I notice on his shelf a copy of Fortune magazine, with Meredith Whitney on the cover. And as he talked about the bankrupting of Vallejo, I realized that I had heard this story before, or a private-sector version of it. The people who had power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public-sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society. It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis. It’s a problem of people taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences. It’s not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans. Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom. They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences. Afterward, the people on Wall Street would privately bemoan the low morals of the American people who walked away from their subprime loans, and the American people would express outrage at the Wall Street people who paid themselves a fortune to design the bad loans.He wants to blame Americans, but that's a false classification as American culture has changed significantly over the past 60 years. Europe is rotting from exactly the same cultural decay, so blaming Americans isn't going to work. The self-denial lacking in greedy weasels like Alan Greenberg was also lacking in morally bankrupt scumbags like Crosby, Stills and Nash who urged us to "Love the One You're With" and now stand amazed at our massive prison populations and abundant social pathologies.
Like the old saw about the man who chased the girl until she caught him, we chased pleasure until it caught us.