Is cheating rampant in our culture?

Rich Karlgaard from Forbes thinks so. In his article, Recovery Drag: The Age of Cheats, he surveys the moral rot in sports, quickly touches on the rot in business and our political system and concludes we are in an Age of Cheats.

Is there something wrong in the sports world? Consider this:

Sosa was a former 165-pound rookie who weighed 220 pounds the year he banged out 66 homers, chasing McGwire’s 70.

A 55 pound bulk up?

Or this:

But the fast and graceful Bonds, who used to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases with exceptional agility when he weighed 185 pounds, suddenly bulked up to 230 pounds and could barely bend over to tie his shoes. His spirit turned mean. But he hit 73 home runs one year. And America loved it.

Gaining 45 pounds out of nowhere and going from 40 to 73 homers?  I don’t follow sports very much. Even I know that 45 or 55 pounds of sudden bulk up is not from some extra time in the gym every day.

The recent financial meltdown? I will expand Mr. Karlgaard’s list of who has culpability for that.

I will include in the list of responsible parties the U.S. Congress, federal regulators, the Federal Reserve, Fannie & Freddie, banks, mortgage brokers, and borrowers.

It stretches out to taking the SATs – Ritalin before an exam. I wasn’t aware of this:

A new and growing form of cheating is taking place in our high schools. During tests, particularly SATs, kids are popping speed and prescription drugs meant to treat attention-deficit disorder. Anything for an edge.

With more space, we could connect more dots. Here’s just a few I’d like to expand:

  • Francine McKenna routinely describes shortfalls in the Big 4 world. Her articles frequently leave me shaking my head.
  • Cooking the LIBOR rates (although primarily a problem in London, there’s plenty of culpability for American banks and American regulators).
  • Standard Chartered stands accused of hiding from regulators over $250 billion of wire transfers to Iran. The allegation is that wire instructions were withdrawn and rewritten to remove any reference to individuals or companies in Iran. I’ve learned there’s even a name for this – “stripping” the wire. A quarter of a trillion dollars of wires.  60,000 transactions. A Big 4 partner is caught up in the brouhaha.

The list could go on.

Mr. Karlgaard closes with a note of optimism:

But we’ve risen above moral rot before. The U.S. has transcended slavery and civil war, as well as periods of rampant corruption and paralyzing resentment.

Let’s hope the Age of Cheats is drawing to a close, because a full recovery won’t be possible until it’s over.

We can do it again.

Won’t be easy. Ending slavery only cost us 600,000 deaths. It took another century for the civil rights reforms that finally won the fight that didn’t end in 1865.

But we can do it again.  The question is whether we want to.

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