Roberts: The Angry Olympics


My father once told me that we all justify the evil things we do to whatever extent is necessary to keep from going crazy. So how many of us wouldn't find a way to sleep at night, after taking a $1 million dollar Christmas bonus?

As our 401k's have tanked, the universe has balanced itself out with a concentrated injection of self-righteous anger into society. But governing - be it a country, a family, or yourself - while staggering under the weight of mistrust and ferocity, is much like operating heavy machinery when you're drunk, or going to the grocery store while you're hungry.

Yes, the AIG execs that took the bonuses are exceptional scoundrels, and Grassley's comment that they should either resign or commit suicide was hilarious and comforting. But in these times what the world needs more than fiery politicians is politicians that will shut up and just take care of it, and constituents that will follow their humble example.

More irritating than the misallocation of the bailout money are the red-faced conversations that have ensued because of it. People that never had an interest in the world around them are suddenly spitting on our financial institution from ivory towers, each person telling some sordid, disinteresting tale of why they are more upset and affected than everyone else.

The world has largely become one big anger-contest, where higher blood pressure has become equivalent to higher knowledge in the self-important minds of those who are - in reality - the very least affected by the slump.

If you really consider it, you have probably done something worse in your life than take money that someone offered you freely. Go ahead, close your eyes and consider the worst thing you've ever done in your life… and then decide if it was more or less malicious than accepting money someone gave you - even if it wasn't theirs to give.

I'm getting an extra chunk of cash in my paycheck this week because of the portion of the stimulus package that reduces my payroll tax. Believe it or not - I'm not going to take that extra chunk and directly deposit it toward my debt. Actually, last year I spent my entire stimulus check in Syria and Lebanon. We all do things we're not proud of, but find smugly humurous anyway.

My imprudence with my share of the bailout is on a miniscule scale compared to the AIG mishandling of its bailout, but the principal is the same. I'm using it toward a vacation to California - they use it toward a vacation in the Galapagos or Gulla Gulla Island or wherever the hell rich people go.

These people live their lives on a different scale. The disconnect between the poor and the wealthy has been causing strife, anger and general misery for centuries, and for us on the lower echelon of society - we have always closed the gap on their advantage through hard work, smart trade-offs and common sense. But we can't expect a few months of recession, tragic as it is, to undo years of social naïveté and lust for cash. It's really not that shocking. It's wrong - we got hoodwinked. But this $120 million in dirty money warrants far less ire than the billions that were flushed away by Halliburton and its cohorts, or the lack of regulation that allowed the collapse in the first place…and then blindly entrusted those responsible to prudently handle the relief money. If we want to piss ourselves and throw rocks - we at least need to recalibrate our aim.

I want the money to be taken back or taxed back by whatever means is available, just like everyone else does. But I also want people to shut up and get back to work so that in five years I'll have something more than a cardboard box and some lingering self-righteous pride.


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