has created a fragile but powerful epiphanal moment when real change in America’s economic structure and destiny is possible.

We have a brief chance to recalibrate and reset crucial economic processes that will help us deter, detect, and prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. How will we capture this moment? I believe that what will catalyze the opportunity for change is America’s growing revulsion toward Wall Street and the major economic and financial engines upon which we have relied for the last couple hundred years, and who financially robbed, raped, kicked, and stabbed so many, so easily, for so long.

Since an outbreak of business and leadership integrity is highly unlikely, and President Obama’s amorphous and nebulous quest for “change we can believe in” notwithstanding, Americans now realize that those in charge of our economic institutions (even the “new” people) are the same folks who brought us this catastrophic mess in the first place, and they are simply incapable of getting us out. We need a new strategy, a new roadmap. In the coming days, I’ll be making 13 demands for change that radically depart from the failed old formulas and arrogant greed perpetrators of yesterday and today. Here’s a sample:

  1. Tie all investment transactions, of every kind, to real dollars (or currencies) and common sense.
  2. Prohibit and eradicate all transactions that fictionally expand (leverage) the value of any underlying investment, including speculations, indexing, and derivatives.
  3. Significantly escalate the regulations, oversight, controls, and restrictions on all transactions where any third party is investing, managing, hedging, or otherwise manipulating the financial resources of another party or parties.
  4. Require extreme transparency for all transactions and related activities.
  5. Completely revise how businesses are established and authorized in law to put greed second (or lower), and the community and protection of citizen wealth first.
  6. Establish state-based offices to oversee and regulate Tax Subsidized Organizations (TSOs), currently known as Not-for Profits.
  7. Prohibit transactions that bet on America’s failure or loss of value, including bankruptcies and short selling.

We need to break the cycle where one generation of perpetrators remains in place to teach and coach the next generation to conduct ever more sophisticated scams, deceptions, and frauds with greater frequency. This is truly a moment for innovative thinking and the breaking of old, corrupt models. Thus far, it appears very little change will occur. America’s Greed Team is already well on its way to recovery, at the expense of everyone else. All of which means that the next catastrophe will happen sooner rather than later.

I hope you’ll join the conversation and help make some demands or your own.

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