The Crisis in Public Morality
Robert B. Reich
Republicans have morality upside down. They're condemning gay marriage, abortion, access to contraception, and the wall separating church and state.
But the moral crisis in America isn't a breakdown in private morality. It's a breakdown in public morality. What Americans do in their bedrooms is their own business. What corporate executives and
We're living through a new Gilded Age of financial fraud and conflicts of interest; exorbitant pay to executives, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers; tax loopholes that allow them to pay a lower rate than many middle-class Americans; and legalized bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign "donations."
The problem isn't excessive greed. If you took the greed out of
The new Dodd-Frank law that was supposed to stop
And now money is flowing more freely than ever from giant corporations and
Americans are entitled to their own religious views about gay marriage, contraception, abortion and God. A society where one set of religious views is imposed on a large number of citizens who disagree with them is not a democracy. It's a theocracy.
But abuses of public trust such as we've witnessed on the Street and in the executive suites of our largest corporations are not matters of private morality. They're violations of public morality. They undermine the integrity of our economy and democracy. They're leading millions of Americans to conclude that the game is rigged.
Regressive Republicans have no problem hurling the epithets "shameful," "disgraceful" and "contemptible" at private moral decisions they disagree with.
Republicans have staked out the moral low ground. It's time for the rest of us to stake out the moral high ground and demand an end to the abuses of economic power and privilege that characterize this new Gilded Age.
Glass-Steagall should be resurrected. The biggest banks should be broken up. Taxes should be raised on exorbitant incomes. We need a constitutional amendment to overturn the travesty of Citizens United.
Twice before, reformers have saved capitalism from its own excesses by appealing to public morality and common sense. First in the early 1900s, when the captains of American industry had monopolized the economy into giant trusts, American politics had sunk into a swamp of patronage and corruption, and many factory jobs were unsafe -- entailing long hours of work at meager pay and often exploiting children. In response, we enacted antitrust, civil service reforms and labor protections.
And then again in 1930s, after the stock market collapsed and a large portion of American workforce was unemployed. Then, we regulated banks and insured deposits, cleaned up stock market, and provided social insurance to the destitute.
It's time once again to save capitalism from its own excesses -- and to base a new era of reform on public morality and common sense.
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