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Getting a Bailout for Being Terrible

After the greed-induced meltdown of the world’s financial systems, U.S. taxpayers paid.

I was reading the news the other day and saw an article about a guy driving a Maserati who came to a railroad crossing with the safety arms down, drove around them, and was killed by an oncoming train.

OK, first of all, this was a tragedy. I don’t know the guy who was killed, whether he had a family, or what kind of a person he was. None of that matters. You know, “…every man’s death diminishes me, so do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” I believe that, so I’m sorry whenever anyone dies.

But, in all honesty, I care quite a bit less about what happens to rich people. 

I told my son I felt badly about – not feeling bad –  and he brought up the word “schadenfreude.”  

It’s a German word that means, “pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.”

That isn’t exactly what I was feeling. I don’t wish anyone ill luck.

OK, that’s not true. The names of a couple people are on the voodoo dolls I keep under the cat litter box. But only a couple – truly.

So, if it’s not schadenfreude, what is it?

I think we need a new word, one that means, “inner guilty amusement from finding out about bad things happening to rich people.”

I don’t know what word that would be in German, particularly since the only German words I know are spaetzle and schadenfreude. And, really, why should it be Germany’s responsibility to come up with a word for my disdain of the miseries of such people?

In my defense, they started it. Going back to Marie Antionette saying, “Let them eat cake,” the rich and powerful have a history of being disdainful of the rest of us.

My own personal example, the one that makes me grit my teeth in a way my dentist wouldn’t approve, happened in 2008. For those of you who weren’t paying attention or have blocked the memory, after the greed-induced meltdown of the world’s financial systems, the U.S. taxpayers shelled out $188 billion to rescue the giant banks. 

Yes, that’s $188 billion with a B, and yes, it was your money and my money.

Not so much of my money, but that’s another story.

Anyway, to show their gratitude, in 2008 the executives at the biggest banks paid themselves $1.6 billion in bonuses, using the taxpayer’s money. 

I have never gotten a bonus for being terrible at my job. Not ever. And believe me, there have been plenty of opportunities.

It’s a big deal, and what’s really amazing is that they did it in broad daylight. No shame at all, no attempt to hide it. It’s almost like it didn’t matter at all what the rest of us working stiffs thought.

I wonder if extremely wealthy people have to take classes in screwing the peasants or if it just comes naturally?

This is sounding a little petty, so let me clarify. I’m not scornful of all rich people. Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates. They all have a lot of money, but they accomplished it by having a talent and working really hard. I respect that.

That isn’t how some people got their money or a Maserati. A word of caution to those people: The trains are always coming, and you need to pay attention to the warning signs, the flashing lights, and crossing arms. 

Peasants can hold a grudge, and I don’t think we need a word for that.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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