Saturday, February 21, 2009


The Catastrophe has returned the word 'bad' to its rightful prominence in the daily lexicon. Let's face it--we all relish the opportunity to indulge our naughty side, but rarely have I seen the word 'bad' thrown around the media as often as these last weeks.

Not surprisingly, conservatives are up in arms about the government's plan to reward the 'bad' behavior of average consumers who signed on to 'bad' mortgage loans and 'bad' credit card debt, whose repository will now be in 'bad' banks. All that 'bad' debt dragging down the rest of us. If only we consumers hadn't been so stupid, so reckless, plain bad.

And what about those 'bad apples' at the top of the heap? Many of them still lurk at Treasury, the SEC, the Fed Reserve, the 'good' banks, and throughout the Fortune 1000. What is the punishment for them that fits the crime?

What to do? What to do? What to do? The outlook is decidedly blue......

We Americans love the fight between good and bad, right and wrong, democracy and evil, capitalism and...ugh...nationalization or, worse, socialism. Makes the self-righteous among us feel so good about ourselves when we can call out the mess that someone else made, that we now have to clean up.

Conservatives are particularly adept at pointing the finger at the irresponsible masses. Remember all those debates in the 60s and 70s about the causes of bad behavior among the underclasses? Societal responsibility for conditions that led to poverty and crime vs. individual character and responsibilty--and the overwhelming burden of virtue.

Whose bad behavior, then, is to blame for the Catastrophe? No final answer...yet. But surely government ineptitude and/or malfeasance at the regulatory levels throughout the financial system bear a large share of it. A decade or more of turning away from the responsibility that we the people turned over to them, to protect us from our own excesses and from those who would exploit them.

Is this the time to address the bigger issue of responsibility? No. When the ship is sinking, the priority is to man the lifeboats and ensure the survival of the passengers and crew. There will be time later to figure out who was on the bridge and who was absent when we hit the iceberg.

No comments:

Post a Comment