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Thinking Out Loud: Are We Witnessing The Decadence in U.S. Society That Makes Disintegration Inevitable?

November 23, 2015 by Herbert Daughtry

Part Thirty-Seven
Greed: The Root of All Evil?
Section A
“Greed is destroying America.”
– Bernie Sanders
We have dealt with violence in all of its subtle and blatant expressions. There is a compelling temptation, I confess, to write one more article on violence. Some of its ugly manifestations were on macabre display over the weekend, but I’ve decided to move on. Violence, deeply, intensely, comprehensively, and increasingly, I am sad to say, will be with us for years to come.
Let’s consider the next factor in America’s seemingly inexorable march to destruction or disintegration. Let me be clear. Even if I am accurate in my descriptions, analyses, and predictions, there is still time for change – to turn back or to seek a different direction. It will take a herculean effort to achieve the confession, repentance, honesty the honesty, truthfulness, decency, fairness, sharing, discipline, etc., without which we cannot hope to avert the coming disaster.
Let us study the next factor which is greed. Materialism is one of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s evils in the triplet. The other two are racism and militarism. There is an argument that has been around for millenniums that greed is the mother of all other sins, crimes, bigotry, and debauchery, or sexual exploitation. No less authority than the Holy Bible says “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Please note that it’s not money itself, but the love of money that compels people to do almost anything. I will return to money or greed when I deal with the sex factor.
With Mr. Sheldon Silver, the Former Speaker of the New York Assembly, one of the most powerful positions in New York State with influence in national politics, going to court this month, along with his counterpart in New York State, Ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, it seems to be an appropriate time to discuss greed. Mr. Silver is being accused by the U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of corruption that earned him nearly $4 million.  In addition, Mr. Skelos even involved his son, Adam. According to the allegation, he is accused of being offered a “no-show” job while lobbying his father for favors for a medical malpractice insurer.
They are representatives of a gang of New York politicos who have been charged with various criminal activities growing out of greed. Some have been indicted. Some have been sentenced. Still others are incarcerated.
Black politicos have been just as corrupt. I just can’t bring myself to name all of the Black elected officials,  most of them I count as friends, who have been caught in the web of greed in the last several years. There are two in particular who were recently convicted; and, they, in my opinion, are the saddest of the lot: One, because of the family, and the other, because of what appears to be nonsensical.
It is the heading of the New York Daily News that made the corruption more heart-wrenching. It read, “Fourteen Years for Piggy Boyland.” The article talks about his family. “The 45-year-old political scion, whose family was called the ‘Kennedys of Brownsville,’ where a major thoroughfare is named after his uncle, drew the heavy sentence from a thoroughly disgusted Federal Judge Sandra Townes.” I knew/know all of the members of Mr. William Frank Boyland, Jr.’s family, even the deceased uncle. I know how painful this must be for them.
The other politico was Mr. Malcolm Smith, who had risen to Deputy Majority Leader in the New York Senate. He was convicted and will be sentenced for trying to manipulate or buy his way to become a Republican candidate for Mayor. Even if he had succeeded, there is only a slight chance that he, as a Republican candidate, and a Black one at that, would have won in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. Of course, the last Republican to succeed was Mr. Rudolph Giuliani. Only an unusual concatenation of circumstances brought back that rare event to pass. I almost came to tears when I read Senator Smith’s plea for leniency. He is quoted saying, “At this moment in time, I am a broken man. My career has been destroyed. My family is in pain. And, I am likely to lose my freedom for some period of time.” He faces up to 50 years in prison.
What is instructive and depressing is the defense of Mr. Silver’s attorney, Mr. Steven Molo. He is quoted in the New York Daily News saying, “The government built its case not on actual federal crimes but rather on longstanding features of New York state government the U.S. attorney finds distasteful.” What the Attorney seem to be saying is that what Mr. Silver did is really the way things are done in Albany.
Mr. Gerald Benjamin, a professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, said, “The legislators’ probability rating is so dismal that there is little downside for lawmakers to maintain the status quo. The institutional reputation is in the sewer, and can’t go lower.” Needless to say, what is true of New York State’s politicos is ditto for national politics. The public perception is equally low. It is one of the reasons that, in this year’s presidential campaigns. those who appear to be outsiders are polling at the top, as in the case with the Republican candidates of Mr. Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. On the Democratic side, Bernie Saunders is drawing huge crowds and is doing better than anyone had anticipated. Surely, another reason for the public’s distrust and/or low estimation of Congress is its inability to get things done and the overall toxic political atmosphere.
When we come to America’s corporate world, the greed factor compares or exceeds the political world. There are at least two kinds of greed. There is greed that is illegal. In recent times, we have seen this greed reach incredible depths among Wall Street’s financiers, as represented in Mr. Bernard Madoff. This greed is cruel and insensitive in that it rips off and betrays the trust of relatives and long-time friends. At least, they are Democratic in their thievery. They steal from everyone.
Bankers are just as guilty. Several months ago, J.P. Morgan agreed to pay over $120 million for credit card debt probes. The bank tried to improperly collect and sell consumer credit card debt. The settlement also included about $50 million in restitutions. J.P. Morgan is the nation’s largest bank. Five banks control 45% of banking assets. In fact, several years ago, during the economic downturn, there were those who boasted that the banks were too big to fail So, a mom and pop store can fail and no one cares in high places, but not the banks. At the same time, the CEOs are drawing down astronomical salaries with all kinds of fringe benefits. Yes, something is wrong with America.
Even charities are not exempt from the greed monster. Back in May 2015, the government accused four charities of ripping off $187 million in a scam. “Four phony philanthropies, claiming to help cancer victims, spent some of their $187 million in donations to entertainment center, luxury cruises, etc. Only 3% of the donations went for actual, charitable purposes.”
This greed – the compulsion to do anything to anybody and to steal anything from anybody – reaches the highest levels as well as the lowest. There’s the story of a man who stole a hearse with a corpse inside of it. It happened in Atlanta, GA. They were stolen outside of a hospital. The thief abandoned the hearse a few blocks from the Grady Memorial Hospital in the downtown area, and then stole a gold Ford Explorer, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
… to be continued.
 (Originally published in the Daily Challenge on November 4, 2015.)