As it appeared in The Post-Tribune
Thursday, July 24, 2008 - OPINION page A13
Caring banks could have prevented housing crisis
By Yosef Cohen
Post-Tribune guest columnist
"A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain."
-- Robert Frost
In his book "Kennedy," Theodore C. Sorensen wrote "Few will forget the memorable moments of that solemn ceremony at twelve noon: Robert Frost with the glare of the sun and the snow making it impossible for his aging eyes to read a new dedication ... a Golden Age of poetry and power, of which this noonday's the beginning hour ... resolutely reciting his older poem from memory."
On Jan. 20, 1961, the nation and the world listened as the newly sworn-in president, John F. Kennedy, uttered these unforgettable words in his inaugural address: "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." (listen to mp3 audio)
Has anyone heard about the bank CEOs who, before cutting jobs, before considering reducing or cutting the dividend for shareholders, or before issuing new stock, first cut their own base pay?
These bank executives continue to pay themselves salaries in the millions while they fire staff by the thousands, thin out shareholders by issuing new stock, cut dividends, earn less and continue to write down bad debt in the billions.
The good conscience in people needs to be reawakened to our awareness that just because everyone is doing it does not make it right. Those who break into a business at night to take the money are called criminals and thieves. When someone does it during the daylight hours, it must be that it's a CEO who has the approval of a rubber-stamp board of directors. Is there really a difference between the two? Actually, there is. The robber still has a sense of decency to be called the thief that he knows he is.