Gordon Gecko's world

Weir Thinking about it

Jack Benny used to tell a funny story about a guy who approached him with a gun and said: 'Your money or your life!' After a few seconds had passed, the guy said: 'Well?' Benny replied: 'I'm thinking, I'm thinking.' Well, I pause to think sometimes, when I read about people who put money in a category that equates with life itself. People like Sam Waksal, who was recently sentenced to 7 years in prison for his conviction on charges that include securities and bank fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury.

Waksal, once a dashing figure moving among rock stars and other celebrities, was the founder and CEO of ImClone Systems, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to cancer research. One would like to assume that such a noble pursuit would have a noble person in charge. But some people are so blinded by greed they will risk anything, including family disgrace and prison time, if it means adding to their financial holdings.

We saw it in the Enron case where Kenneth Lay cashed—in about a hundred million dollars worth of stock at $86 a share, when he saw the company was in trouble, thereby helping to force the stock price down to 68 cents, causing thousands of people to lose their 401k retirement plans along with their jobs, because they trusted those at the top to treat them fairly. Such reliance on trust is rapidly becoming analogous to naiveté. Is it wise for us to put our trust in someone who could, if ethically or morally challenged, ruin us?

Or should we decide that all people are capable of moral lapses, and therefore we must be eternally vigilant? When Martha Stewart dumped a bunch of ImClone stock, allegedly because she received an 'inside' tip, she was merely trading (pun intended) on the influence she has acquired over the years in the business world. Perhaps the fact that it was illegal and dishonest didn't even occur to her, because that's how business is conducted in America. Her illicit transaction saved her about 45 grand, chump change for someone worth nine figures. 

So, why would these people risk so much when they already have more money than they could ever spend? In the movie, Wall Street, Charley Sheen's character asks the greedy, unprincipled, Gordon Gecko, played brilliantly by Michael Douglas, 'How much is enough, Gordon? How many yachts can you water ski behind?' Gecko's answer was significant as a policy manual for capitalism: 'It's all about bucks, kid. Everything else is conversation.'

Another example of money being the controlling factor in our lives is the current race for the presidency in 2004. News programs illustrate the balance of money raised so far by those who plan to unseat President Bush. Charts pop up on the screen with dollar figures in the millions for each Oval Office aspirant. Week by week the charts are updated. It reminds me of a Jerry Lewis Telethon: let's go to the tote board and see the latest numbers.

Bush is expected to raise well over 200 million dollars for his reelection race this year, with Kerry doing all he can to match him dollar for dollar, and friendly but 'independent' entities like Moveon.org raising tens of millions more. Conventional wisdom says that the candidate who raises the most money has the best chance of winning. Does that mean that the predilections of the American public are for sale? Joe McGinness, in his 1968 blockbuster, The Selling of the President 1968, wrote about Richard Nixon's advisors, hawking him like a box of detergent, spending millions of dollars on stage lighting, sound reinforcement, backdrops, and cosmetic makeovers, all designed to sell him to a public conditioned by commercials. And where does all the cash come from? People like Sam Waksal, Ken Lay, and thousands of other wealthy contributors who, altruistically, give huge sums of money to politicians with no quid pro quos in mind. Right?

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it's a moral crisis. If you're willing to accept a million bucks from someone, directly or indirectly, to finance your campaign, you're likely to provide them with more access to your influence than you would give to the average Joe. Yet, there isn't a politician in America that would publicly agree with that statement, because in doing so he or she would be exposing the inherent corruption of the system. Once they did that, the flow of greenbacks would dry up and they'd be out of politics. Undoubtedly, Gordon Gecko would say: 'Hey pal, you get what you pay for.'

Bob Weir is a columnist for The American Thinker. The author of 7 books, he is a retired NYPD sergeant, living in Flower Mound, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com

Weir Thinking about it

Jack Benny used to tell a funny story about a guy who approached him with a gun and said: 'Your money or your life!' After a few seconds had passed, the guy said: 'Well?' Benny replied: 'I'm thinking, I'm thinking.' Well, I pause to think sometimes, when I read about people who put money in a category that equates with life itself. People like Sam Waksal, who was recently sentenced to 7 years in prison for his conviction on charges that include securities and bank fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury.

Waksal, once a dashing figure moving among rock stars and other celebrities, was the founder and CEO of ImClone Systems, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to cancer research. One would like to assume that such a noble pursuit would have a noble person in charge. But some people are so blinded by greed they will risk anything, including family disgrace and prison time, if it means adding to their financial holdings.

We saw it in the Enron case where Kenneth Lay cashed—in about a hundred million dollars worth of stock at $86 a share, when he saw the company was in trouble, thereby helping to force the stock price down to 68 cents, causing thousands of people to lose their 401k retirement plans along with their jobs, because they trusted those at the top to treat them fairly. Such reliance on trust is rapidly becoming analogous to naiveté. Is it wise for us to put our trust in someone who could, if ethically or morally challenged, ruin us?

Or should we decide that all people are capable of moral lapses, and therefore we must be eternally vigilant? When Martha Stewart dumped a bunch of ImClone stock, allegedly because she received an 'inside' tip, she was merely trading (pun intended) on the influence she has acquired over the years in the business world. Perhaps the fact that it was illegal and dishonest didn't even occur to her, because that's how business is conducted in America. Her illicit transaction saved her about 45 grand, chump change for someone worth nine figures. 

So, why would these people risk so much when they already have more money than they could ever spend? In the movie, Wall Street, Charley Sheen's character asks the greedy, unprincipled, Gordon Gecko, played brilliantly by Michael Douglas, 'How much is enough, Gordon? How many yachts can you water ski behind?' Gecko's answer was significant as a policy manual for capitalism: 'It's all about bucks, kid. Everything else is conversation.'

Another example of money being the controlling factor in our lives is the current race for the presidency in 2004. News programs illustrate the balance of money raised so far by those who plan to unseat President Bush. Charts pop up on the screen with dollar figures in the millions for each Oval Office aspirant. Week by week the charts are updated. It reminds me of a Jerry Lewis Telethon: let's go to the tote board and see the latest numbers.

Bush is expected to raise well over 200 million dollars for his reelection race this year, with Kerry doing all he can to match him dollar for dollar, and friendly but 'independent' entities like Moveon.org raising tens of millions more. Conventional wisdom says that the candidate who raises the most money has the best chance of winning. Does that mean that the predilections of the American public are for sale? Joe McGinness, in his 1968 blockbuster, The Selling of the President 1968, wrote about Richard Nixon's advisors, hawking him like a box of detergent, spending millions of dollars on stage lighting, sound reinforcement, backdrops, and cosmetic makeovers, all designed to sell him to a public conditioned by commercials. And where does all the cash come from? People like Sam Waksal, Ken Lay, and thousands of other wealthy contributors who, altruistically, give huge sums of money to politicians with no quid pro quos in mind. Right?

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it's a moral crisis. If you're willing to accept a million bucks from someone, directly or indirectly, to finance your campaign, you're likely to provide them with more access to your influence than you would give to the average Joe. Yet, there isn't a politician in America that would publicly agree with that statement, because in doing so he or she would be exposing the inherent corruption of the system. Once they did that, the flow of greenbacks would dry up and they'd be out of politics. Undoubtedly, Gordon Gecko would say: 'Hey pal, you get what you pay for.'

Bob Weir is a columnist for The American Thinker. The author of 7 books, he is a retired NYPD sergeant, living in Flower Mound, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com