I paid you back, so what’s the problem?

One of the most common chants at Occupy Wall Street protests is, “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out.” Critics of OWS (Erin Burnett of CNN, for example) have been quick to point out that the banks paid back the bailout money they received, and they expect we will find this to make things all right again.
Why doesn’t it make things all right? To me, it is kind of like having a brother in law who is also a gambling addict. When he can’t cover his bets, he comes looking for a loan to cover him just for a few days, you know. You give him the money, because otherwise he will destroy your entire family, and you sister and her children may end up homeless or living with you. To avoid absolute disaster, you cover his bets knowing it is no long-term solution to the problem. You hope he will get help. You hope he will change, but you know he won’t change until his own world collapses or he goes to jail, but you still feel trapped.
 
So, you pay, he puts it all down in a big bet and makes a huge winning. He pays you back and gives you a little extra for the trouble. He even suggests that you invest a little of the extra in some risky bets of your own. After all, you won’t really be losing anything. In the meantime, he continues to take even greater risks on long-shot bets. You continue to live frugally in order to protect the family when the next crisis comes, but you are really starting to get fed up.
This is the scenario we have, except our situation is worse. Taxpayers covered the bets for the banks, but taxpayers were not kept afloat. Many people lost their jobs, and even more lost their homes. The global economy was severely damaged, but the people who caused the damage did nothing to repair it. They repaired their own bank accounts but made no reparations to the rest of the people who were affected. People who have expressed their outrage at this injustice have been beaten, pepper sprayed, and put in jail. When will the people who caused this crisis be held accountable?

About ethicsbeyondcompliance

I hold a PhD in medical humanities with an major emphasis in ethics. I began teaching college-level ethics in 2000.
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