Wealth Addiction

22 Jan

If you’ve ever listened to me talk about Wall Street, you’d know I’m no big fan.  In fact, I struggled for years with my own role in their massive game of greed.  A few years ago, in the midst of the crash, I realized my role was legitimate.

We are paid by folks to help them navigate the mess that is investing with Wall Street.  We’re conservative. We’re knowledgeable. We speak in plain terms. We act as fiduciaries. We try to help people keep what they’ve saved.

One simply cannot say the same about Wall Street and their hundreds of thousands of greedy, evil minions.  It has always amazed me why more people do not see through the smoke and mirrors of the Street.

The major driver behind what happened to savings and loans in the 80’s or Dot.com in the 90’s or home loans in the 2000’s was greed. Avarice.  All foisted up on the world by an unchecked Wall Street.

Today, I link to an article from an insider.  In his essay in the NY Times, Sam Polk, a former Hedge Fund executive paints a very raw picture of why he kept chasing dollars he knew could not be legitimate. But the picture isn’t complete.

In some ways, I thank him for his honesty. In others, I puke in my mouth.  By his own accord, he made over $10 million in salary and bonus in just a little under a decade. All of it ill-gotten.

Despite his own realizations and insight, he doesn’t apologize for what he had a hand in doing. And, maybe I missed it, but in spite of his current token work with charity, he doesn’t seem to mention returning any of the millions he gained. What he does is try to rationalize his behavior by blaming it on an addiction.

He refers to drug addicts and alcoholics and compares their struggles to his own malady. While I agree with him that wealth addiction is a real psychological problem, this fellow is only casting away blame. He fails to take any accountability for what he has done. Simply leaving the game and writing a tell all (of which I’m sure he’ll turn into a book in attempt to make MORE money from his days on Wall Street) doesn’t do it for me.

One of the first things an alcoholic or any addict going through a 12-step program does is make amends for his errors.

While only a small fish in the large shark tank on Wall Street, if Mr. Polk wants to truly accept culpability for his actions maybe he can find a few families who lost their jobs and homes while he shorted investments that caused the world to crumble. Maybe he could offer them some work. Or buy them a home. Maybe. Maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

He has one thing right.  Wealth addiction is as serious an epidemic as humanity has ever faced. There is no pill, anti-virus or other such cure.  It cannot be legislated away. Only moral obligation and compassion for your fellow human will stop this crazy greed train.

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