Sunday, June 24, 2012

The power of the purse.

It was an uncanny coincidence. 

Friday, two Pennsylvania juries came in with guilty verdicts in separate high profile trials involving child sexual abuse.

One was with former Pennsylvania State University football coach, Jerry Sandusky. The other convicted a Catholic clergyman, Msgr. William J. Lynn, of endangering children by assigning a known pedophile to a church community without warning its members.

A state university and a church had broken the ultimate trust. To protect the children they educate and nurture. Sandusky and Lynn are just the faces of these scandals. They are poster boys for our deficit of trust. But university officials as well as the shepherds of the Church are hiding behind the scenes, along with the leaders of countless corporations and our governing bodies.

Our institutions have failed us and the most fundamental levels of our confidence have been shaken.

Think about it. Do you trust the banks? How about your financial advisor and Wall Street?

Many people feel helpless about the state of affairs, both economically and morally. But in these financially fragile times, we actually have more power than ever. The power of the purse.

Consider the nation’s law school applicants who chose not to apply to Penn State this year. Now, applications are down at all U.S. law schools, but they’re down 30% in Happy Valley, far outpacing the national average. The message is, we don’t want to go to a law school where university leadership allegedly broke the law and recklessly endangered children. Every application is worth $60 to the university, and when your talking thousands of them, the registrar’s office notices.

So, if you’re disgusted with banks, move your money to a credit union. Some will handle your business accounts, too. If you think Apple is exploiting its store employees by paying them less than $12.00 per hour, don't buy their stuff. If you feel oil companies are gouging you at the pump, buy the most fuel-efficient car you can afford, car pool and drive 55 mph on the highways. Or take the bus.

Register to vote, cast your ballot at the polls and then vote with you wallet. If there’s one thing business and institutions understand, it’s money. But to be sure they don’t miss the message, send them a letter, place a phone call or show up at your legislators’ office. If you just slide your account from a bank to the local credit union they’ll never miss you. But if you hand the bank manager a letter and explain you’re removing your principal on principle they’ll take notice.

It may be inconvenient, it may cost you a little more in the short run, but voting with you're your wallet will ultimately make the loudest, most powerful statement.

Occupy Wall Street, Oakland, Detroit, and Miami got attention but it didn’t change anything because no money was involved. But during the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott made a difference. It wasn’t violence or noisy protests. It was the fact that people stopped riding the buses and paying fares that ended centuries of discrimination.

If we want to move trust to the front of the bus, we have to be willing to walk the talk and let our money do the talking for us.

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