Psychology of Greed : Protecting the People from Wall Street

A rebuttal of sorts:
Protecting the people from Wall Street

By Steven Porter / The Rag Blog / April 23, 2010

[On April 21, The Rag Blog published an article by Sherman DeBrosse entitled Republican Jujitsu : Protecting Wall Street from the People.]

To argue that the abuses of Wall Street lie at the feet of one political party or another really avoids a deeper issue with which our nation must eventually come to grips. The issue is the psychology of greed which is the progenitor of the abuses. And it is a psychology which is part of our entire nation.

Greed is a neurosis which is not characterized by party label, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or any of the other considerations of which the pundits often talk. It is a cultural phenomenon whose roots are in the child-rearing practices and sociological landscape of the society. Both Freud and Karen Horney discuss the process, Horney most eloquently in her book The Neurotic Personality of our Time.

The lies and manipulations which often accompany greed cannot really be legislated. Morality and immorality are not determined by what laws are passed. In fact, given a sufficient lust for the immoral, laws are more often simply things to circumvent rather than statutes to obey.

That said, if immorality cannot be halted by law, it can certainly be prosecuted by law, and that seems to be the great weakness of our government. It is a weakness because Congress is also one of the foxes guarding the chicken coop of finance.

The foxes on Wall Street and those in Congress have been allies for years, as anyone who looks at the record will see. The alliance has taken two traditional paths: campaign contributions from the financial industry to candidates for Congress (by the billions — see and a revolving door between top financial executives and top government officials.

Goldman Sachs, the focus of our current dilemma, is a particularly egregious offender in this regard having placed more than 45 of its top people in government (including both Rubin and Paulson who went from GS CEO positions to Secretary of the Treasury).

The appearance of President Obama on Wall Street as a spokesperson for a greater fiscal morality is simply laughable. It is part of a charade being played out by all parties to make it seem like the interests of the people are being looked after. Let us remember that it was Obama who eschewed the 2008 campaign spending limits he once proclaimed he would uphold. Let us remember that it was Obama who took $1 million in contributions from Goldman Sachs in the 2008 campaign.

Not that I am saying anything about Obama which is not true of the other candidates. The system has been rigged to aggrandize the greed of special interests, and candidates in both major parties are willing participants.

The question of what we do to protect ourselves against the abuses of the finance industry is thus a far more complex one than the passage of any single piece of legislation. It involves the psychological metamorphosis of our culture from one of spendthrift instant gratification to one of what psychologist Eric Berne called “more Adult behavior.”

To rail against the fiscal and governmental corruptors is to miss the real point. To quote Mr. Shakespeare yet again, “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

[Dr. Steven Porter holds BS, MA, PhD, and PD degrees in fine arts and educational administration. He was the Democratic Party candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s third district in both 2004 and 2006. His new book is entitled Preserving America: ten things we must change to survive.]

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2 Responses to Psychology of Greed : Protecting the People from Wall Street

  1. It involves the psychological metamorphosis of our culture from one of spendthrift instant gratification to one of what psychologist Eric Berne called “more Adult behavior.” The psychological changes go beyond spending habits. In fact you have stated the genesis of the Tea Party movement quite well. People who had for decades assumed and relied on the government to look after their interests, began to realize under Bush that government wasn’t working for them. Under Obama that metamorphosis came to completion.

    People who were unaccustomed to fending for themselves in politics are suddenly doing just that. They do not trust much of what they hear from politicians for good reason.

    The interesting part, to me, is that the group that now distrusts Washington and clamors for change are the old folks and soccer moms. While the “free spirit” visionaries from even a decade ago are now carrying water for the further expansion of government control.

  2. sherm says:

    I respect the comments of my friend Steve Porter, whom I have voted for in the past. Steve is rightly disappointed because Democrats have carried so much water for Wall Street.

    Maybe some of the Democratic Leradership council folks did it out of conviction, believing all the “neo-liberal” economic theories. But I suspect they saw political and financial advantages. They should admit their error and do some penance.

    But the Republicans were far worse.

    I do not know Barack Obama, but I see him as a pragmatist here and in other respects. One has to make some pretty unsavory deals to move the ball ahead at all. For a number of years I worked with a community organizer who, like the president, worked for the Gamaliel Foundation. These people would not disagree with anything Steve or I want, but they are far more pragmatic.

    Like it or not, the conservatives have skilfully moved the center of gravity far to the right. That is partly why so many deplorable compromises were made on health care. What we got was better than nothing.

    My polite critic “Extremist” says things have gotten worse under Obama. The man pulled us away from a depression and and sems to have made a deall with Wall Street to rescue the financial system–at least for trhe moment.

    Even Dick Durbin said the banks own Capitol Hill. The Dodd bill has many deficiencies, but it is the best we can expect.

    I do faualt Obama on the two wars, supporting Holder’s continuation of the Bush war on whistle blowers, and his failure to stop the political prosecutions started under Bush-Cheney. Maybe on much of this he has decided not to risk the fate of JFK. Who knows.

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