Is America Corrupt?

Is America corrupt? Are our government leaders concerned about the well being of the country over and above their own self-interests? How many citizens cheat in business, and personally? How many taxpayers fudge their returns? Do many people pad their medical insurance reimbursements?

The college application scandal has been a real shocker. Well-to-do parents gamed the system to insure that their undeserving children obtained coveted acceptances from elite colleges. In some situations the children received help taking standardized tests, and bribes were paid to school administrators and sports coaches. The parents are not the type of people you would expect to actually commit felonies, even to benefit their children.

The scandal makes those of us who follow the rules wonder whether we are in the minority. Do most people cheat in everyday life?

Cutting corners starts early in life. If your parents didn’t take the time to tell you to respect others, then you probably don’t care about anyone but yourself. And, if you have opportunities to cheat playing basketball or monopoly as a child to increase the odds of winning, you took them. Even though no money was involved, you needed the self-satisfaction of winning.

And what about those of us who attend church, temple or mosque and pray to God? How many walk out of houses of worship and cheat on their taxes, abuse family members and steal from others? God does not bar anyone from visiting his house even if they are sinners because He has faith that we can behave better. In today’s environment this perspective may not be reality.

Whenever I listen to politicians and world leaders I feel like I’m being treated like a fool. Do these people really believe that I’m so stupid that I can’t recognize lies and twisted logic? Frankly many voters are fools if they rely on political claptrap to make their decisions.

Voters should spend time preparing for Election Day. Don’t vote exclusively on one issue. Consider the totality of a candidate’s principles and beliefs. Depending upon FOX News or the NY Times exclusively is a recipe for disaster. Good citizens learn about both sides of issues before they pull a lever at a polling place.

For so long I relied upon written news for my information. Sure, reporters are biased like anybody else. But newspapers, good newspapers, should ensure that reported news is factual and not tainted by opinions of the authors.

Today both sides of the political spectrum politicize every occurrence. To make matters more complex, those reporting the news offer their perspectives even as we assume they are unbiased. The feelings of the press towards our current president are deeply seeded with hatred and scorn (this is not to say the bad feelings are not justified by our leader’s demeanor). The facts in the newspapers and on TV are peppered with contempt.

If market or public sentiment changes from world events, everyone wants to know if it will impact their lives. Very little empathy is generated by the aftermath of certain events if they do not have an effect on one’s life. Things like famine, disease, war, oppression and abuse are other people’s problems. This perspective is inappropriate because events that do not seem to have any relevance can change how people act towards America.

And then there is our current president, the all-time master of misinformation and self-aggrandizement. To his credit Trump is transparent. He has not hidden facts from us except those that are related to his personal life (like his tax returns and his relationships with women). The man is not concerned about details. Rather, he cares only whether an event will benefit his ego and reputation. All the while his sycophants are telling him he is great every day.

Frankly I don’t believe Trump’s behavior will influence today’s young people. He is not and does not want to be a role model. Trump is so far off the grid that his behavior will be denigrated long after he leaves office. He will be rated as one of the worst presidents ever regardless of his accomplishments because he represents the worst of the way a leader should act.

My concern is whether I can believe anything said by my leaders, candidates for office and the media. Every time they step in front of a camera, it’s an effort to pump up their reputation or sell a political perspective as opposed to giving us germane things to think about. Americans are shielded from bad things like children not old enough to process negativity.

Honesty, integrity, empathy, generosity and courage along with creativity, innovation and risk-taking are what make a person great. When you add in concern for family, friends and country, you have a complete individual.

Too Many Americans Lie And Cheat

By Sal Bommarito

Brian Williams, the embattled anchorman at NBC, is one in a long line of journalists, actors, sports figures, politicians, academics and business people who have lied and cheated in an attempt to game the system. The list is much greater if you include individuals who cheat on their personal taxes, doctors who submit false medical documents and businesses that cut corners to save money and imperil their employees and customers.

I had a suspicion that the list of liars and cheaters would be a long one. I confirmed my expectations by researching famous “liars.” Many successful people have ruined their careers by doing inane things, lying about errors, exaggerating accomplishments and covering up deceptions. The most outrageous aspect of this topic is that cheaters, adulterers and sinners of every ilk feel the urge to communicate their transgressions on the Internet making their adjudication easy.

The ramifications of lying and cheating fall on an extensive continuum of damage inflicted on society. For instance, Brian Williams was thought to be one of the “most trusted” journalists in the world. He broke that trust, and now some will be skeptical when he speaks, should he ever make it back to broadcast television. The damage done to society is nil; the reputation of his employer is another problem. Calling him an influential journalist is a stretch when all he does is read stories on a teleprompter that were written by other people.

Big issues include ones that involve government officials who lie or embellish the truth about critical events. For instance, many people believe the Internal Revenue Service did irreparable damage to itself when officials lied about targeting conservative political organizations. Further, the IRS is not a political operation authorized to pass along confidential information about taxpayers to any group. What inspired the IRS to become an activist clique? Now the organization is under fire and spending too much time defending itself rather than chasing after tax cheaters.

In the 1960s, our government was playing it fast and loose regarding the Vietnam War and secretly bombing neighboring countries. Efforts by the press to find the truth were stymied. Today, many Americans feel their government is not being totally forthright about the status of the ISIS conflict and its potential as an existential threat to the United States and/or other countries.

In business, the list of wrongdoers is extensive. Some frauds perpetrated are conspiratorial and very secretive, such as insider trading, while some are gigantic and certain to be discovered. Massive defalcations, in which generally accepted accounting standards are ignored, are reminiscent of the Enron scandal. The games executives played with revenues and profits were likely to be exposed at some point. Several people went to jail and millions lost money or were seriously impacted by the demise of such a large corporation.

Business frauds occur every day. Customers are lied to and suppliers pad their costs. The federal government is the largest victim in this regard. Oversight of costs and expenses on large projects is insufficient. We have all heard about $10.00 screws.

Frauds involving corporations are usually much more serious than other types of cheating. In many cases, innocent bystanders are hurt. A renegade trader at a bank, who works in the securities area could exceed his trading limits and create havoc by loosing hundreds of millions of dollars. Several similar incidents have greatly impacted major institutions and their employees.

Individual Americans perpetrate frauds every day. It is staggering how many dollars are lost to tax evaders. These misdirected revenues directly impact all Americans. Some might not receive aid that they are entitled to, while others will need to pay higher taxes to offset losses.

Some individuals cheat when applying for health care reimbursement. A few dollars here and a few dollars there add up. Soon, billions of dollars are being absconded from insurance companies that, in turn, increase premiums to offset their losses.

Our electoral process has been damaged severely over the years. As politicians have become more dependent upon media advertising, the lies and distortions have increased exponentially. Good, capable and honest candidates lose elections because there are no restrictions when it comes slinging mud in election campaigns. Once a negative and untrue stigma is attached to a candidate, it is next to impossible to repudiate.

Celebrities and actors and those in sports are notorious for unduly bolstering their reputations. An entire cottage industry that revels in scandal has developed based upon innuendo, rumors and denials. Of note, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has attempted to deceive major league baseball, his employer and baseball fans about his use of steroids. Once reporters latch onto a story like A-Rod’s, it is too late. It would be better to admit one’s blunder, accept punishment and move on. It is entirely possible that Rodriguez will never be voted into the Hall of Fame, even though he is arguably one of the best players to step on to a baseball diamond.

A universal subterfuge is lying on one’s resume. Individuals in many lines of work have lost their jobs and reputations for saying that they have a degree they don’t have, or did something that they didn’t do. Included in this group are university professors, sports coaches, TV chefs, security analysts, marathon racers and Lotharios.

One of the two greatest deceptions that ultimately worked out for the perpetrator was Bill Clinton’s denial that he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Nobody really cared about Clinton’s dalliances, but when he lied under oath and on TV, he stepped over the line.

The other event was Watergate and the Richard Nixon cover-up. Nixon was not so fortunate and lost his presidency when he tried to hide his involvement with aides who broke the law.

America is the greatest country in the world. Unfortunately, too many of its citizens lie and cheat. Their nefarious deeds hurt others and our society in general. They should all be exposed for their misbehavior.