Monday, September 22, 2008

On corporate cheating, corked bats, and bailouts

I was all set to come out swinging this morning, about greed and bailouts and the cheaters who have prospered and will prosper from this latest and greatest round of corporate welfare.

I was going to rail about the ways in which cheating has become pervasive, even acceptable, in our society. I had Long Suffering Spouse in mind: A grade school teacher, she has to be constantly vigilant in her classroom because kids cheat all the time. It's not just cheating on tests... one or two kids tried that even back in my day... but kids now cheat when correcting their homework, apparently just to stay in practice. And it's not one or two "bad kids" who cheat... these days, bad students cheat, good students cheat, even honor students cheat.

(Note to my high school English teachers: I think I'm finally starting to understand this 'irony' thing.)

And then I thought a little more about why I'm so angry about this bailout business.

You know, as a society, we do kind of admire cheaters. Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa may not get in... not for a long while... but that's because they [allegedly] cheated using drugs. Our [official] societal disapproval of drug use trumps, in that instance, our admiration of successful cheating.

So I continued to ponder: What is it about this instance or corporate cheating run amuck that has me (and a lot of other folks, too, I think) so angry?

Continuing the baseball analogy (sorry, Bee), a few years back, when Sammy Sosa's bat shattered and the cork sprayed out, the umpires threw Sosa out of the game. He was punished with a suspension as well.

Now, though, the Wall Street greedmeisters, and more particularly the mortgage lenders, have been caught cheating in lending money to people who couldn't possibly qualify for loans, in making fraudulent loans, in accepting kited appraisals... and the umpires aren't throwing them out of the game.

They're getting the bankers new bats instead.

When you cheat, you run a risk of getting caught. As much as we may have a cockeyed admiration for the successful cheater, we also expect that when a cheater gets caught, there will be punishment. The bankers cheated and got caught: The real estate market bubble burst and all their shaky loans have collapsed. But no one's talking about kicking the cheaters out of the game. No one's talking about punishment.

And they should be.


The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon -

I wholeheartedly agree.

When I was in school cheaters were expelled.

At the college level I did a little plagiarizing, but did it with finesse and never got caught. But there was always the fear of being caught, so I kept it to an extreme minimum.

Today's society reveres cheaters, even when they are caught. They are rewarded and not punished.

The Beach Bum

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Some of these cheaters have lost as well. Serves them right.

Rob said...

Sadly, our society reveres cheaters but only if they're high-profile people. If some mere mortal living paycheck to paycheck colors outside the lines, that's a heinous crime.

But when a multi-million dollar earning executive gets caught elbow-deep in the cookie jar, it gets shirked off. Golden parachute, indeed!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

yes yes YES!!! and take away the golden parachutes!

smiles, bee