Archive for January, 2009

Defeating Saber-Toothed Financial Tigers part 1: Ready for Integrity

Posted on January 27, 2009. Filed under: Original articles, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In the events since my last blog article, it hardly seems the same country. We cast a triumphant vote for change that resounded around the world. We’ve been buffeted by the opening waves of a mighty financial storm. And a great weight has finally lifted from all of us with Obama’s exuberant inauguration a week ago. 

As I washed dishes between inauguration events, it hit me, deja vu-like: Obama has the character I’ve been expecting in a president since I was a small girl. Eloquent, visionary, sensible, compassionate … the kind of humble aspect but powerful purpose I saw, even as a youngster, in Lincoln and Washington. 

Ah, no wonder I’d been so upset with every other president — they were not up to my inner standard, not even close. Finally, we have someone I’ve been expecting all along.

A sense of matter-of-factness enveloped me. Okay, now we can get to work. We’ve got a bunch of stuff to do. 

And, just like that, it is possible to move freely. With Bush Co gone, it’s as if we’ve each suddenly lost, oh, I don’t know… 400 pounds. Whew! Feeling much better. (And why oh why didn’t we shed that dead weight long ago!) Fortunately, it’s not a moment too soon. We’re going to need to be as light as possible for what’s ahead.

Each news broadcast this winter has revealed yet more stormy news — the bailout hasn’t done anything to help the crisis, the banks and the Fed aren’t going to tell anyone where our money’s gone, foreclosure numbers are even worse than stats show, the SEC is corrupt and has let fraudsters like Bernard Madoff (former chairman of NASDAQ no less) run billion-dollar Ponzi schemes unmolested for years, while they shook down petty street urchins instead.

Buying a Lexus will help your depression.

Buying a Lexus will help your depression.

Interspersed with the latest news truckload to dump onto the festering garbage pile over the holidays were relentless commercials pimping a bow-tied Lexus or diamond earrings: Spend every penny this Christmas as if nothing is happening!

Talk about a complete lack of clue on the part of these companies. As far as I can tell, the only reason massive protests didn’t materialize was that, thanks to our lifelong consumer-behavior programming, we actually beat ourselves up inside when we can’t follow the bouncing ball, instead of telling Lexus where to stick their shiny red bow.

Well, at least there was that cheery $5 footlong Subway jingle to brighten things a smidge. 

How does a person keep herself from sinking in the face of this sobering bombardment? What’s a person to do? 

That’s the subject of my book, Heal the Money, and it’s what I want to address this year in this blog. 

First, a deep breath. There’s a lot to unpack. 

What we’re starting to see is the rot at the foundation of our system. We’ll be seeing a lot more rot this year. It’s going to be very disturbing — kind of like seeing a wreck on the highway. Do we stop and try to help? Do we just keep going? Do we get mad about the disruption to our plans? Do we get pissed off at the idiots driving 90 miles an hour while texting who caused the pile up?

But the truth is our financial system has been rotten for a long time. The flowing money has been hiding it. 

Just as with Madoff’s scheme, the critical part of the game has been to keep the money changing hands, so no one’s the wiser. Stop the flow of new takes, and, as with Madoff’s scheme, the gig is up. 

The latest derivatives portfolio is industrial sized. Please move along.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money

This need explains the real reason why the bailout was so “urgent” in September — it was a frantic attempt to keep the money moving. The last thing the people at the top of this garbage heap want is for the people below to stop what they’re doing long enough to take a big whiff.  

This pause in the flow of money will uncover just how much fraud had been driving our supposedly robust economy. 

Unfortunately, our beliefs that our financial system as it was structured would have supported us into the future were an illusion — it would never have stood the test of time. So the time has come for us to find that out. 

Now at last we can clear out what is rotten and build new foundations that can support us where we’re going. 

At the same time, we need to come to terms with the likelihood that most folks have been basing major life decisions around this corrupted rotten system — relying on it for their future — so how are we going to react when what we’ve known collapses? 

Ah… I believe that will be the greatest test of American character we have ever faced. 

I believe we are ready for this test. Within all the chaos, is a gift, if we allow ourselves to see it. The gift is a return to integrity. We are ready for integrity. 

So much of what has happened in this country does not align with its true purpose. Far too many dealings, even disastrous wars, have been based on hypocrisy, fraud and lies. We know it. We’ve finally rejected this path. By voting in such great numbers for the very ideas of hope and change, we have collectively chosen not to continue the old ways.

We are ready for integrity. 

But that also means there is a shakeout upon us. Our choice will likely upend the current system from top to bottom, and many will need help to keep centered. We will need to keep urging the system to transform toward integrity, without letting the exploding fear of change sink us. I do believe by holding firmly to our nation’s purpose, we will create a system that will be far better than we can know right now. But as with every creative process, there is a descent into the unknown, and it is frightening. That’s where we are. 

For the next step in letting go of fears, see the next article to come: Defeating Saber-Toothed Financial Tigers part 2: Three Steps to Calm Confidence

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