The One Question We Must All Ask Ourselves

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Rampant profiteering by Congress and greedy bankers is forcing us to weigh the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune against honesty and transparency – both of which are being trampled by crony capitalists in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

What's at stake is whether gross criminal activity and reckless disregard for the public will continue to be whitewashed by regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Federal Reserve, courts, and Congress, which encourage half-baked civil fraud charges followed by non-prosecution agreements and nickel-and-dime fines.

And even more galling, guilty parties end up neither admitting nor denying wrongdoing.

Let's face it, we have allowed the SEC, the Fed, and Congress to be corralled as a matter of regulatory and legislative capture by the very crooks they are responsible for policing and protecting us from.

We are lying to ourselves if we do not believe that we are all part of this problem. It's not that most of us aren't honest. It's that we venerate money and wealth too much.

Rather than being disgusted by dishonest manipulators, liars and cheats, we excuse the less-than-obvious perpetrators as if their example of cutting corners to get ahead, as far ahead as possible, might clear a path for some of our own pursuits.

What have we become? Are we a nation of people with liberty and justice for all, or just a bunch of money grabbers stepping on each other's liberties to pursue self-centered happiness by becoming filthy rich?

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the profit motive driving business. And there's nothing wrong with working hard and trying to make a lot of money. Those are honorable pursuits.

President Calvin Coolidge said: "The chief business of the American people is business."

But in the same speech made on January 17, 1925 our 30th president went on to say: "Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence."

Tragically, the fountainhead of greed in America emanates from our own Congress. It has become obvious that the accumulation of personal wealth is their primary civic duty.

Nearly half of all members of Congress are millionaires. Most of them have gotten much richer in office over the past six years while the country has become much poorer.

Whether it's perks like generous medical and extraordinary pension (full salary) benefits, or taxpayer and constituent financed "fact-finding" trips to places like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Europe, or other luxurious destinations, they enjoy financial rewards that are unavailable to ordinary Americans.

[Note: You can help eliminate Congressional perks like these by clicking here.]

And, as if that's not enough, we now know that they trade stocks on inside information and sell our trust in them along with the privileges of their offices to hedge funds for cash.

Politicians are addicted to money and power. And it's at that busy intersection that they collide with bankers and hedge fund billionaires all too eager to pave a superhighway upon which they all race ahead of all other honest, hard-working Americans.

It makes sense for bankers and financial flyboys to grease the wheels of power. After all, they make incomprehensible amounts of money with the help of politicians who make laws and break laws and insert thousands of loopholes into whatever seemingly sensible laws exist, mostly for the benefit of their paymasters.

To be or not to be honest about business-as-usual in America, that is the question we must ask ourselves.

Whether it is noble to pretend that we are an honest country or to put our arms around the nexus of money and power that has corrupted our integrity, our morals, and our future, and by opposing them, crush them, is what all Americans should be actively debating.

The New Year is the perfect time to make resolutions. And since everyone who has ever tried to stick to a New Year's resolution knows, it's almost impossible unless you declare to the world your goals and are supported by everyone around you.

So, how about we all make a resolution, the same resolution, and all support each other?

How about we resolve to dissolve Congress by voting all of them out over the next two election cycles?

How about we resolve to elect honest people whose first mandate is to revolutionize Congress by enacting laws that strip them of their un-American privileges, inordinate power to pander to bankers and their ability to hide behind their offices as if they are above every other American?

How about we hold them accountable for all their actions and make everything they do transparent?

How about we the people get to vote on whether they have engaged in criminal behavior while in our employ? And, we the people get to determine their punishment by voting on the outcome of public trials of public officials!

And, while we're at it, how about we break up all the big banks once and for all so they don't control Congress, the President, and the regulators who are supposed to be minding the public's interest but are stuffing bankers' back pockets?

America is in desperate need of a revolution.

It's our God-given right, and we better exercise it before our ability to save ourselves from what we have become destroys the magnificent experiment our Founding Fathers and our heroic soldiers have fought for.

[Editor's Note: If you're fed up with the rampant corruption, double-dealing, and protection of Wall Street by Washington (at the expense of the taxpayers on America's Main Street), then you need to read Shah Gilani's Wall Street Insights & Indictments newsletter. As a retired hedge-fund manager, Gilani is a former Wall Street insider who knows where all the bodies are buried. But unlike most insiders, he's not afraid to tell you where they are. He's also got some pretty good ideas how to fix this mess - and how to protect yourself until the cleanup takes place. Please click here to find out more. The newsletter is free.]

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About the Author

Shah Gilani is the Event Trading Specialist for Money Map Press. He provides specific trading recommendations in Capital Wave Forecast, where he predicts gigantic "waves" of money forming and shows you how to play them for the biggest gains. In Short-Side Fortunes, Shah shows the "little guy" how to make massive size gains – sometimes in a single day – by flipping large asset classes like stocks, bonds, commodities, ETFs and more. He also writes our most talked-about publication, Wall Street Insights & Indictments, where he reveals how Wall Street's high-stakes game is really played.

Read full bio

  1. -pt- | January 5, 2012

    Hi Mr Gilani,
    I am quite disappointed . When will you stop complaining about almost everything ? Those stories you have been telling us are not the reason why I wanted pay some money. Start today and write about something that you are paid for – that is investments.

  2. tom pawluk | January 5, 2012

    One of the best financial essays I've read. Would like to put it in a small town newspaper, with your permission of course. Unfortunately, people are finding it all to hard to survive and I think this would be to overwhelming for the masses to comprehend. Also,many times when the vote the bum out happens, it's the wrong guy who has been demonized by the very people who you write about.Were in a tough spot.
    Tom

  3. D. Brown | January 5, 2012

    Interesting request – to blindly oust all of congress without so much as a wink. What about the guys who have only been there for one year? Do you think they deserve to feel the wrath of an angry electorate? I don't think so. I wish you would have qualified your "resolution" to term limit the folks who have been there for 3 terms or more in the House or 2 terms or more in the Senate. Then it would have been more credible.

    • Frank Publius | January 5, 2012

      Why not? Sometimes people need to sacrifice for the greater good. The freshmen benefited from the angry electorate last time around; if they have the voting records to support or justify being included in the House-cleaning (ahem), then they can make their cases. Maybe they should step into different roles, i.e., representatives running for senate seats and vice-versa. If they have the courage of their convictions, senators won't see it as an ignominious demotion to become representatives.

      But to say that this idea is invalid because we might lose a patriot or two in the backwash is, to twist a Franklin phrase, penny wise and pound foolish.

      There's no way — no way — any of this ever changes until every vestige of the current abomination that Congress has metastasized into is abolished. The Pelosis and Reeds (and, yes, McConnells and Boehners) have got to go if we hope to save what remains of our once-great republic.

  4. Donald Wiley | January 5, 2012

    Shah has it NAILED!!!! We have 2 choices……either make Drastic changes in the way Washington "does business", Or let them continue to lead us Down the path to Destruction. The 1st path will be hard, the 2nd is Unthinkable, and FAR WORSE!!!
    Remember…..they work For US, NOT vice versa!!!
    Vote Them ALL Out!!!!
    Don

  5. Cam Read | January 5, 2012

    Couldn't agree more but the pathetic truth is that money perverts humans for the most part, and always has, at least in the capitalist societies prevalent in our age. Wealth is the carrot dangled before us from birth, and the chase for greater and greater wealth seems never to end. Obviously, there are more important things in life, but like you said, we idolize the rich in an otherwise sacreligious society. What are we to do but start again?

  6. Lisa H. | January 5, 2012

    Thank you … please keep saying this and hopefully you will reach more and more and more people. Then maybe, just maybe, we will be able to clear out the mess we currently have in Washington.

  7. Lorraine Taylor | January 5, 2012

    Dear Gilanni,

    You sound like an honest man who is disgusted with American politics but are the American politicians any more corrupt than those of other nations who have their hands in the honeypot and cheat their hardworking citizens and grow fat on their taxes?

    I am an Australian and we know that many – but not all – our politicians are only in parliament to grab as much financial benefit for themselves as possible and retire ono an undeservadly fat pension at the end of three years service in office.
    Our Labour Government is driving the country to further economic ruin and have had the hide to raise their salaries by $40,000.00 whilst our old people are supposed to be thankful for a $10.00 per annum rise in their pensions to offset rising cost of living.

    I think that in all countries the politicians are getting richer whilst the majority of citizens are getting poorer.

  8. Nick Jumangit | January 5, 2012

    I'm with you. Let's go!

  9. sid besvinick | January 5, 2012

    You asked the Q, now answer it. If you don't like the answer, suggest how to change it. I'm tired of all the sites wringing their hands about Congressional greed without offering solutions. I have two.
    First, reelect no member running in November. We'll lose a few dedicated , honest people, but it will clear out the avaricious majority and send a message to those who are elected that we send them to DC to represent us, not to line their own pockets.
    Second, pass the 28th Amendment – Congress shall pass no law that excludes themselves from its imposition. Any law in conflict with this amendment is hereby revoked, effective immediately. This will stop insider trading, cushy health benefits. and many other perks they have granted themselves. Let's resurrect citizen-politicians like Harry Truman.

    • Maryann from Concord, NH | January 5, 2012

      I agree with your suggestions, however, we must also come up with more changes for the better that will make sure the politicians remember they work for us, not themselves & their pals. Here are 2 more:
      Take away from the politicians the ability to Redistrict themselves into continuous reelection machines! and
      Bar all lobbyists from writing any bill to be presented to either House of Congress. Make it a felony, 10 years in federal prison.
      In fact, I would go so far as to require that Legislators MUST actually write the bills themselves – no "Aides" allowed either! After all the scandals revealing that these highly paid, hardly working people fail to even read the bills they push into law and make them start taking responsibility for whatever they put their names on.
      How are these additions? How about more actual ideas from others, please?

  10. jrj90620 | January 5, 2012

    What a nonsense article.The reason America gets bad politicians is because we have voters who vote from their long term ignorance and short term greed.They vote for every politician who promises them the most,"something for nothing".Most Americans are so dumb,they actually believe govt has some kind of wealth,who knows from where, to give away.Unfortunately for Americans,everything govt does is full of inefficiency,waste and fraud.So,for every Dollar govt spends,it takes,at least, two Dollars out of the economy.Voters keep voting for more govt,when more govt is the problem.Govt just destroys wealth,making the country and it's citizens poorer.What we need is a honest,much smaller,limited power govt,so voters wouldn't have the power to screw up the country.Good luck waiting for that to happen.We continue in the wrong direction.

  11. Wayne | January 5, 2012

    From the beginning of our country's history we have been a country who has elevated the rich and powerful above others. "We hold these truths to be self evident, that ALL men are created equal" had a qualifier when it was written. At that time it only pertained to the "white" man. It left out the black men (slaves), the red men (indians). As more and more imagrants poured into America the white elite discriminated against the Irish, the Italian, the Asian, the Jews, the Spanish, and all others who were not considered equal to themselves. We stole the native American's lands and exterminated them or forced them to reservations which we kept taking portions of as our greed saw fit. We fought a war to free the slaves and then forced them into "second class" citizenship for over a hundred years. We forced Japanese citizens to give up their property during WW2 because we were at war with their former nation. We sent coal miners to their deaths in unsafe mines and textile workers (women and childern) to firey deaths in unsafe textile mills. Then we sent their jobs overseas when the unions got them fair wages and safe working conditions. And still we exault the rich and powerful while we put down the struggling workers who build the products and the teachers who teach and the police and firemen who protect. Yes, we have a lot to be proud of.

    The greed of our elected officials is nothing new. It has existed from the beginning of our government. But it has gotten so prevalent that we take it for granted or don' even notice it. We allow our elected officials to vote their own salaries and benefits, their own perks and pensions, even laws that allow them to practice acts that are illegal for the rest of the citizens. It is TIME for "we, the people" to take back our government and make them represent "we, the people". And if that means voting them ALL out, than that is what we should do. Someone said that we should give the newly elected a chance, but these same newly elected have been the main ones who have created the gridlocked Congress that we are now suffering through. Send them the same message we want to send ALL Congress: "If you don't represent the "common" American, we don't want you in office!!! If you think you are better than the "common" American than you don't represent us!!!!

  12. Steve | January 5, 2012

    Shah, I admire your editorials and the guts for publishing them. I also thank Money Morning for access to your platform. Nowhere else am I reading this level of candor from the media. Our mutual cynicism grows.
    Thanks.

  13. sid besvinick | January 5, 2012

    My apologies, Shah. I hadn't read the final portion of your blog when i VENTED MY SPLEEN. yOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, IN MY OPINION. hOW DO WE GET THE ELECTORATE TO DO WHAT OPBVIOUSLY HAS TO BE DONE?? i'M TIRED OF JUST BITCHING AND WOULD LIE TO SEE SOME CONCERTED ACTION.

  14. David | January 5, 2012

    Excellent ,passionate and so true.If we dont stand for something we will fall for anything.Our founding fathers who risked their lives for our countries apathy, allowing the government to take away those hard fought constitutional liberties.

  15. Gary | January 5, 2012

    While I agree on the need to change the Washington does business, might I suggest your solution is backwards. We could try to vote them all out and most likely get another batch of their cronies to replace them. However voting them out is a very unlikely proposition, they keep getting re-elected by promising more goodies to the masses(electorate). Remember that our democratic system allows the OWS occupiers of Zucotti Park et al. the right to vote. The ones who believe that capitalism is the root of all evil and government will be the savior of the common man. However, I can't lay all the blame for their misguided beliefs solely on them. After all it was government control of their education that left them bereft of the history of western civilization, and without a basic grasp of economics and finance during their early education. Then they gave them varying degrees of subsidized money to pursue that college B.A. in art history with special emphasis on ancient voodoo architecture. I'm sorry to say that I don't think the solution lies in the ballot box. The current majority of the electorate has been trained like a monkey with a banana, as long as they're promised the next banana they will do anything to get it.

    It is therefore incumbent that we drive the political elite from their offices voluntarily. The first step is to pass the the amendment that "all must live by the laws they pass for the majority", with the caveat that anyone who stands for re-election will forfeit the right to all previous perks (pension, lifetime medical, cost of living adjustments). Upon re-election they will receive a 401K, Cobra, Medicare, and Social Security like the rest of us. Within the amendment, it should also include that all future government employees will have the same perks as congress. This would go a long way towards limiting the power of public sector unions continuing their march to bankrupt the country. It would also do wonders for the financial outlook of public sector pension funds that would be incurring no more future liabilities. Once their future financial liabilities were reconciled we could take the balance of remaining funds and use it to help fund Social security obligations, after all it is just taxpayer money.

    This will allow those freshmen congressmen, referred to above, that are truly concerned about limiting government and controlling federal spending to stay in the congress and continue their work, albeit without the same promise of fortune. As much as it bothers me to think of paying the current lavish perks to those that retire, I will console myself that it is a small price to pay for changing the course upon which our system of democracy has deviated.

    Once the amendment became law it could serve as the basis for the several states to follow along and solve their own fiscal problems.

    Now we only have one major problem. We the people do not have the ability to advance a "National Referendum" for amendment, as exist in states such as California, so how do we proceed to pass such an amendment when the political elite shall stand in our way.

  16. aamir nadeem | January 5, 2012

    mony morning is very good for every one life

  17. Praveen | January 6, 2012

    Interesting article and more interesting comments.

    Since times immemorial, the masses were at the mercy of the elite and rulers, who fought among themselves for the right to rule and command. With the advent of democracy, a little hope was bestowed on the commons in pursuit of liberty and justice. The Vote, the single most important thing in democracy, which puts this system apart from others, is utilized during every election season with very little understanding of the system.

    How many citizens as pointed out by other commenters understand that Democratic Governments have to earn what they promise to provide from the same people? How much simple economics at country level do we and our children understand? We teach many many subjects in our schools and colleges to our children but do we teach them the role of a citizen in a democracy? As long as we stay gullible and divided, the greedy will always find a way to lure us, divide us and loot us. How many of our younger citizens even care about these responsibilities.

    This is not a Top-Down problem as being portrayed. Its a Bottom-Up problem. Ideally an electorate should focus on matters of governance and policy than perks and provisions promised by prospective legislators. Do we have the machinery in place to talk about governance? How about Democracy as a subject through High School and Policy Debate Competitions that start from grass root level county colleges to national level finals. We should reverse the trend of them talking and we listening to we talking and the office holders listening. There should be enough buzz happening all the time that an elected office holder or party will fear annoying the well informed electorate.

    We all have busy lives, but if we want our free country to stay free, we have to dedicate atleast one hour of our daily schedule or one day of our week to connect, communicate and participate at community level. We cant sit on a couch in front of a TV and decide whats best for our country. Its the price we pay for our freedom. I am glad that internet is giving a helping hand here.

    Finally it all boils down to the point that whether a common man with average intelligence and exposure (85% population) can decide whats best for him, stay united with his fellow men and avoid all luring traps. Democracy depends on this assumption that he can where as history tells us an all together different story.

  18. SHEILA | January 7, 2012

    Your article certainly expressed the opinions of many concerning the political
    state of this country. It is obvious that our elected officials once in office forget who
    elected them. Consequently, they do not serve the electorate, but their true taskmasters
    the super corporate community.
    How do the "super"corporations gain the ear of our elected officials? You are right!
    LOBBYISTS. This is the conduit that has bought , corrupt, and influenced our so called
    government elected officials both Republicans and Democrats. This is the cancer that
    has turned our government into a vehicle which cowtows to those whose God is not
    only money ,but power. Coveting only money can compromise one's character, but coveting
    money and power can destroy one's soul and is a dangerous combination when it can effect
    others. RID US OF LOBBYISTS

  19. Michael | January 8, 2012

    Ok yes there have been mistakes , Those people work for us , Let"s start telling them in unison what their Jobn is and How they are to do it as our workers , I have people come to work at my house and when someone new shows up if I don't tell them what I want done then how are they supposed to know , It's us who need to wake up and say our piece This Is Our Country , We The People ! We need to start being more involved , My first Letter from Senitor L. B J. When I became an Eagle Scout Began with !
    " if you erer need " , and those words still are attached to those offices !

  20. TED OTERO | January 8, 2012

    I just read Gary's comments and I agree exactly with him that we need to change the corruption and fraud from the Govt. as well as getting rid of the cheats and the bums in congress. It took a long time to get this way and it will take a long time to get out of this mess we are in, we just have to do it the step by step method until it is changed.

  21. Bernard Durey | January 8, 2012

    Wellhere we are talking and/or debating about Congress and trying toget them all out within the next two cycles. Entertaining and maybe for some a very novel idea but is it a realistic one? First you have the popular vote and then you have the electoral college vote or vise versa. I think twice in the history or past has the electoral college votes followed or not followed the popular vote. The Bush and Gore issue was one that went to court. This year or the next election for president will be the first year with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. I think we have seen it some with Congress and that is what it is geared for Congressional Elections and Presidential Elections. Most Republicans,Democrats and Independents did not like the ruling. I have one opinion of a current Congrees member on that. It goes as follows:The Supreme Court ruled,in a 5-t0-4 decision,that corporations,nonprofits and labor unions could use their own general treasury funds to make independent expenditures. In addition,the ruling invalidated the prohibition against using general treasury funds for electioneering communications. The Supreme Court determined that these prohibitions banned free speech in a violation of the First Amendment. As a result of the Court's decision,political advertisement paid for by corporations,nonprofits,and labor unions may explicitly support or oppose a particular candidate. The Supreme Court did,however,maintain the disclaimer and disclosure requirements in BCRA(Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act). Further,corporations,nonprofits,and labor unions continue to be banned from donating directly to political candidates. There have been several bills related to campaign expenditure requirements introduced in both the House and Senate since the Supreme Court's decision.However,the Constitutional protections of the First Amendment cannot be restricted through legislation. In the Congresman's opinion,in order to make the necessary changes to the First Amendment that supporters of these bills intend,the only course is a constitutional amendment,which is a two-pronged initiative. First,it must be proposed by either a two-thirds majority of both the House and the Senate or by a two-thirds majority of the state legislatures requesting Congress to hold a constitutional convention. Second,the proposed amendment would require approval by three-fourths of the state legislatures or by three-fourths of the states via ratifying conventions. Because amending the Constitution is an appropriately difficult and lengthy process,I do not believe a constitutional amendment in response to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is likely to be successful. So there you have one of the Congressmans's opinions. We are also seeing here in this state a potential return for a run at a Congressional seat and the individual has never lost a race.

  22. Viswa Ghosh | January 10, 2012

    Shah Gilani has, as usual, hit the nail BANG on the head! Immensely admirable, I must say. Nonetheless, I was surprised by Shah's use of the much shunned word "REVOLUTION" in American lexicon.

    The picture Shah has painted for the U.S. is similar across every country today. Just replace “U.S.” in the article by the name of another country and this article would be valid for that country.

    I believe we need to also ask a much broader question: Why is the political class emerging as an oppressing class, nay CASTE, in every nation-state? Fathers pass on their 'skills' (sic!) to their progenies. It is not just North Korea where this happens – it happens in the U.S., in India – in two of the so-called largest democracies.

    Obviously, something is going wrong. Representative democracy is immensely flawed. It is giving way to autocracies (also read, despotism and tyrannical rule) across the entire world.

  23. Larry | January 16, 2012

    "All animals are equal – but SOME animals are more equal than others" Never has this been more true than as the end of every empire approaches. As it was with the Romans 2000 years ago – so it is with the nations today.

    Like rats deserting a sinking ship – those in positions of power mass together (like lemmings to the sea) in a mindless dash to self-destruction as if driven by some primeval (genetic or environmental?) coded biological computer program – grabbing onto every semblance of lucre even as they plummet into the abyss.

    Who knows? Maybe, deep in the genetic memory of these people, there exists the same 'fight or flight' trigger we see in (lower?) lifeforms – running for the exits in advance of some perceived natural disaster. Maybe the Mayans WERE correct? Maybe this behavior is indicative of the next polar shift and the great civilization of THIS era is set to crumble as the last leaving only puzzling remnants for the generations which follow. Have WE left any great works or records capable of surviving another global catastrophe such as the Sphinx or have OUR works the permanence of holiday gift wrap?

    When the great shift comes – who will be YOUR Captain Walker?

  24. Dr. Hans-Dieter von Senff | January 23, 2012

    Tough words.

    Thanks for the tough words with which you describe Congress as a representative of American
    Business Criminals. But I would not worry about that, because the general public has been brainwashed by the criminal media bosses, that every thing is ok and that the criminals representing
    America, are all that is good and admirably in American Society.

    So when American economic criminals start another "Economic Cold War" against Iran as they did against China, in order to manipulate it for their own, selfish and criminal ends, and by this manipulation, risk to increase the price of oil to $ 200-00 a Barrel, then it represents another change for investors to enrich themselves. Of course they are not Economic criminals, but hardworking enterpreneurs at work, who create opportunities for fellow criminals to join them at the feeding through for pigs.

    The criminals, as you describe them, must be brought under the control of the law, but this is impossible under the present system, were criminals make the laws, where law enforcement agencies protect the criminals, where the Taxpayers money is distributed in a fascist style command industry, to the economic criminals according to their support for the economic (mis)chiefmakers in Washington. The resulting feeding frenzy can be measured in the upbeat pulsebeat
    of the markets everywhere.

    So, what chance has the average U.S. Citizen to get these economic criminals, who are guilty of every crime, into jail ? None whatsoever… Because the "Big Brainwash" insures, that the most undemocratic of all Democracies continues to throw their weight around,in order to create new business opportunities and feeding frenzies.

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