With corporate scandals, accounting fraud and the like in the headlines again, allow me to share a bit of my personal understanding of what's at the root of all this.
Other than, of course, the fallen condition of sinful humanity, a prime cause of corporate corruption is that the U.S. financial system is founded upon dishonest money, originating with the institution of the Federal Reserve in 1913.
A more proximate cause is the Fed's policy of mis-pricing the cost of money - the Fed Funds rate, or the overnight money rate. Currently at 2¾%, it's well below the true inflation rate of 5-6%.
Let me use a ridiculously simplistic example to help illustrate this point. Let's say the finest eating establishment in your area runs a full-page ad announcing a dinner special for two: their best steak dinner, bottle of house wine, etc. at $15 per couple. Do you think they could come close to satisfying the demand for such a ridiculously priced offer?
When you mis-price any good or service, you create distortions, often well beyond expectations. The utter calamity of the Soviet Union's economy, and the biggest reason for its collapse, was the centralized pricing for all goods and services.
In the '90's, the inflationary momentum of super-charged credit creation fostered an environment in which Wall Street ginned up an avalanche of financial junk to peddle to a gullible public, and to their mutual fund managers, or really mis-managers. They gobbled up phony-money inflated frauds like Global Crossing, WorldCom, Adelphia, and Tyco.
When that bubble burst, the Credit Monster re-grouped. Alan Greenspan genuinely feared a punishing recession after the stock bubble burst. So he unleashed the latest, greatest, and very likely the last wave of the Great American Credit Bubble - the current real estate mania.
Today we're experiencing an unbelievably complex web of money/debt creation - totally outside of the banking system, and away from the traditional control mechanisms of the Fed and other financial market regulators.
What we've gotten is Fannie Mae with less than $30 Billion in equity supporting almost $1 Trillion in assets, hedged with another Trillion in derivatives. Fannie is a pure socialist creature, and will go the way of all such monstrosities. Let's pray it doesn't take the financial system down with it.
We've gotten a U.S. auto industry that makes what little money it does through its version of financial engineering, not making cars, and certainly not advancing transportation technology into the 21st century.
The trillions in credit created in recent years have metastasized into a monstrous finance economy. Today's money players make fortunes in the money game, not developing and producing better products for America's and the world's consumers.
The scandals of the late '90's, and now this latest crop, are only a symptom of the deeper problem.
The fact is the underlying finance system is based on a lie: that Federal Reserve Notes are true money, rather than a device for improper government and financial-industry influence over free economic exchange. With the dollar's problems, our huge deficits, and the endemic financial scandals, we just may be entering the climactic chapter in another failed attempt to improve upon God's design for human society - kind of like a financial Tower of Babel.
When the very basis of your economic system is a fraud, what do you expect? More and more Americans trapped in debt, as if they're on the plantation of the Credit Masters. And those very same Credit Masters are caught up in ever more unconscionable greed, which leads to reckless corruption and obsessive selfishness.
The hirelings are running the world. Where are the good stewards?