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Our hazardous bailout nation

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It's everywhere you look. "You deserve a bailout." The thing is, you don't. No one deserves a bailout.

Economists call it "moral hazard." It's when people believe whatever risk they take, someone will be there to suffer the consequences for them if things don't pan out. But they also expect to reap all of the rewards if silly bets pay off.

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America used to be of the mindset that if one works hard, plays by the rules and sacrifices every now and then, good things will come in the future. Now it seems to be of the mindset that "greed is good," quoting a 1980s movie.

How did we get this way? It's not just one thing.

Over the years, making simple deals in the marketplace has become more complex and less personal. Instead of borrowing for needs from a community banker you looked in the eye and promised to pay, we borrow with the swipe of a card at the cash register from people whom we will never meet who live in far-flung places. And those people haven't been satisfied with making 7 percent on a mortgage or 9 percent on a car loan -- they have looked for ways to cheat and steal a few extra bucks from consumers through hidden fees or complex financial instruments. So when the consumer gets into trouble financially, they don't feel bad about missing payments or obligated to honor debts. And they feel like they're entitled to that home equity loan to buy new granite counter tops despite the fact they have zero equity.

Deception seems to have become an accepted part of deal-making nowadays. Instead of asking oneself, "What do I have to do to keep my end of the bargain?" both parties seem to ask themselves, "Where's the loophole? How can I use the law to my advantage here?"

Then the mother of all bailouts happened in 2008. The mega banks, which had driven themselves to the brink of extinction, went to Washington with their hands out. Instead of a swift kick in the rear end, they received a stern talking to. Well, something like, "No, no. Bad boy. Now please take $8 billion in the taxpayers' money, OK? Pay it back if you feel like it!"

So is it any wonder why people who fall behind on credit cards, hospital bills or child support feel like someone else should be paying their bills?

And what if you're short on smokes, or didn't pay your taxes last year, or just really, really want that new Playstation 3?

It seems that "you deserve a bailout" is the new "Where's the beef?" or "Don't squeeze the Charmin.

Never mind that there's no actual government bailout to help you buy cigarettes or cheat on your taxes or zero your credit card for discretionary purchases you couldn't afford. That doesn't stop advertisers from telling everyone who will listen, "you deserve a bailout."

That's what we've created: an America where no one wants to work hard and reap the benefits, everyone wants to screw up and get bailed out. Things like the "value of hard work" and "only in America" are replaced by "quick fix" and "what's the worst that can happen to me."

You deserve a bailout? No you don't. No one does. You deserve an opportunity. Throw it away at your own peril -- and at your own cost, please.

Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, Pioneer Journal editor and publisher.

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