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Friday, 22 February 2013

Jesse Jackson Jr pleads guilty to fraud

The newspaper covered the fraud by the ex-US lawmaker, Mr Jackson Jr.

USD750,000 taken to fund lifestyle

How many charismatic leaders have siphoned off money to fund a lavish lifestyle? This article appeared on the front page of today's Sun daily.

Mr Jesse Jackson Jr admitted to taking US$750,000 to fund his lifestyle. He had "squandered his bright future by engaging in a self-destructive course of conduct". Prosecutors claimed that he had used campaign donations to fund 3,100 personal expenses including a US$43,350 gold-plated Rolex.

He had "betrayed the very people he inspired".

This fall from grace comes because he dipped his hand into the till. It is never right for a person who is in a position of trust to "borrow" money from the funds that he has been entrusted with. Yet many people do that, forgetting that the money was never theirs to begin with. Why? Perhaps because of the urgency of the expenses required, and perhaps because of shortage of cash.

Moral Questions

Would you employ a person to be a cashier in your establishment, if you knew that he would borrow money from the day's collections to pay for his insurance? Would you entrust a delivery man with a bag of cash if you knew he may borrow part of it to pay his housing loan?

Would it make a difference if the amount "borrowed" is small and can be returned in a week's time?
I think most people would agree that we need to learn to resist temptation. This includes the temptation to spend unnecessarily. Some unscrupulous individuals think that they need to buy this and that, when in fact there was never such a need. Using the word "need" does not make it a need. It only emphasizes a desire to acquire.

Self-Control Needed

Self-control is one way to deal with such things. This means setting goals and delaying gratification. Sometimes we need to get away from the company of people who lead lavish lifestyles to avoid getting dragged into their mindset. I have noticed that some young successful stars lead modest lifestyles, by living in apartments and driving small cars, hence avoiding burdens of big loans. I have also noticed that some stars from the older generation have died as paupers, broke with barely a penny to their name. They have simply spent to the last cent. That is a tragedy that tempts them to get money in any means possible, which may lead to Mr Jackson Jr's situation.

The Lesson For Us 

The lesson is that everyone needs to exercise self-restraint, even the stars. Leaders and people that we look up to could be mired in debt. Charisma is no guarantee of one's conduct when tempted with easy (but dishonestly acquired) money.

At the same time, trust is important. Trust is earned, and rightly so. People in trusted positions are given numerous opportunities to take care of funds. If they do not have good financial management skills, they will be tempted to dip their hand into the cookie jar to help themselves to some of that cash. They should never forget: It's other people's money.