Brian Moynihan and Empress Eudoxia

Where does Brian Moynihan go to church? And how is it that he still feels comfortable there?

Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, “plans to cut at least 3,500 jobs in the upcoming months, with the possibility that thousands of additional positions could also be eliminated.”

In a memo to the bank’s senior management obtained by The New York Times, Moynihan explained the betrayal and abandonment of 3,500 of his workers by saying, “We owe it to our customers and our shareholders to remain competitive, efficient and manage our expenses carefully.”

Moynihan, 51, raked in $1.9 million last year. That’s a lot — more than 40 times the median household income in this country — but it still makes him kind of a minor-leaguer when it comes to overpaid job-destroying CEOs. The guy who laid me off, for example, Gannett CEO Craig Dubow — who has eliminated thousands of jobs in his tenure atop the nation’s largest newspaper chain — took in $9.4 million last year. Moynihan is going to have to enrich himself even more and upend thousands more families if he wants to compete with guys like that.

"St. John Chrysostomos Preaching Before the Empress Eudoxia," by Joseph Wencker, ca. 1880

But fortunately for Moynihan, if unfortunately for the rest of America, he’s not just competing by laying off thousands of the people who work for him. He’s also foreclosing on tens of thousands of his customers. Well, mostly his customers — Bank of America has also tried to foreclose on people who don’t owe them a dime, like Jason Grodensky of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who paid cash for his home and doesn’t have a mortgage with BofA or any other bank. That was an accident, the bank says, but thanks to years of shoddy management that have left BofA’s mortgage paperwork in disarray, such accidents are bound to keep happening.

But I’m not writing here today to question the morals or the business competence of people like Moynihan and Dubow. We can’t question the morality of men who don’t seem to have any. And their utter incompetence has been unquestionably demonstrated by their inability even to make payroll.

(CEOs shouldn’t be allowed to announce 3,500 layoffs with a single sentence. They should instead by required to write, “Because of my own failure as their manager, I will have to break faith with a member of our team by unilaterally weaseling out of our agreement with one of our employees.” And if they want to lay off 3,500 people, then they should be required to repeat that 3,500 times.)

My questioning here is reserved instead for the pastors or clergy of whatever churches or congregations these awful men attend.

It seems strange to assume that such men do attend worship services, as there’s nothing in their business conduct to indicate that is true. But businessmen love to “network,” and church membership can be nearly as important as country club membership for that. Appearances won’t just keep up themselves, you know. So it would be disheartening, but not surprising, to learn that people like Moynihan, or Dubow, or the Koch brothers, or the profiteering vampire squid of Goldman Sachs all attend regular worship services. Kind of like when we found out that the BTK killer was president of the Congregational Council at his local Lutheran church. Dismaying, but not really surprising.

The presence of such unrepentant, proud predators in one’s congregation rewrites the lectionary. It dictates the topic of every sermon indefinitely. This is not optional. This is the job, and it becomes the pastor’s duty to perform that job and to preach that sermon until either the necessary repentance is achieved in some Zaccheus-like moment of Jubilee or until either the preacher or the predator is forced to leave.

There’s no shortage of material for such sermons. “Today we will look at the story of the prophet Nathan …” “This morning our text is the story of Naboth’s vineyard …” “We turn today to the Magnificat … to the Beatitudes … to 1 Timothy … to 2 Corinthians … to 1 John … to James … to Amos … to Isaiah … to the second chapter of Acts … to the fourth chapter of Acts … to the fifth chapter of Acts … to the eighth chapter of Acts …”

Something’s bound to give long before you’ve exhausted all the possibilities.

That’s what happened back around 400 CE, when St. John Chrysostom was compelled to serve as the bishop of the cathedral in Constantinople. He was removed from the church by the Empress Eudoxia when she became convinced that his relentless sermons on greed, wealth, lavish living and the neglect and oppression of the poor were all directed at her personally.

They probably were. Eudoxia had John removed because she felt this was unfair. After all, she gave a great deal of money to the church. Without her the cathedral couldn’t have afforded to host those lavish banquets for imperial and ecclesiastical officials (John promptly cancelled those). And she gave generously to civic causes too. There was no way Constantinople could have afforded to erect that huge, pure silver statue of her across from the cathedral if she hadn’t paid for it herself.

American churches have more than their share of modern-day Eudoxias sitting in the pews, unrepentant and unperturbed. So where are the modern-day Chrysostoms to perturb them and call them to repentance?

  • Izzy
  • Rikalous

    As usual, the person telling the truth about the Fox News talking
    points is Jon Stewart.

    My favorite bit about Jon Stewart (paraphrased)

    The old people call out the young people for getting their news from a comedy show. The young people call out the old people for making a society where the best source of news is a comedy show.

  • P J Evans

     Izzy, I think anything we say or do wrt troll is probably the wrong instinct. The troll-force is strong in this one….

  • P J Evans

     Izzy, I think anything we say or do wrt troll is probably the wrong instinct. The troll-force is strong in this one….

  • Beatrix

    Peej – you can’t do anything other than smirk and call me a troll.  This is because you are thick, boring, personally unfulfilled, and have no arguments to make, because you can’t really understand any of them. 

  • http://inquisitiveravn.livejournal.com/ Inquisitive Raven

    Actually, from the Jon Stewart clip, Fox’s actual phrasing was something like, “Not all rich people are billionaires,” which isn’t quite that bad, but still misses the point.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    This is the theory, but the theory is at best incomplete. It doesn’t account for the perpetual bidding war to hang onto or hire away people who are demonstrably incompetent at the job for which they were hired/are being considered. Even when a CEO behaves in a way that is clearly in his/her best interests at the expense of the company they supposedly represent that person is still not cut out of the bidding war. If they get fired by one company they’ll get snapped up, with a generous pay raise, by another.

    It seems like there’s a certain socioeconomic status in this country where, once you get to it, you can only ever fail _upward_.

  • P J Evans

     Troll is speaking from its own experience, I assume, because I don’t fit any of its preconceived notions.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Riffing off of that, I’m distressed by what appears to be an increasing tendency to refer to people, in their manifestations as individual components of the greater social whole, as “consumers.” Not “citizens,” not “constituents,” not “voters” or “stakeholders” or even “workers,” but “consumers.”

    You and me both.  I picked this handle for a reason.

    (At least partially because of a quote in Co-Evolution Quarterly:  “In a perfectly capitalistic society, everyone would be alone in their little cubicle, working as hard as possible and consuming as much as possible.”)

  • Lori

    Riffing off of that, I’m distressed by what appears to be an increasing
    tendency to refer to people, in their manifestations as individual
    components of the greater social whole, as “consumers.” Not “citizens,”
    not “constituents,” not “voters” or “stakeholders” or even “workers,”
    but “consumers.”

    I think this is the heart of what bothered me the most about the Fox News clips in that Daily Show bit I linked to. The Fox folks were flogging their (fundamentally dishonest) talking point about how 51% of the of people don’t pay federal taxes. One of them (I can’t remember his name) said that everyone has to pay because they need to have “some skin in the game”.

    There are a lot of things wrong with that, starting with the fact that I’ve never
    seen him or anyone else at Fox make the same argument about, say, GE. The thing that really bothers me though is that he’s framing national policy in consumer terms. Apparently you have no stake in the country by virtue of being a citizen. Being affected by policy doesn’t give you skin in the game either. You have to buy a stake in the country, just like you would be shares in a company.

  • P J Evans

    ETA: The Right already got money officially declared speech in Citizens United. Now they’re working to get everyone to agree that money is citizenship.

    Are they going to do it as n dollars = one citizenship, or will it be the amount you pay determines how much you get in citizenship rights?

  • Lori

    Are they going to do it as n dollars = one citizenship, or will it be
    the amount you pay determines how much you get in citizenship rights? 

    I saw one person who basically said it should work like share ownership in a company. Screw one person, one vote. You get a number of votes that’s somehow weighted to what you pay in taxes. That was just some guy blathering on the internet though. My guess is that what they’ll try to do is push us back to the days when only white property owners could vote.

    The efforts they’re making to prevent nigh-nonexistent voter fraud is effectively taking back to the pre-Civil Rights era. If they just keep pushing us back eventually they’ll get where they want to go. To the era when only rich white men got a say in how the country was run.

  • Erl

     I saw one person who basically said it should work like share ownership in a company. Screw one person, one vote. You get a number of votes that’s somehow weighted to what you pay in taxes.

    To be fair, this idea–at a state level, state representation in the House proportional to state contribution to the federal govt’s coffers–was floated at the Constitutional Convention. (by G. Morris). It was shot down, of course, but proposing such fundamentally misguided shit has a long history. 

  • Intersection

    Sorry.

  • Intersection

    I’ll resolve to stop feeding trolls on this blog.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I saw one person who basically said it should work like share ownership in a company.

    Fuck that for fin.

    Bet this guy rants about the value of democracy when crapping on other societies too, right?

  • Lori

     To be fair, this idea–at a state level, state representation in the House proportional to state contribution to the federal govt’s coffers–was floated at the Constitutional Convention. (by G. Morris). It was shot down, of course, but proposing such fundamentally misguided shit has a long history.  

    I had forgotten about Morris’ idea and I’m sure internet guy didn’t know/remember it. And of course he wasn’t arguing for proportionality for states WRT the federal government. He was in the whole way, with proportional representational for individuals at all levels. If you pay 10 times as much in taxes as I do you get 10 times as many votes as I do. If I pay zero taxes I don’t get to vote. He grandfathered in retirees in some way, but other than that it was strictly pay to play. 

  • Lori

     Bet this guy rants about the value of democracy when crapping on other societies too, right?  

    It wouldn’t surprise me, but I can’t actually say. The epic FAIL of the post about paying to vote kept me from venturing further in his little world. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The efforts they’re making to prevent nigh-nonexistent voter fraud is effectively taking us back to the pre-Civil Rights era. If they just keep pushing us back eventually they’ll get where they want to go. To the era when only rich white men got a say in how the country was run.

    At least one thing can be said for the pre-Civil Rights era, the vote-blocking was transparent bigotry.  Ugly and nasty, sure, but at least it seemed like honest appeals to unjust social values.  As bad as it was, it at least had some twisted semblance of principal.  But these days it feels less like some underhanded furtherance of a genuine belief, and more like a cynical attempt to grab power.  The belief that they cannot win in a fair match, so they cheat to ensure they will not have to.  Rather than trying to sway the votes in their favor with dirty tricks because they believe that their cause is worth the risk, the only driving consideration they have now is “We win, you don’t.  Suck it, other tribe!”  

  • Anonymous

    Bet this guy rants about the value of democracy when crapping on other societies too, right?

    Oh no, this guy is much further down the rabbit hole than mere hypocrisy, he thinks democracy is a terrible idea! All those people of the wrong caste (he divides society into castes, with the criminal caste being subdivided into Mexican-American, African-American, etc.) get a say in how things are run.

    To be honest I wish I’d done as Lori did and flee early instead of feeding my morbid curiosity as to just how far the crazy went.

  • Tonio

    And I thought I was in my own little world when I suggested that all corporations should be required to operate on a membership basis, with every member holding one share.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Shut the fuck up, Donny.

  • Lori

     Oh no, this guy is much further down the rabbit hole than mere hypocrisy, he thinks democracy is a terrible idea! All those people of the wrong caste (he divides society into castes, with the criminal caste being subdivided into Mexican-American, African-American, etc.) get a say in how things are run.  

    Holy crap, that’s even worse than I expected. 

    To be honest I wish I’d done as Lori did and flee early instead of feeding my morbid curiosity as to just how far the crazy went. 

    I am so happy that for once I made the right choice and got while the getting was good. 

  • Anonymous

    Tell us, what sin *should* take precedence over others? You appear to be complaining about the suggestion that something other than the worst sin be condemnded, so–which is it?

    Lust.  Specifically that of women.  But only the wrong women, you see…

    Lust…frankly? As long as you’re being lustful with other consenting adults, lust-as-a-sin is bullshit. At *most*, in those circumstances, it’s in the sloth/gluttony/pride thing, where if you’re going into massive debt so you can sit in your basement and watch Internet porn, you’re fucking up your life and should do something about that.

    ‘Lust’ to my understanding, is as much/more ‘wanting to control/own a person, and thinking of them only in terms of how they please you’ as it is about sexual desire.  In other words, lust is essentially objectification.  (Sexual excess generally counts, too, but also falls under gluttony)Of course, this opinion was largely formed via the tangental influence of the Dread and Despised Clive Staples Lewis.  I may the only living person/the only person ever to have it, so feel free to disregard.(Ah, apparently I’m not)

    Guys: when Warren fucking Buffett talks about how the tax system unfairly privileges the rich? Maybe you should stop wanking to Ayn Rand and actually…I dunno. Live in the real world? Grow some vestigial sense of empathy? Something like that.

    Warren Buffet has a well-known liberal bias.(Seriously… Warren Buffet is one of the right’s bogeymen.  Next to George Soros. (Any of those ‘Venture Philanthropists’ tend to be fairly left leaning)

    Whiney women with no testicular fortitude are lame.  Whiney men with no testicular fortitude are a just a bit worse then lame.

    The first half of this statement makes negative sense.  The second, while arguably sensible, is still stupid.  Noting that something is injust – opposing it even… IS.  NOT. A.  SIGN.  OF.  WEAKNESS.  You may or may not agree that the complained-about subject is unjust.  That still doesn’t make one weak to disagree with you.
    In more interesting news, the demo to Space Marine is very… intriguing.  Bit short, though.

    What has always bothered me about the SDS concept is that it seems to frame morality in binary terms, as giving into or resisting temptation. As if every immoral action was the result of giving in. I’m reminded of the old cartoons with the angel and devil on the character’s shoulders. It doesn’t take into account the other motivations for people to hurt others, such as fear.

    Fear would make a good eight sin (or seventh, gluttony and avarice seem similar (gluttony is wanting to much of something, avarice seems to be wanting too much money)


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