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Of Bedrooms and Boardrooms

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The 2012 election should be about what's going on in America's boardrooms, but Republicans would rather it be about America's bedrooms.

Mitt Romney says he's against same-sex marriage; President Obama just announced his support. North Carolina voters have approved a Republican-proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Minnesota voters will be considering a similar amendment in November. Republicans in Maryland and Washington State are seeking to overturn legislative approval of same-sex marriage there.

Meanwhile, Republicans have introduced over four hundred bills in state legislatures aimed at limiting women's reproductive rights -- banning abortions, requiring women seeking abortions to have invasive ultra-sound tests beforehand, and limiting the use of contraceptives.

The Republican bedroom crowd doesn't want to talk about the nation's boardrooms because that's where most of their campaign money comes from. And their candidate for president has made a fortune playing board rooms like checkers.

Yet America's real problems have nothing to do with what we do in our bedrooms and everything to do with what top executives do in their boardrooms and executive suites.

We're not in trouble because gays want to marry or women want to have some control over when they have babies. We're in trouble because CEOs are collecting exorbitant pay while slicing the pay of average workers, because the titans of Wall Street demand short-term results over long-term jobs, and because of a boardroom culture that tolerates financial conflicts of interest, insider trading, and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign "donations."

Our crisis has nothing to do with private morality. It's a crisis of public morality -- of abuses of public trust that undermine the integrity of our economy and democracy and have led millions of Americans to conclude the game is rigged.

What's truly immoral is not what adults choose to do with other consenting adults. It's what those with great power have chosen to do to the rest of us.

It is immoral that top executives are richly rewarded no matter how badly they screw up while most Americans are screwed no matter how hard they work.

Regressive Republicans have no problem intruding on the most personal and most intimate decisions any of us makes while railing against government intrusions on big business.

They don't hesitate to hurl the epithets "shameful," "disgraceful," and "contemptible" at private moral decisions they disagree with, while staying stone silent in the face of the most contemptible violations of public trust at the highest reaches of the economy.

We must protect and advance private rights of individuals over intimate bedroom decisions. We must also stop the abuses of economic power and privilege that are characterizing so many decisions in the nation's boardrooms and executive suites.

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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