Our fair share

Whether the $700 billion bailout measure will mitigate further financial catastrophe or not is yet to be seen, although the diminishing effect that it will have on American life will certainly be felt for some time to come. Amid this economic climate, there is at least one abundant commodity that America trades with vigor: blame. For the most part, Americans have been content to pass blame onto greedy investors and incompetent politicians. But like the bailout, itâÄôs time for the American people to own their share of this burden as well, and accept that irresponsible buyers have been as toxic as any number of profit-hungry investment bankers. Having now moved beyond simplistic finger-pointing, public discussions about the economic crisis have stepped into apportioning blame among the involved parties. And while the loose standards of mortgage lenders certainly were enablers to this disaster, those sales were satisfying a demand made by people who should not have been seeking loans. Americans willingly chose to live beyond their means, reaching too high, too quickly on the promise of easy money. When the time came to pay the bill, wishful thinking and misplaced priorities turned into debt, default and foreclosure. Unfortunately, accountability is something that American culture doesnâÄôt seem to be interested in anymore. Consumers who were unwilling to take responsibility for their purchases now want to shift the blame entirely upon a rabid financial apparatus or distant bureaucracy. The financial apparatus disavows its role in anything other than business as usual. Even the government is disinterested in owning its mistakes, with Secretary PaulsonâÄôs original bailout plan demanding personal immunity from review. The fact is that Americans just donâÄôt want a scolding. We want a pat on the head, an assurance that weâÄôve done no wrong, and we wonâÄôt vote for anyone who refuses to give it. Yet whether we will hear it, we helped make this mess, and we get to help clean it up.