Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Holier Than Thou?
What do we think about when we see this word: entitlement?

Maybe we think of a bunch of lazy people ripping-off the government.

Perhaps we see a group of twenty-something post IPO-gazzilionaire engineers, with their shirttails stylishly hanging out, grinning into the camera. Or, maybe we see the high-flying bankers following close behind with their tongues hanging out and their wallets open.

Or, maybe we should just look in the mirror, since entitlement seems so all-pervasive in our culture it threatens to dominate order and eliminate any sense of moral courage and/or outrage.

Today, for example,  we learn that a major NY builder, Lend-Lease, systematically over-billed projects like CitiField, Grand Central Terminal, and Time Warner Center. Among other things, they billed for foremen overtime everyday despite knowing that the foremen did not work overtime. They even billed while the foremen were on vacation. Why? Because they could, and because the union foremen felt entitled to it.

We also now know that WalMart, the country's dominant retailer, which makes a lot of their money on the backs of the middle and lower middle classes, systematically and illegally bribed Mexican officials, in order to grow super-fast in that country. The chief-bribing exec was steadily promoted. The company's inconvenient inside probe was hidden in a drawer. Now they are back-tracking fast. Why? Are they sorry they broke the law, not to mention moral and ethical codes? No, don't be silly, their stock price is down.

White Wash?
Entitlements. And we thought that only meant Disability, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Farm Subsidies, Foreign Aid, etc & etc. Today we learn that one in twenty Americans 25-64 cannot work due to a disability. 5%! If you believe that's really true, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Ah, you're also thinking about those Secret Service agents in Cartagena, who could keep a secret about as well as Victoria does. What shall we do while "off-duty"guarding the President of the United States? Well, let's go get some prostitutes and then let's argue with one in public about pennies for her services rendered. Entitlements.

And, what happens? Do they get fired? No, three resign so far. Does their boss get fired? No, he briefs the President of the United States. Millions of Americans have been fired for just showing up at work one day and having their job eliminated. The President of the United States is really mad. What does he do? He calls them "knuckleheads." Maybe they'll be spanked and sent to their rooms. Alone this time. Where is the outrage?

This reaction to Cartagena-gate is not about prudery; it is about stupidity. Americans should not like being represented around the world by really stupid people. These agents do not work for the President, any president; they work for us.

Not to be outdone, the General Services Administration, the very bureau tasked with making sure that our hard-borrowed money is carefully spent by federal agencies and contractors, likes to wake up in Vegas. They spent nearly a million bucks on a ludicrous team-building meeting. Was their chief fired? Of course not. She got to resign. What were they thinking? We're entitled, that's what they were thinking. Or, we earned this. Or, we deserve this. Please.

Again, we say, this is not about government employees having to be robotic. Citizens just get the feeling sometimes that the GSA or Secret Service must be using a Stupid Test to hire some of their employees. There are millions of smart people looking for good jobs. Why not hire them, if these federal positions really need to be filled?

K's Shoe Thing
Banks foreclosed on properties they could not really prove they owned. Borrowers took mortgages knowing they had no prayer of ever being able to pay. Start-ups like Groupon pay no attention to general accepted accounting principles, even though we have documented proof that those generally accepted "principles" are already loose enough to have allowed financial execs to bring the economy to it knees.

Which, as it turns out, is a pretty damn good place to be or a pretty good place for the damned to be. Whatever. Just start praying.

And, what shall we pray for? An end to feeling Entitled to any thing that makes us feel good at the expense of every other person or semblance of morality and ethics. Just because we can.

Somehow we have survived many months of Republican primary blah-blah, during which not a single interesting word was uttered by anyone. Yet, in a matter of a few weeks, events occurring from Afghanistan (Koran burning, mass murder) to Bentonville AR (mass bribery), to Cartagena, Columbia (monumental stupidity and lower case cupidity)), have finally forced an election issue. It is not the economy; it is not jobs, and it is not healthcare.

Suddenly, we are deciding whether or not to be a nation with a moral compass and values worth having. Or, not. Candidates better wake up to that (and make sure their Secret Service detail has has no secrets).

The old Soviet, Mr. Kruschev, said, "We will bury you." He was wrong. If we don't wake up, we will just bury ourselves and save anyone the trouble. We better get going.

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