The Common Good

Book Tour Diary: Changing the Script with Jon Stewart

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100121-jim-wallis-jon-stewartLast night I was on The Daily Show again with Jon Stewart to talk about my new book. It's always a fun show. I enjoyed the back and forth with Jon about values, economics, and the bad morality play of banks, bailouts, and now bonuses. I think Stewart is doing more than anybody else in the media to try to change the script. If Twitter comments are any indication of public sentiment, my suggestion that the bankers give their massive bonuses to Haiti resonated with lots of people. You can watch the interview and get a free download of the first chapter of my book, "Sunday School with Jon Stewart."

This morning, I got up to do Morning Joe on MSNBC. The timing could not have been better, because today is the day that Goldman Sachs announces its record revenues and bonuses ($16.2 billion in compensation this year). My favorite moment was hearing the title of Goldman's new charity giving program: "Goldman Sachs Gives." I told Morning Joe how reassuring that is to me, and in response to a wry comment from commentator Mike Barnicle that they must be doing "God's work," I suggested that I was sure God really appreciated this public relations gesture on the part of the big banks. But then I said that these bonuses in the midst of such suffering in America were more than a scandal and a shame -- they are a sin of biblical proportions.

I reminded everyone on the show that the bonuses are merely a symptom of a deeper erosion of societal values and spoke of the new maxims that have overtaken us -- Greed is Good, It's All About Me, and I Want It Now. Those values wreak havoc on economies, cultures, families, and our very souls. In contrast I suggested that we need to rediscover some new/old spiritual virtues like: Enough is Enough, We're In This Together, and learn to employ the Native American ethic of considering the consequences of decisions today by their impact on the seventh generation out. That would change the "short-termism" that has come to dominate our economic decision-making. I also learned that some people think "class warfare" only breaks out when the people who are having a war waged on them (us) get mad at the people who started the fight in the first place (Wall Street). Interesting.

Now we head to Chicago for a forum tonight with the city's business and civic leaders.

Stay tuned.

portrait-jim-wallisJim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, CEO of Sojourners and blogs at www.godspolitics.com.

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