Blog, Commentary & Essays

Quit your bullshit around money.

I want to reframe this whole Obama-getting-paid-$400k-from-an-evil-bank thing. I’ll start with a story, and then I’ll tell you why I think people’s outrage is crap.

My mom’s family was very well-to-do. My great-grandfather started a coal company in Chicago when he emigrated from Germany; that company turned into an oil company. My grandfather, not wanting to go into the family business, became a renowned cardiovascular surgeon in NYC. My mom grew up on the upper east side; my grandparent’s apartment was on 5th avenue overlooking Central Park. My grandmother (my mom’s actual mom, not her step-mom I was named after) was very high-society – lots of dinner parties and posturing to impress the “right” people. She was also a raging alcoholic, manipulative, and mean.

Understandably so, my mom ran away from that world. She ran away from the suits and the manipulation and the trying-to-impress-people-who-didn’t-matter. For her, all of that was tied to money. She married my dad – whose family had their own total bullshit around money. (As the story goes, my grandfather on my dad’s side was Native American; my grandmother was a Stockton who got disowned for marrying an “indian.”) They were near destitute for a long time, attached to this idea that money was evil anyway, because look at what it brought.

I’m incredibly lucky that all of that baggage wasn’t passed on to me. My family has been in situations where it was held over us as manipulation, where it was withheld from us as a way to control us, where we didn’t have money for food and lived off what we could fish for. I’ve lived that life. I know how hard that life is. But it wasn’t money’s fault, it was the people who were controlling it. Money is a thing that people get so up in arms about that they forget to look at whose hands it’s being held in.

Money in the hands of people who want to do something good with the tool – because that’s all it is, a tool – can be powerful. It’s an energy exchange. It doesn’t belong to anyone.

So rerouting this a bit – the $400,000 Obama is getting paid from Cantor Fitzgerald, a trading and investment firm – that money wasn’t the firm’s to begin with. It’s the people’s. Energy belongs to us all, just as money belongs to us all. It’s just that people hoard it, scared that if they send it somewhere else, they’ll lose the power they associate with it. People forget that their power comes from who they are, not from the money they have.

Money doesn’t create evil. Money just allows people to live a bit bigger, so whatever is already within their character will be magnified by the tools they now have access to.

That $400k from the firm was going to be put somewhere anyway. Why not have Obama take hold of it so he can route it somewhere with more purpose? You’ve watched Barack and Michelle over this past decade. You’re watching them closely now. If you’re paying attention, you’ll know that their resources are getting routed into their new non-profit. Are they also taking vacations and taking care of themselves? Sure. But they’ve also worked their asses of for us, and I’d rather like to keep them around for a bit longer to keep doing the important work they’re committed to.

So as you question Obama’s ethics for receiving this pay check from a trading firm, ask yourself – what would you rather be getting done with that money? That $400k already exists in the world. It was going to get used for a purpose. Would you rather that purpose be whatever else the firm was going to do with it, which may or may not have been entirely ethical? Or would you rather it go toward Obama, and therefore toward the work he’s committed to – the work to improve lives, improve education, provide access to better lives for communities?

The money exists. The energy exists. When we attach it to evil, we are only doing a disservice to the people who can take that tool and do something good with it.

Watch the PEOPLE involved, not the tool. The tool is only as effective as the person who wields it.

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