Friday, March 20, 2009

No lack of consequences this time!

Most of us have been affected by the current economy in various ways, and I'll spare you the expected sob stories or diatribes. However, one thing that's always bothered me was a lack of consequences for a lot of white collar or political... crimes. CEO's (or political hacks) run a company (or our country) into the ground, lose billions in investor money, cost hundreds of people jobs (both directly and indirectly)... and then walk away rich and do it all over again at some other company or government agency. Who hires people who do that? Who works with them, or the companies they go on to represent?

I think its great that disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales can't get a job, but SHOCKED that Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft, who went into business for themselves, have found people willing to pay for their services... That's just wrong. (As an aside, if you're reading this, I think all references to disgraced former Attourney General Alberto Gonzales should ALWAYS be written "Disgraced Atourney General Alberto Gonzales," so that his name will forever be associated with disgrace. Are you with me?)

Well, maybe their days of ease are over. The New York Times is reporting that people known to be associated with, among other companies, AIG, are being publicly scorned and in some cases even threatened, due to the behaviors of the company they work for.

Here are some quotes from that story:
>The Connecticut Working Families party, which has support from organized labor, is planning a bus tour of A.I.G. executives’ homes on Saturday, with a stop at the company’s Wilton office.

>“We’re going to be peaceful and lawful in everything we do,” said Jon Green, the director of Connecticut Working Families. “I know there’s a lot of anger and a lot of rage about what’s happened. We’re not looking to foment that unnecessarily, but what we want to do is give folks in Bridgeport and Hartford and other parts of Connecticut who are struggling and losing their homes and their jobs and their health insurance an opportunity to see what kinds of lifestyle billions of dollars in credit-default swaps can buy.”

I think its GREAT that there's enough public outcry that we can finally bring a sense of shame to the very people who have been ripping us all off for so long. We should bring back Ostracism!

To quote from the above link:
Ostracism (Greek: οστρακισμός ostrakismos) was a procedure under the Athenian democracy in which a prominent citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years. While some instances clearly expressed popular anger at the victim, ostracism was often used pre-emptively. It was used as a way of defusing major confrontations between rival politicians (by removing one of them from the scene), neutralizing someone thought to be a threat to the state, or exiling a potential tyrant. Crucially, ostracism had no relation to the processes of justice. There was no charge or defence, and the exile was not in fact a penalty; it was simply a command from the Athenian people that one of their number be gone for ten years.

They don't have to commit a "crime." They don't have to be "in power." And there doesn't have to be any trial. Enough of us have to agree that some people ought not to be allowed to live among us. How beautiful is that? I have a potsherd here with Alberto Gonzales' name already scratched on it...

More from the NYT Story:
>Others in A.I.G.’s neighborhood were clearly angry. Tamara King, an immigration specialist at a health care company whose office is adjacent to the A.I.G. quarters, said she feels disgust each time she walks past it.

"You don’t want to associate with them because it’s not a reflection on the state, it’s not a reflection on us," she said. But she added, “You have so many people out of a job, and these people think they can take the money and run." [Italics mine]

I don't think any of us should want to associate with people like that, Ms. King.

It is unfortunate that some people working for these companies who are innocent of any real wrongdoing are being ostracized, and I certainly don't condone threats to a person or (can you believe it?) their children, but I can surely get behind a group of people standing in front of the house of an AIG exec with sign protesting their actions, policies, and arrogance. How is that exec going to explain a peaceful protest to his/her daughter? Night after night? Sure, they'll probably lie to her too, but the idea is making bad people feel ashamed of having done bad. Its one of the few motivators we as a society have left to dissuade people from committing certain crimes?

After all, if they get thier kicks from driving out of thier long driveway in thier long white limo, how much satisfaction will there be if, instead of envy, they are greeted with jeers and tomatoes? And the important bit is that they know they've done something wrong. They can't hide behind anonymity (like drug dealers), or ambiguity, because these are prominent people who aspire to status. I think a lot fewer of these scumbags will behave this way if they fear they'll be stripped of thier right to strut if we all know how they got thier money...

I'll be the first to say that this kind of... direct personal protest is problematic. Throughout history, this kind of protest was what we now call persecution- think Witch trials or pogroms- but I also think that our society is sorely missing a much-needed sense of responsibility for...well, everybody.

I want a national database of where disgraced former Bush Administration officials are working today, so we can all avoid doing business with those companies, and the companies that still do. I want to know who thinks its a great idea to hire a CEO who's made billions while effectively burning down the house we live in. And I want enough of us to vote with our pocketbooks, and stop giving our money to companies who support people whom they ought to be ashamed to associate with. If they're not... we won't give them our business.

Let's bring back some form of ostracim. Our first nominees can be anyone from AIG who took, and kept, a ludicuos "bonus" after we taxpayers bailed out the company they ran into the ground, to the detriment of us all.


Scoopernicus said...

It's too bad the press never put one tenth the effort to expose the corruption and malfeasance of the Bush Administration that they are currently putting into investigating the claims that Tim Geithner and/or Chris Dodd facilitated the AIG bailout bonuses.

Vox Populi said...

I know. They were running so scared trying to avoid the appearance of "liberal media bias" that they almost all forgot to... you know... do their jobs. Never let it be said that 30 years of lying and whining didn't get the Repugnicans anywhere- it got them a 8 years of Bush administration with surprisingly few real questions.

Thanks god we know that Bush's dog was named "Barney," though.