Morality takes many forms and hides behind many masks. Perhaps no loss of morality is more complete than that which infests the corporate and political leadership of the United States of America. Forget sex and drugs and rock-n-roll; the moral loss I speak of refers to the utter indifference these so-called leaders have with regards to their own personal culpability in creating and sustaining our current economic nightmare.

-Lifelong politicians who “forget” to pay their taxes.

-Corporate CEO’s with their hands in the taxpayer vault gifting themselves with billions of dollars of bonuses and perks.

-Professional lobbyists paying off politicians in exchange for legal cover to commit fraud on the public.

These are but a few examples of how America is looted daily by those we expect to do the right thing. Millions of people are losing jobs and homes, while lawmakers find ways to shovel more money into the abyss in the name of stimulating the economy. Millions of children watch their future earning power disintegrate before their eyes, while America’s corporate stooges plan their next taxpayer-funded junket. It’s enough to make a person want to scream.

Money may be the root of all evil (or the love of money, as the saying goes), but I think our current worries go beyond biblical phraseology. What we are experiencing now is nothing less than a complete breakdown of social conscience and stewardship on the part of those who should not only know better, but are expected to do better. There no longer is shame associated with screwing old ladies out of their retirement funds. There is no moral judgment against those who enrich themselves with one hand in the public till while stabbing the public in the back with the other hand. Hell, for most of these unscrupulous bastards, there isn’t even a legal reckoning to fear. In the “effort” to right the ship of state, any consideration to public scrutiny of what went wrong and why it got that way is deemed not relevant to the “real” problem.

Forgive me if I beg to differ.

The economic crisis may well be the important issue at hand, but trying to solve it with the same people who created it doesn’t really seem to be the best idea to me. We may now have an administration bent on changing the way politics works in this country, but Team Obama has certainly stumbled on its way out of the chute. When “change” is the mantra of the day you not only have to say it, you have to mean it, live it, breathe it in every action along the way. To his credit, Obama has accepted responsibility for some bad selections of staff. But he’s also violated his own new lobbying rules by granting waivers to several who wouldn’t get jobs under the new rules. Bending the rules when they don’t suit you is the old way of doing politics. I think we expected a bit more.

The looting of America isn’t just the emptying of the treasury into the hands of private bankers, auto makers, and insurance corporations. The looting of America also reflects a vacuous morality that says, “Screw you-I’m only out for me.” We’re not only losing our hard-earned money, we’re losing the sense of common commitment that creates and sustains a nation.

If anything, the economic crash is just the last symptom in a body riddled with disease. We ignored the other symptoms for so long that eventually we began to think of them not as signs of poor national health at all, but instead as an evolution towards a better, stronger entity. Corruption that permeated all aspects of public life-from the boardrooms to the backrooms of Congress-was sold as virtuosity if it increased the profit margin. If you had to lie, steal, or bend the letter of the law farther than a world record holding limbo artist, so be it. After all, so long as the general public was wrapped up in petty debates of pretend morality (flag burning, gay marriage, nudity on TV and assisted suicide) the bigwigs could operate behind the scenes pretty much unfettered. At least until the house of cards finally collapsed.

The looting of America is almost complete. Our public finances are a disaster, and our personal finances aren’t in great shape either. Our national infrastructure has deteriorated while those entrusted to its care have fleeced the treasury. But worse is the fact that we accept these things as commonplace to such a degree that outrage is not only invisible, it’s often unthinkable. And when it does rear its head, there’s some “patriotic” idiot ready to slap it down in the name of “good Christian, American morals.” After all, if you admit that your country is failing and that your leadership is filled with greedbags, you have to take some responsibility yourself. And accountability is NOT the American way.

Barack Obama may be the right man at the right time to actually create some changes in this country. Sadly, for many, those changes will be too little or too late. Perhaps far greater than trying to repair a broken economic system is the task of repairing the broken sense of stewardship and morality that ultimately put us in this precarious position. In the end, no amount of political tinkering will withstand the onslaught of immoral actions by those at the helm. We need to not only clean house, but fire the cleaning crew as soon as they wipe up. But that’s not going to happen. Those who hold power have made sure that it won’t happen. And most Americans are too busy complaining about the “other” guy to recognize that it’s “their” guy who is part of the problem too. 

As I said, accountability is NOT the American way. Maybe collapse is. Maybe the only way to really root out the immoral leadership is to start from scratch. At this rate, we may get that chance sooner than later. The question is whether or not we’d even notice the opportunity.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)