Some want the 2012 election to be about regulating America's bedrooms. But it really ought to be about regulating the nation's boardrooms.
The bedroom regulators are on the move. Republicans don't want same-sex marriage. Mitt Romney says he's against it, as are the voters of North Carolina, who just approved a Republican-proposed amendment to the state constitution banning it. Twenty-nine other states have similar bans. President Barack Obama supports same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, Republicans have introduced more than 400 bills in state legislatures banning abortions, requiring women seeking abortions to have invasive ultrasound 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 boardrooms 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, because America's biggest banks continue to make irresponsible bets with other people's money, 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.
Consider last week's admission by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, America's biggest bank, that the bank lost at least $2 billion in trades that were "poorly executed" and "poorly monitored," the result of "many errors, sloppiness and bad judgment."
But not to worry, said Mr. Dimon: "We will admit it, we will learn from it, we will fix it, and we will move on."
Move on? Ever since the start of the banking crisis in 2008, Mr. Dimon has been arguing that more government regulation of Wall Street is unnecessary.
He vehemently and loudly opposed the new Dodd-Frank law designed to rein in Wall Street's excessive risk-taking, saying the law would unnecessarily impinge on derivative trading (the lucrative practice of making bets on bets) and hedging (using some bets to offset the risks of other bets).
Mr. Dimon argued that the financial system could be trusted; that the near-meltdown of 2008 was a perfect storm that would never happen again.
Since then, JPMorgan's lobbyists and lawyers have done everything in their power to eviscerate Dodd-Frank -- creating exceptions, exemptions and loopholes that effectively allow any big bank to go on doing most of the derivative trading it was doing before the near-meltdown.
Mr. Romney says he wants to repeal the entire Dodd-Frank law altogether.
And now -- only a few years after the banking crisis that forced American taxpayers to bail out the Street, caused home values to plunge by more than 30 percent, pushed millions of homeowners underwater, threatened or diminished the savings of millions more, and sent the entire American economy hurtling into the worst downturn since the Great Depression -- JPMorgan Chase recapitulates the whole debacle with the same kind of errors, sloppiness, bad judgment and poorly executed and excessively risky trades that caused the crisis in the first place.
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 like Mr. Dimon are richly rewarded no matter how badly they screw up, while most Americans are screwed no matter how hard they work.
Republicans have no problem intruding on the most personal and most intimate decisions any of us makes. But they don't want the government to intrude on big business or Wall Street.
They have it upside down.
We must protect and advance private rights of individuals over intimate bedroom decisions. People should be free to choose whom they marry and when they have children.
We must also stop the abuses of economic power and privilege in our nation's boardrooms and executive suites. The greedy and irresponsible actions of some top executives are doing great harm to America.
Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is the author of the newly released "Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it," a Knopf e-book original.