Saturday, April 14, 2012

Returning America to its Capitalistic Roots

by Thomas Hinton

It should come as no surprise that consumers are frustrated and downright angry at corporate America. We’re especially angry with big banks and big oil. After five years of economic hardship and financial carnage not much has improved for the average consumer. America’s economic forecast is cloudy at best.

There’s a lot of blame to go around for the economic mess we’re in, but at the root of our financial problems is the growing culture of greed that permeates Corporate America and, specifically, big oil and big banks. The One Percenters, as they’ve been labeled by the Occupy Wall Street movement, have grossly misinterpreted what American capitalism is all about.

The corporate vultures do not represent the best economic interest of our nation, nor the world. In fact, they represent what is blatantly wrong with America, and their behavior is both disgusting and criminal. I do not use the word criminal lightly. Their misdeeds and governance actions have undermined the basic freedoms guaranteed to every American as prescribed in our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, our nation’s two most sacred documents. When the basic rights of Americans – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are compromised by corporate malfeasance under the pretense of a company’s right to make a profit, government has both a responsibility and obligation to protect the interests of its citizens. Regrettably, this is not happening because our elected officials have been unduly compromised by lobbyists and brainwashed into believing a big bank, insurance company or automaker is too big to fail. Such thinking further undermines the basic tenets of American capitalism.

We all know who these corporate culprits are. Their corporate names are household words. Their signage and logos adorn skyscrapers and buildings in every major city across the nation. Many of these companies are led by unindicted crooks who knowingly endorsed programs, schemes and policies that undermined the housing industry – the most sacred cornerstone of the American Dream, created epic levels of unemployment and under-employment, and stripped millions of American of their financial dignity by manipulating investment markets that eroded retirement plans and savings accounts.

All of this happened under the blind eye of our federal government and elected officials. Our federal and state governments have done little to hold these corporate leaders accountable for their brazen abuses or protect consumers from another financial meltdown. While the nation’s attorneys general should be applauded for their efforts to sue big banks in an effort to help distressed homeowners, President Obama and the Congress continue to reward these corporate culprits with government bailouts and gentle slaps on the wrist. Is it any wonder that so many Americans have lost faith in their leaders and their ability to initiate meaningful change? Is it any wonder that consumers are frustrated, angry and bitter about their dwindling economic prospects let alone the economic prospects of our children?

Five years after the financial debacle was perpetrated by big banks with the approving nod of the Federal Reserve, SEC and other federal agencies, millions of Americans remain mired in the economic mud created by investment houses and big banks. It continues to be a very slow and painful financial recovery for millions of consumers; and, all of this is happening while big banks and big oil amass outrageous profits at the expense of struggling America’s consumers.

Can consumers do anything to stop this harmful trend besides transferring their bank accounts to credit unions and limiting their driving so they buy less gas? I think the answer is a resounding yes! Consumers ultimately control the power of the purse and the economic fortunes of a nation because we can choose where and how to spend our money. We can also choose to dethrone those elected officials who contributed to our economic misfortunes. In the final analysis, consumers can regain control of their economic destiny by standing up for what is right with America and demand big banks and big oil honor the true spirit of American Capitalism – making a fair profit while raising the fortunes of society.

About the Author:
Thomas Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council, a non-profit consumer advocacy and financial education organization with over 126,000 members. He can be reached at

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