By Robert Reich
(SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) — Republicans have morality upside down. They're condemning same-sex marriage, abortion, access to contraception and the wall separating church and state.
But the moral crisis in America isn't a breakdown in private morality. It's a breakdown in public morality. What Americans do in their bedrooms is their own business. What corporate executives and Wall Street financiers do in boardrooms and executive suites affects all of us.
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We're living through a new Gilded Age of financial fraud and conflicts of interest; exorbitant pay to executives, traders and hedge-fund and private-equity managers; tax loopholes that allow them to pay a lower rate than many middle-class Americans; and legalized bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign "donations."
Greg Smith, the former Goldman Sachs vice president who created a furor with a stinging public rebuke of the firm for putting its own profits before the interests of its clients, would have seen the same practices anywhere on the Street.
The problem isn't excessive greed. If you took the greed out of Wall Street, all you'd have left is pavement. The problem is endemic abuse of power and trust.