The Great American Ponzi Scheme! Is Bernie Madoff any different than our Government?

January 4, 2010

Wouldn’t it be nice to share some good news?  I’d like to think as we enter this new decade that we could learn from the past and move boldly into the future with the assurance of a bright tomorrow.  Well, tomorrow may not be so bright if we don’t stop and look at our choices.

Every choice has a consequence!  I say that often as I address groups around the nation on ethics and ethical choices. From my perspective it seems that we, as a nation, are facing a serious ethical quandary.  Do we continue the rabid spending that has defined this past decade or do we accept the responsibility for where we are and elect to live within our means?

I know…I know – economists from all parts of the country would quickly argue with me that debt is sustainable and that we only have a problem if we can’t pay it back.  My response:  Bull.  As far as I am concerned…we are acting unethically and the consequences will be disastrous if we don’t soon take corrective action.

Facts: In 2000 our debt was a bit more than $5.5 Trillion.  By 2005 our national debt was around $7.5 Trillion and by the beginning of 2010 – well our national debt had crested above $12 Trillion.  That’s right – our national debt more than doubled in one short decade.  And, with the aging of the largest group of people in the history of this nation – the Baby Boomers – we will see nothing but increased debt for the next several decades unless we take dramatic action.

I ask is Bernie Madoff any different than our Government?  In Bernie’s case his victims didn’t know what was happening.  I bet if they did – they wouldn’t have invested with him.  In the case of our Government – we the taxpayers know – and yet, we still seem to be O.K. with the actions our elected officials take.  The crime is the same…the only difference is – it’s not a crime if you allow it to take place.  Folks, a Ponzi scheme is a Ponzi scheme no matter how you color the picture.

For a quick view of my video blog on this subject click here

The question is – what are we willing to do?  If we pay the promises made in the past to those who are aging to receive them…we might find ourselves bankrupt.

Share your opinions on the solutions to this problem through your comments.  Who knows…perhaps someone in big GOVERNMENT might be reading and take note.

Abdul S. Rao Associate Vice President at the University of South Florida Resigns – Choices and Consequences

February 20, 2009

Every choice has a consequence.  For whatever reason, a Vice-President who helped steal a student bicycle resigned.  His choice cost him his job.

Here’s the story from The Chronicle of High Education:

Just days after someone posted security-camera footage to YouTube that showed an associate vice president at the University of South Florida helping someone steal a bicycle, the administrator, Abdul S. Rao, is resigning.

Stephen K. Klasko, dean of the university’s medical school, announced at a faculty meeting last night that Dr. Rao would step down effective this Friday. Dr. Rao, senior associate vice president for research in the university’s health division, admitted that he had helped a day laborer take a bicycle parked at a loading dock behind the university’s Byrd Institute.

He said in a statement that a “lapse of judgment” led him to give permission to a “nearly homeless man” to use the bike, which a student later reported stolen. “I have no excuse,” Dr. Rao said in the statement. “I can only say that my intention was never to bring harm, alarm, or disruption to anyone.”

The student whose bike was stolen asked the police for the security-camera footage, which the student then placed on a server that others could see, according to press accounts. Someone then posted the footage to YouTube, where it received thousands of views before it was removed because of an unspecified violation of the video-sharing site’s terms of service. Michael J. Hoad, a vice president for communications at the university, said in an interview that the leaking of the video was “a minor secondary issue” that the university had no plans to investigate.

What was Dr. Rao thinking?  Did he have such compassion for a homeless person that he lost his sense of ethics?  Often in an electronic age the assumption is out of sight out of mind.  However, not much today is out of sight – especially with internet services like YouTube.

From an ethical perspective – do you feel that Dr. Rao should have resigned?  Will the good work that Dr. Rao be lost due to a lapse of his ethical choices.

Prison – Choices, Consequences and Compassion – Comments from a Reformed White Collar Criminal

March 1, 2008

The Beginning: It’s funny how everything in your life can lead to just one moment. Starting that day was the beginning, but it felt like the end. Never in my wildest imagination did I perceive this day as a beginning. I felt my life was ending. I never wanted this day to arrive; yet time has an odd way of forcing certain issues and today this issue was forced. There was nothing I could do to prevent the arrival of this moment.

Having traveled for a short time, as I opened the passenger door, time seemed to change. Everything was in slow motion as if to etch this experience in my memory forever. I took my first steps into this new life. Visions of my family filled my heart and my mind – they seemed lost to me. I took more steps with thoughts of my ruined career. Yet more steps, with a strong knowing that I literally had nothing. I was experiencing rock bottom and the experience was not pleasant.

On the 23rd step I extended my hand, opened the door and took my first step into Federal prison. As I walked toward the entrance I was “Chuck Gallagher” – what some from my community would have, at one time, called a “somebody!” As I walked through the door I became 11642.058 – a convicted felon – what most people would call a “nobody.”


I would never in my wildest dreams have conceived that in five short years I could so completely destroy my life. As a Tax Principle in a CPA firm in the mid eighties I exuded success. I had been published in National tax publications, testified before the United States House Ways and Means Committee on tax legislation and become an instructor to CPA’s in 30 states. I was, in my mind, a “somebody”. I had made “it”. It was only an illusion – a shell. It wasn’t deep within me. I didn’t know that at the time. I believed the illusion. I believed I was “somebody”.

We all have many rivers to cross as we journey through life, but this one left me wondering how I would ever find my way back and who I would become through this part of my journey. For me, this was bottom…rock bottom. By stripping away, in a very public way, an identity founded on ego, pride and illusion, I was embarking on a new experience with an uncertain outcome and I felt afraid and alone.

The Journey: During our lives we will all be faced with temptation many times. It’s not the temptation that is at issue, but rather, how we respond to temptation that determines the measure of a man. I did not respond well. Out of fear of having the illusion of success exposed and through a series of choices, I set into motion the outcome that took me 23 steps to receive.

I committed fraud. I stole money. I had a need. I must make the house payment or risk losing favor in the financial community. As a trustee of a client’s trust, I had opportunity – opportunity to divert funds without anyone being immediately aware. Lastly, I could rationalize my action by calling my theft a loan. My response to temptation – theft.


I lived at that time in what seemed like a parallel universe. On one hand, I was truly making choices that brought about legitimate success. Yet, at the same time I lived this shadow existence making choices that ultimately brought about my downfall. Every choice has a consequence. The outcomes of the choices we make can be extraordinarily positive or extremely negative. The one fact we must all live by is that we reap what we sow. The consequences of our choices may not manifest immediately, but we will harvest the outcome of our choices and actions. That 23rd step propelling me into Federal prison was proof positive to me that there is a consequence for every action. It was my actions that got me there.

Time in prison seemed to move in slow motion as if to allow me all the time necessary to evaluate my actions, my choices, my behavior and to learn many lessons about my identity, my purpose, my focus. If I had to be there surely there should be an outcome worth the time. While I didn’t know what that outcome would be, one thing I was committed to was to remain open believing that God’s plan for my life could rise from even this lowly place if only I were open and willing to learn, grow and receive.

Following Release: Within eight months, after taking the same 23 steps out of that prison door, I was recognized for the choices I had made and offered the opportunity to take a management role. I had no expectations that this would happen, but accepted with gratitude the opportunity placed before me.

As spiritual beings, whether we like to admit it or not, we create our reality. The multitude of choices made each day following my release from prison created the offer and opportunity I was to receive. The abundance, opportunity and prosperity continue to multiply. Within three months, following my reentry into management, I was presented with another opportunity –divisional management supervising two states.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted that one year from my prison release date, I would be managing a $6 million sales organization. But, a clear pattern was beginning to emerge. Choices made with integrity – self integrity – provided positive consequences. I was living proof of both sides of the choice issue. Choices made without integrity or ethics certainly yielded extraordinary negative consequences. Those choices made from an ethical framework with the foundation of integrity were yielding results far beyond my expectation.

Life’s Purpose: From my experience in prison it is clear to me that for the remainder of my life, I am to (try) to help others see the connection between choices – their consequences – and the outcomes that follow. More often than not, the message is well received. People seem to respond and understand that someone who has made bad choices and recovered perhaps can provide some inspiration to others who – themselves – would like to recover as well.

But, I am reminded in the most unusual ways, that all people can’t move past their issues to claim the joy in life than can and should be theirs. I am learning the awesome power of the internet, as well as the unique forum it provides to people who have less than honorable intentions. Recently, I posted video clips on YouTube and received many positive comments. Now, at age 50, I am learning about this medium. I must admit my kids know far more than I.

Anyway, three days ago I began to see a series of comments that were made by a person that I had to dismiss due to their unethical behavior. Interesting the venom that exists when one points the finger at another blaming them for their circumstances. The reality is – and I have lived it – we are responsible for our choices and the consequences that follow. The videos, which you can see on the right of the screen, are to serve as an example of what I say and how I say it. They were not designed as a place for disgruntled former employees to speak their dissatisfaction. After three days, I decided to remove the comments – as they were not germane to the purpose of the videos.

Following the removal of the comments, I received, yet, another. Here it is reprinted in it’s entirety:

How ethical is it to censor embarassing comments from your YouTube page, making it appear they never happened? You can wipe your comments clean, but you can’t erase the past. Karma is a bitch. Oh and by the way, good luck with that cancer when it comes back for a second round.

How sad it is when someone wishes ill of another. I am a prostate cancer survivor and speak to mens groups about avoiding and/or overcoming issues with prostate cancer. Perhaps, there will be a point in this persons life when the light bulb will come on and she’ll realize that wishing another ill does not change the consequences of poor choices.

As I close let me say – look past the illusions of life, make productive choices and claim your success!

Then There’s Real Dumb Luck – On The Lighter Side By Ethics Expert Chuck Gallagher

January 8, 2008

So here’s the skinny. A woman desperate to find “painkillers” attempts to break into a home. Hoping that inside she’ll find the golden tables she seeks. You can feel the rush as she inserts her license between the door and the frame – pushing frantically trying to pry open the lock – just like that do so easily on TV.


Oh crap.

My license broke.

Panic sets in.

Oh xxxx I need those pain killers.

Dang (you insert your word) and now my entry card (in this case her drivers license) is broken.

Kylie L. Grissom – you’re charged with attempted burglary!

Well, as I say in presentations around the country – every choice has a consequence. Now many times we don’t see the consequences happen as quickly as Kylie L. Grissom. In fact, many times it takes years for those consequences to manifest.

But in Kylie’s case – if it weren’t for dumb luck she’d have no luck at all. It seems that when her license broke in the door as she tried to “jimmy” the lock – the part that broke off was the part with her name and address. What a wonderful calling card she left of police.

It’s stories like this that keep my presentations interesting. I don’t have to have script writers (like the big guys in Hollywood), rather there is too much daily that is entertaining and real.

Make good choices!

Chuck Gallagher - The Ethics Expert

A little advertisement:

On a crisp October day in 1995, Chuck Gallagher took 23 physical steps… opened a door… and began a new experience that was life-changing. In a style that is far more vulnerable than most motivational keynote speakers, Chuck shares the painful lessons of his life with his audience and touches them forever. For information about my presentations on sales motivation, business ethics or corporate change visit my site at and I’d be happy to send you a promotional video or you can see my video at