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When you know right from wrong, good from bad and don't pay attention

By Dian Vujovich

People are funny. People like me and you and well, everybody. All around us are examples of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and what’s bad. But when it comes to so many things, including money, we don’t really pay much attention to doing the right thing. It’s as if our brains are in some kind of forget mode where wrong carries more weight than right.

Over the past month I’ve noticed some good and bad examples of all sorts of things. Take the behavior of participants at the Masters golf tournament, for instance. On the one hand was a terrific example of its talented and grateful winner, Phil Mickelson. On the other, that of a sore loser, Tiger Woods, who couldn’t even muster up an ounce of gratefulness with respect to how well he had played, given the problems in his personal life.

Right now there’s an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that’s already the worst we’ve ever experienced. Interesting how that spill happened shortly after the president announced a drill-on policy for the black gold. The good part of that announcement no doubt complicated. The bad side so obvious it can’t be ignored.

And then there’s Wall Street. The most recent shenanigans involving the creation of investment products and sales practices of those at Goldman Sachs are despicable. That would be the not-so-good side. But the timing of the exposure may in fact turn out to be a good thing. Good because it will likely nudge those in Congress opposed to making any kind of financial reforms into submission and then agreement that yes, reforms are necessary.

One of the things our last president told the American public was that everyone ought to be able to be a homeowner. While that may have sounded like a good thing, anyone with an ounce of sense knew that thinking was both poppycock and unreasonable. A result of his thinking is something we’re all living through re the mortgage mess. The president before him thought regulating the derivates market wasn’t necessary. Now we’re all living through the results of his thinking. Last January’s Supreme Court decision ruling that government may not ban the political spending by corporations in candidate elections will have repercussions beyond belief and yet to be seen.

Combine all of that with the Hatfield and McCoy behavior of those in Congress, and many on Main Street, who prefer I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong bullying arguments over comprising and there’s a mess of money wills going on in this great country of ours that’s contributing to our downfall as a super power. But in our heart of hearts, we all know that.

Top it all off with the huge wage chasm between the wealthiest, the dwindling middle class and those living in poverty and our financial problems increase exponentially. Those born six decades ago saw heads of corporations earning 40 times what the average worker was paid, for example. Those born this century have seen that spread grow by a multiple of 10: The wealthiest corporate wage earners now earn over 400 times what the average worker does.

That huge income spread doesn’t bode well in a democracy where the design, by definition, includes a government by the people and for the people in which there’s “an absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges”. (The quote is from the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of “democracy”.) But we all know that. Don’t we?

It’s time we all start to pay more attention and begin setting some good examples on a number of fronts—even those money related. The cost of not doing so could be unimaginable. And I think we know that, too.

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