THE BLOG
07/07/2010 02:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TARP Was Just a Cover

Yes I know that the acronym "TARP" stands for Troubled Asset Relief Program. But in a changing world, acronyms too, should be allowed to evolve. Consider "TARP" as a covering of sorts -- a blanket that covers and surrounds all within a province.

Recently, a friend was called to Texas to help negotiate a business deal. That deal involved hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and profits. My friend was called to Texas suddenly and had little time to prepare or even move funds for her own convenience. She quickly caught her plane and when I relayed to her boss the newly forming condition, I also suggested that he might want to provide her with emergency money to carry out her tasks. A woman, alone in a city in Texas she's never seen can be daunting.

Her bosses' reply was befuddling. His comment was, "I normally don't do that kind of thing." It had none of the softness or gentility of the "savvy" I had come to associate with American business. His comment was cut, dried and to the point. But most importantly, he stayed true to his word. I ended up finding money that I did not have and sent it to her. She was literally stranded doing work for a guy who deals daily in billions of dollars. His response was not in kind with any strategy designed to maximize the potential of such a deal. I didn't need more nudging to start me thinking.

There was no doubt in my mind that the ingenuousness that I'd forever associated with the business sphere had taken a turn. I was also sure that her boss surely had a different agenda or perspective than I did on the potential for closing the deal. Why else wouldn't a person worth millions, direct money from his own personal account to assure the deal?

Two years earlier I had been inveigled to Texas to sell land in South Dallas. The potential was, as usual, overly promoted. But I was attempting to salvage both my home and my attempt to sponsor an international children's literacy/library effort. So I took the bait. Early in my career Hunt-Wesson Foods had recruited me. Later I became 3M Company's first ever African-American Computer Products Sales Engineer. I thereby had an inkling of what proper business protocols should be. This Texas transplant CEO had lived, worked and honed his skill minutes away from my home in Southern California. But when his second in command graciously welcomed me to interview and offered me no transportation to their headquarters and no lodging, I knew that I was dealing with a different beast.

They were gracious in the interview, telling me that I would need a four-wheel drive vehicle, an apartment and the other accoutrement necessary to successful land sales in Texas. What I did not hear was any form of support from "Black-White" Land Sales Corporation. Just the "potential" for making half a mil a year! Yea ... right! When one is feeling the pinch of economics, it may not be the best time to become venturesome. I knew that this deal was smelly but I had little choice. So I flew back home, liquidated and rearranged and in weeks was rolling towards the greatest domestic decline in housing and land sales in the past ...forever.

Now on reflection, I have asked myself, "Is this a Texas thing?" But I am of the opinion that no, this is a new America and human degradation thing. I was untried as a quantity and thus of little value. They needed someone who spoke the "King's English," however, to relate to ethnic purchasers in an upscale market in the south of Dallas. No matter the niceties, this had to be the case, otherwise they would have either offered me a salary or draw or they would have allowed me to infuse elements of my children's philanthropy into their waiting system. I soon appreciated that I had no value but yet desired to make something positive happen for myself and for the children.

Oddly, I later learned that the manager who had left "Black-White" Corporation before I'd arrived, had been provided a car, flown in from Philadelphia every week for four days and lodged in a rather luxurious hotel for a year if not longer. He had not wanted to be there but was "convinced" to take the job and leave his family for three and a half days out of the week. He had never sold anything but came from the "bean counter" ranks of "Black-White." His monthly per diem alone could have paid for my house note.

Sadly, I would see more than eleven thousand of my own hard earned dollars evaporate. "Black-White" never issued me anything except a laptop made by "WANG" computer. I would lose the classic sports car that I had to sell to make way for the four-wheel drive vehicle. My beloved 3000GT would turn into a Ford SUV and then a repossession and ultimately a huge credit ding.

Meanwhile, my first weekly meeting had me sit through a pep rally where a flown in executive with "Hollywood Hair" would drone on about how his team's raison d'etre was to be responsive to us working folk in the field. This was a laugher because in less than a week, I had determined that one of the most important secretaries at my new employ was in the process of losing here home. So I very quietly informed one of my new bosses of her plight. He claimed to have had no idea and being the only really good guy that I saw in the group, actually arranged to have her moved to Florida, with her job intact. Her kids were in High School and would have to move.

Human greed is self-motivating and shares no reciprocal agreements with shame, propriety or decorum. Indeed, I came to find that the guy who hired me, one step under the big boss, probably had video of the boss with a donkey in Mexico. Number two guy, who had faux befriended me, was disliked by all who heard his footsteps. My tour lasted two months (I saw the handwriting on the wall) and it was only later, when I attempted to branch into an area of "Black-White" where I fit that I found that "number two" didn't really care for me that much. Talk about "deficit terrorism" up close and personal! I was poor and paying so that "Black-White" could maintain a functioning workforce to sell a worthless product for their benefit and at my expense. Ferrying their prospects around, I spent nearly a thousand dollars in gasoline alone. And unlike America, I knew better but like America I had little or no choice.

But this writing is not about an individual tossed about by the waves of corporate indifference. It is not about a hard-working woman, overrun by the undeviating laws of commerce. My comments address a new direction of the American corpus. They hail an unseen before and unembarrassed surge towards profiteering that exhibits no bounds.

Mr. Obama and the Congress should know that the TARP didn't cover everyone. It did however wrap the big business community in a warm beach towel the size of New York. TARP missed a woman trying to make a living while supporting the boss who chose not to pay for her efforts. Know that there are homeless children who two years ago had homes from which they made their ways to school. And know that this unwilling transfer of American dollars devastated a man who still hits like a mule but doesn't own a donkey. As times become more difficult, many in executive positions take this condition as their signal to tighten the tourniquet. It's tantamount to an adult kicking a three-year old that is down after he himself has tripped the kid.

So the next time you hear someone from the "Tea Party" or a "Good Ole Boy" lamenting where the country has gone, try this. Realize that the Black youth walking aimlessly without a job or the Mexican gardener and recipient of your disdain are not the culprits. No, it is that Texas sized disregard for others that has done this. It is the petulant adolescents of the business community who have taken liberties that have real and negative repercussions. And realize in all of this that a sinister probability exists. There is a good chance that someplace in a safe deposit box near Brownsville, rests an envelope with pictures of a corporate icon and Captain of men -- doing "who knows what" with a donkey.