What Penn State, Washington and Wall Street Have In Common

Townhall.com Staff

12/1/2011 12:01:00 AM - Townhall.com Staff

Editor's Note: This column was authored by Ned Ryun

Watching the sex scandals at Penn State and now Syracuse Universities develop, one can’t help but wonder how people with such polluted values could be protected for so long to the detriment of so many. It’s a sad commentary on the state of American society, our legal process and institutions that hold a public trust. What we see playing out in the scandals at the colleges, in the halls of Congress where insider trading is apparently legal, or with Wall Street banks who game the system, is the work of a protected class of Americans. They are above the law or mold the law to suit their needs. They believe they are untouchable. More often than not, they’re right.

The crimes of a sex offender and a Congressman profiting from insider information clearly inflict different injuries on different victims and in different ways. They both however highlight how our institutions have created a ruling class that treats the law as a tool to be used for their benefit or an instrument of convenience.

Common to all the untouchable Americans is their persistent belief that money should trump all other considerations. The Penn State officials who didn’t want the bad publicity to hurt one of the most respected and lucrative college football brands in the nation, made a calculated decision based on dollars and cents, to turn a blind eye to horrific acts of abuse. As a result, a pedophile was left to damage the lives of untold dozens over the course of decades.

Similarly, the system in Washington that uses grey language to permit Congressmen and other government officials to make a profit off of insider information - behavior that would land anyone else in jail - distances our leaders from the people they serve and is causing a crisis of confidence in our government institutions. The Big Banks, who with Washington’s help, quietly put millions of taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars of risky deal making, also place the health of their enterprise head of that of the nation.

It has been rightly said that the business of America is business. But a people without principle ultimately find themselves in chaos. The American system is founded on the principle that the rule of law applies to everyone regardless of status, wealth or position: all men and women, from the President, to the banker to the everyday citizen stand equal before the law, and are judged by the same standards. John Adams once wrote that the United States was to be “a government of laws, not of men,” drawn from the ideas of Samuel Rutherford and others who believe that the law was king, not the other way around. This idea is what sets us apart from too many other places around the world where regime elites and ruling classes survive on the backs of many who live in either fear or squalor.

This nation is the greatest on earth because it is designed to allow everyone an equal opportunity to achieve, or fail. However, with financial and moral corruption reaching into the very depths of prominent institutions that are supposed to hold our trust, we must make a renewed effort to ensure that the system and the law are protecting us from those who place the almighty dollar ahead of everyone who might stand in their way. That means real reform in Washington and investigating abuses to financial regulations among Congressmen. It requires fiscal reform that prevents the taxpayer from being used as a backstop for failed private enterprises. It means strengthening investigative regimes and tougher sentences for white collar crime. It might actually mean a proverbial “death sentence” for college programs who put sports ahead of innocent children.

Together, Americans must send a message to all those with fiduciary responsibility, either in Washington, in state governments, on Wall Street or in our educational institutions, that they will be punished for thinking they are above the law.

America will collapse if those who truly believe that nothing is sacred are allowed set separate standards for themselves. If the broad populace continues to see a small, wealthy, power class running amuck with few if any consequences, Americans will lose confidence in our public institutions and cease to believe that they live in a truly free society founded on the principle of equal justice under the law. If we really believe in the idea of e pluribus unum, that we are one people, one nation, then there must be one standard by which all are judged and held accountable. For America to continue to be a free society, there can be no untouchable Americans.

Ned Ryun is President of American Majority, a leading national conservative grassroots training organization. To learn more visit www.AmericanMajority.org.