Sunday, September 20, 2020
Sept. 20, 2020

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Berko: Blame Santa Claus effect for deep corporate greed


Dear Mr. Berko: I’m a happily defrocked priest, married with children, who has been reading your column for 30 years. We met twice when you were in Oklahoma City to speak. My wife and I are active in group counseling, so I’ll come to the point. Why do Wall Street and Congress have so many evil people who profit at the public expense? How can one explain the actions of Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf or Jon Corzine of MF Global, both of whom had the world by the tail? How do we explain Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers, Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial and Charles Prince of Citigroup, whose false representations and greed helped wreck the global economy? How does one explain 1,000 percent increases in prescription prices by drug companies, the fraud and duplicity of state legislatures, the perversion and lies of so many members of Congress, the fraud of union officials, and the corruption of civil service employees? I could continue, but I think you’ve got my drift.

— D.A., Oklahoma City

Dear D.A.: I don’t remember meeting you!

The Catholic concept of original sin makes a lot of sense. Robert Penn Warren, who wrote “All the King’s Men,” gave this line to one of his characters: “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud.” But there’s a new theory that seems to explain the corruption of America, and it’s called the Santa Claus effect. “Santa baby, just slip a sable under the tree for me.”

As a tot, when you began taking baby steps, Mom and Dad began lying to you about Santa Claus and the wonderful toys he’d bring on Christmas morning — only if you were a good boy. TV, the print media and corporate America (picture Santa drinking Coke) perpetuated the big lie because it was dandy for business. This was a jolly Santa Claus. His warm persona and genial smile highlighted his apple-red cheeks and chalk-white beard. Do you remember waiting in line at the mall with your mom so you could sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what you wanted for Christmas? Remember your dad telling you that Santa had a list and that if you were bad, your name would be on his list and there’d be no presents for you on Christmas Day? You believed your mom and dad with all your heart, and you lived every day in a negative world, thinking, “If I don’t mind my parents, if I don’t eat my food, if I don’t do well in school, if I don’t pick up my toys, then Santa won’t bring presents on Christmas morning.” For your first nine or so years, you imagined Santa as a godlike figure who determined whether you were worthy of gifts at Christmas. All this hoopla was imprinted on your psyche. Then, suddenly, you were told Santa doesn’t exist! Imagine the deep hurt and brutal scarring to the psyche of a kid who just discovered that his parents have been lying to him all his life. For the first time in his life, he experiences profound incredulity — and then regret, resentment and rage.

The Santa Claus effect was fertile ground for the psychoanalysis of Freud, Jung, Adler and Fromm, who said a person’s development is determined by often-forgotten events in early childhood. This horrid and searing disappointment is buried in a person’s unconscious mind. Imagine the mind as an iceberg. The conscious mind is the tip (about 10 percent above water), and the remainder of the iceberg is the unconscious mind (underwater), where memories are held until they attract the attention of the conscious mind. For some, memories such as finding out the truth about Santa Claus are too painful and frightening to consciously acknowledge. So when a Stumpf or a Corzine makes a decision, the pain of being lied to by trusted parents is pulled from the unconscious mind and influences the conscious mind’s decision. This process is called transference, and it mitigates pain of the past by engaging in a more corrupt behavior. A greater hurt soothes a lesser hurt.

Malcolm Berko addresses questions about stocks. Reach him at P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or