Opinion

Commentary: Plenty of places to point the blame

Listen in on my conversation with the typical American voter in the Seething Summer of 2010.

John Q Public: The economy still stinks, the politicians are all crooks, wars are still raging and I'm mad as hell. Whom should I hate for all this?

Skeptical columnist: Take your pick. Barack Obama. George W. Bush. Congress. Big banks. Wall Street. Bureaucrats. The Liberal Media. The Trilateral Commission.

John Q: That sounds good. Anyone else?

SC: School teachers. Immigrants. Wall Street. The United Nations. Unions. Big Oil. Wall Street. The Taliban. Wall Street.

John Q: Yeah, especially Wall Street. Let's get those greedy badgers.

SC: Well, Congress and President Obama have approved legislation to stiffen the regulation of Wall Street in an attempt to prevent another financial crisis like the one that happened in 2008.

John Q: Wait. Did you say Congress and Obama? Democrats. I hate those guys.

SC: I guess you have to decide whom you hate more.

John Q: That's a tough one. Wall Street represents all that is evil. But Congress passed the bank bailout. TARP. The stimulus package. Health care reform. Creeping Socialism.

SC: That's what I keep hearing. But I'm not sure the political scientists would agree.

John Q: Eggheads. Don't trust 'em. I'd rather rely on the common sense of the average American.

SC: Yes, we wouldn't want to listen to the intelligent and the educated. What do they know?

John Q: Is that a trick question? The Democrats are all in bed with Wall Street and the labor unions.

SC: Big bed. Wall Street financial houses certainly spread plenty of campaign cash around. But they give to both parties.

John Q: That's right. Republicans are on the take too. I hate those guys.

SC: Good to see you are unbiased in your hate. How egalitarian of you.

John Q: What did you call me? Typical mudslinging by the liberal media. I have never been a member of the Egalitarian Party. They are out to destroy this country.

SC: With the help of the American revulsion for accountability and self-awareness.

John Q: Exactly. We need to hold these people accountable for what they've done to us.

SC: There's plenty of blame to go around. But what about taking some responsibility for your role in the crisis.

John Q: I freely admit that I have a role. An important role. I play the victim.

SC: And you play it very well. But I was talking about the way average Americans overspent and undersaved, bought more house than they could afford, charged their way to a better lifestyle, thought perpetual good times were ordained by God, allowed themselves to be played by campaign consultants and ad men, lurched from believing simplistic solutions to doubting every word spoken by a politician, asked for more government spending and lower taxes, expected their own form of bailouts, closed their eyes in good times and opened their mouths in bad times.

John Q: Are you suggesting I bear some responsibility for the condition of the U.S. and the world? What about Wall Street?

SC: Greedy, yes. Atypical, no. Buying and selling risky mortgages first requires the creation of risky mortgages by real estate agents and mortgage brokers and bankers and overly optimistic homebuyers. Some were taken advantage of, but many ignored the rule that when things seem too good to believe, they usually are too good to believe.

John Q: But everyone was getting rich. Why shouldn't we have joined in?

SC: The best returns come with high risk. Expecting returns without risk and then asking government to fix things is a recipe for disaster. And on the moral spectrum, not all that far from the people you want to blame.

John Q: Not my fault.

SC: I know. Wall Street.

John Q: Yeah, and those bankers. And the bureaucrats. And immigrants. And Congress. And the Democrats. And the Republicans.

SC: And the liberal media?

John Q: Especially the liberal media.

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