Guest Post: American Purgatory

Submitted by Greg Simmons and Brett Buchanan of Scope Labs

Are financial markets a direct reflection of the overall health of a nation? I wish they were not, but I fear they are.

I wonder at times if our nation has entered a state of purgatory –
all of us mulling around in the waiting room to Hell, anxiously
counting the minutes until the grim reaper saunters through the door
sickle in hand his mission to send us off to eternal damnation.
Unfortunately, there is little time to close this door so that we may
stave off this potential fate that looms so near. What we need to alter
this course is a procession of men who possess moral fortitude and
common sense, men of rationality and reason. Men of action who will set
in motion the dismantling of institutions that bleed this nation dry.

Hope is not a strategy. This present state of manufactured optimism
emanating from the White House and our news outlets is contemptible. We
are in dire need of new reformist leadership and of new voices that
will speak the truth. A national purification is long overdue. Time is
not on our side. Look at the track record this nation has racked up
over the last few decades and this economic and moral purgatory in
which we find ourselves might very well mark the beginning of our walk
of death down the long road to Hell.

I make this analogy of a national state of purgatory not in jest,
but rather in practical terms. This nation has gone the way of an
absolute meltdown of morality and ethics. We’ve reverted to a sort of
Wild West where anything goes. From the halls of congress to our
corporate boardrooms our collective morality bar has sunk so low we
cannot go any lower without disconnecting from the great past this
nation is starved to regain. We stand dangerously close to the point
where immorality begets our undoing.

Personally, I am father to a daughter of fourteen years. Brett, my
co-author, is father to a twenty-month old daughter and an
eighteen-year old son. We desperately want to create for our children a
better world. But we are fallible men, and certainly not saints. The
paragraphs you are about to read are not written from some moral high
ground, or a Holier-than-thou pulpit, but rather from saddened hearts
when we see that by walking our own moral tightrope, if we were to
allow ourselves to slip below the bar, however slightly, we would be
just as guilty as the worst perpetrators of our nation’s moral
destruction. Also, when witness to greater moral transgressions, by our
own inaction, we become part of the problem. And we are just two men.
Amplify this by fifty million, one hundred million, or three hundred
million fold and it is no wonder immorality permeates our society.

This article is our personal effort to call people’s attention to
the truth. The brevity of our circumstance is immeasurable by past
reference. Economically, we have never been so challenged. Over the
past few decades a gullible US population cheered the halls of congress
and the Oval Office alike as the incestuous bedfellows of money and
politics ushered in a financial Coup d’état – co-opting our public
trusts with the greed and excess of Wall Street. Profits are now had at
any cost – damn the long-term consequences. Instead of being exposed as
the obvious fraud he was, Bernie Maddoff was coddled by the SEC – an
institution whose role as regulator is a complete failure. As Wall
Street and Washington raped an entire nation, employees of the SEC were
too busy surfing porn on the Internet and running private businesses
instead of doing the jobs taxpayers pay them to do. All the while,
young girls were selling their virginity to the highest bidder in
public cyber-forums where grown men (not hormonally charged teenage
boys) seek out their sexual fantasies in the netherworld of Internet
pornography. What of the wives, children, and even parents of these
men? Do they approve of such questionable actions?

Think of our children turning on the television to see people eating
bile, cow blood, and live bugs for money on game shows like Fear
Factor, or Flavor Flav and his hit reality show where he maintains a
stable of women all of whom physically fight each other to have sex
with him because he’s a celebrity – and a damn ugly one at that. And
finally, there’s always Survivor, the ultimate demonstration of all
things wrong with modern human interaction. A reality show that pits
person against person in a deceitful game of moral destruction where
lack of ethics are rewarded, instead of punished. Survivor, this is
what our nation’s leadership has become. Win at any cost. Damn the
future of anyone but myself.

Morality is in great part the measure of a nation. Have we unlearned
morality? Is this why we find ourselves staring down the abyss?

We are allowing ourselves to become more corrupt by the minute. We
stare into the face of our future being raped, but we do nothing. We
are as corrupt as the corrupters. We accept the unacceptable. We fail
to understand that absolute power, corrupts absolutely. In what will go
down as the greatest financial heist in history our leaders have chosen
to reward corrupt individuals and their hollow corporations for what
are arguably criminal levels of risk behavior by the moneyed elite of
this country. What message does that send to our children, or to anyone
for that matter? Be as corrupt as possible in the US and you will be
rewarded? Be the biggest failure jeopardizing the fate of others then
stand in the corporate welfare line with all the other wealthiest
institutions of the world, your greedy hand extended for a government
bailout check while you simultaneously foreclose on an entire nation?
Talk about the rich corralling the masses. It’s no wonder someone
coined the term “The Sheeple.”

The path we traveled to this purgatorial limbo is both easily
understood and misunderstood. The answers to understanding are
sometimes right in front of us. What are seemingly benign things or
actions, those everyday judgments or decisions we make to do one thing
or another, are not always benign. Tell a little white lie to make that
one sale that will put us into our bonus. Rig the game in our favor so
that we might enjoy a little more opulence for the few decades we have
remaining on this planet. Look the other way while the Federal Reserve
and Wall Street blow economic bubble after economic bubble and in the
process create a six-hundred trillion dollar shadow banking system that
plays by no one’s rules but its own. In the case of Goldman Sachs, and
Wall Street in general, lie, cheat, and steal their way to
profitability at the expense of three hundred million taxpayers. The
fact is that we have become an uncooperative nation willing to take
advantage of anyone for the sake of profit. The idea of building a
cooperative future where everyone wins has been sacrificed at the altar
of short-mindedness.

It might be this purgatorial limbo I speak of is simpler than it
appears. It could be that we are collectively suffering the
consequences of the “Peter Principle”, or getting to the job of
failure. This principle supposes that an individual rises in a
corporate hierarchy to their first level of incompetence. An assembly
worker gets promoted to supervisor then to assistant manager, then
manager, until he next gets promoted to an upper management job for
which he is ill equipped and subsequently gets promoted no further as
he can no longer demonstrate the competence required for the task at
hand. He rather relies on subordinates who are then stuck with an upper
manager who cannot carry out his own duties. Could this be the state of
our nation? Have we been promoted as far as our competence allows? Are
we in fact incompetent to handle our future? Have we now elected a man
just incompetent enough for the Presidency who is being manipulated by
Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, and a circle of (previous) Wall
Street insiders now on the government payroll as cabinet members and
high-ranking advisors? The saddest thing is that we sit idly by whilst
our virtue is being stolen. We do nothing.

A view of the world through rose-colored glasses does no one, any
good. We are not as resilient as we think we are. Instead, we exist in
a world of synthetic productivity where multi-tasking renders us
incapable of doing anything effectively or with any level of
competence. Multi-tasking, that art of simultaneous ineffectiveness is
a counter productive weapon that to a large degree has contributed to
the potential failure of this nation. If you were to listen to Alan
Greenspan however, you would believe that multi-tasking through
technological gains by way of the “new paradigm” was the gold at the
end of the Information Superhighway and that exotic mortgages and the
burgeoning spending class paved the road to riches. We now know these
premises to be empirically wrong.

It can now be argued that what would seemingly be advancements in
productivity are proving to be setbacks. The Information Superhighway
has led us to an era of technological arrogance. In reality all we have
accomplished is to dilute our ability to carry out simple tasks as we
click from a quarterly sales report due in an hour, to Facebook, to
on-line solitaire, to writing an email explaining to our boss why the
quarterly report will be delayed this day. We are a nation of excuse
makers. We look for someone else to keep us one step ahead of our
accumulating debt that smothers the potential of what could have been
an equitable future. Ironically, it is our technological arrogance that
impedes our ability to produce and manufacture our way to prosperity.

Craftsmen who used to flock to this country to fulfill the needs of
a manufacturing base flock here no more. “Made in the USA” used to mean
something. It meant quality. It was the definition of industrial
capitalism. But now through the wonders of globalization we have
exported our craftsmanship through an outflow of jobs to China and
India as we turned everyone in the USA into real estate agents,
mortgage brokers, and web designers – a perfect playground for bankers
to ply their craft, lending money in every creative manner both
thinkable, and unthinkable. “Made in the USA” has been reduced to the
status of punch-line – synonymous only with “Mortgage Backed
Securities” and other “Toxic Derivatives.”

Is it any wonder we have evolved into the ‘entitled society’? If we
weren’t on the government payroll, or subsidized by the US taxpayer
through social welfare then we were borrowing our way to prosperity.
Enter the God-fearing middle class. Just dumb enough to buy into the
scam a couple hundred million people began signing over their
paychecks, selling their future for the enjoyment of having things now.
We were transformed into non-productive Sheeple, selling our souls for
an easier life in lieu of a better future for our children. At our
current rate of productive attrition we will soon be a nation of
declawed housecats, possessing no skill-set whatsoever to survive in a
world where the ability to produce real goods still reins supreme. Yet
we remain the ‘entitled society’, when we are entitled to nothing.

We forget (through economic amnesia) that throughout history all
societies fail. Nicolaus Copernicus maintained that civilizations
failed when bad money, controlled and understood by an elite few, drove
out good money. The same can be said for morality. Bad, drives out
good. This is a reality of which we should all be acutely aware but
rather are immune to its possibility. We dangerously believe we cannot
fail. That, in fact, is the greatest gamble of all. A roll of the dice
against history, a bet against all natural laws of the universe, all
things are in a state of entropy. All things eventually wither away to
nothing. To possess longevity is to be ahead of the universe. Sadly, we
have constructed a fragile world that produces material things that do
not last. The fiat money we use as the currency of our production is by
design, destructive itself. The Federal Reserve prints greed, nothing
more. But still we covet it. We pursue it as if it had value. And in
this pursuit we destroy earth’s resources as if the laws of nature have
no relevance. We believe there is only now.

We, the entitled society, morally and fiscally bankrupt have borrowed,
spent, and bailed our way into a historical corner. Nero should be so
proud. Our public trusts are nothing more than government sanctioned
check-kiting operations shifting liabilities from one credit card to
another faster than our creditors can say “Federal Reserve.” The
Ponzi-scheme that is our fiat currency system is about to go the way of
what was for a time the symbol of American superiority, General Motors.
It used to be said that what was good for General Motors was good for
our nation. As I claimed in 2005 that GM would go bankrupt I will now
guarantee that the US government is soon to follow. How our ultimate
entropy will take form I cannot say, but form it will. We will default.
We will restructure. It will be at this point our arrogance will end.