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In a guest post for the Zero Hedge blog, Charles Hugh Smith has some home truths for his fellow Americans:

  • “…America has become a nation of skimmers and scammers. The rot runs deep not just in the upper reaches of the financial and political Elites, but in the bottom 99.5% as well.
  • “America can now be summarized by this phrase: "don't call out my scam and I won't call out yours." In other words, all the skimmers and scammers have become complicit, not just in protecting their own scam from the light of day, but in protecting everyone else's scams, too, lest those who lose their swag unmask someone else's scam in revenge.”

Hugh Smith provides some examples of what he calls the “rot below”:

  • “The fraud and embezzlement-riddled mortgage market of the previous decade included not just investment bankers but non-Elite Americans who lied about their income, debt, and other material facts in order to obtain a fraudulent mortgage.
  • “Another ‘middle class’ scam is practiced by public workers nearing retirement. (Please don't claim this doesn't happen, I have first-hand accounts from cousins with 30-year careers in fire and police departments.) Since the pensions are based on the top three years of pay, soon-to-retire workers pile up the overtime to amass much higher pay in their last years. Everyone involved helps make this happen because they expect to pull the same scam when their time comes.”

Hugh Smith also mentions the benefits system, but could have added insurance claims, tax returns and workplace expenses as further areas of widespread fraud. Indeed, it’s hardly unrealistic to suppose that the number of people engaged in these various fiddles is numbered in the millions and the sums involved in the billions. No doubt those involved don’t see themselves as criminals, after all it’s ‘the system’ that pays the price – not their fellow citizens. Right?

Obviously, such justifications are as deluded as they are self-serving. Beyond the debate over how much governments ought to redistribute from the rich to the poor, the unspoken issue facing our society is the amount that is redistributed from the honest to the dishonest.

But the problem isn’t just one of justice. The delusions required to sustain such widespread dishonesty prevent us from recognising the reality of our situation:

  • “Rather than accept that the postwar boom based on cheap abundant oil, industrialization and globalization is over, and the financialization bubble of the past 30 years cannot be re-inflated, we continue to maintain unrealistic expectations of an economy with structural imbalances, rising friction and declining surpluses.
  • “…In this sense, moral rot is to be expected as economic surpluses vanish and entire economies must live within means that have shriveled for structural reasons.
  • “Can an economy that has become dependent on lies, misrepresentation, ‘fudging’ of numbers, fraud, embezzlement and a multitude of skimming and scamming operations escape the moral and financial black hole it has created? The self-evident answer is ‘no’”

Sobering stuff.

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