46. When Bad Acts Are Not Punished

2019 saw the publication of the results of a study about children’s attitudes toward punishing bad behavior. The study found that a majority of the participants – who ranged from 3 to 6 years of age – were willing to punish “bad actors” even at their own expense and even if they were not harmed directly by the misbehavior. One of the study’s authors said that the study showed that morality is not just about doing good oneself, but also about encouraging others to behave properly. See sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190521101455.htm

Someone should tell that to 43 U.S. Senators.

Why does it seem that adult bad actors often never really pay for their actions?

Some of them escape justice for many years. I’m thinking about criminals like the American mobster John “Teflon Don” Gotti. Or the Sicilian mafioso Bernardo Provenzano, whom police were “unable” to locate for more than four decades, even though he hid near his hometown.

Those two eventually were arrested and sent to prison. But so many other people who engage in criminal or just abhorrent behavior seem to never be held accountable.

In a previous post about the love of money, I mentioned a bank employee who stole funds but whose father paid off the bank to head off a criminal investigation. That guy still acts as if nothing untoward ever happened. It makes me ill when I see social media posts of him smiling as he holds a grandchild or shows off his (limited) culinary skills.

Another post, about heroism, dealt with taking to task a company that cheated its own employees out of payment for hours worked. The company was compelled to cough up payment and, on further investigation, was found to have violated State insurance laws. The company simply packed up, left, and set up shop in another state.

I know a woman who exploited her husband, bad-mouthed him, yet never divorced him. A medical professional, she realized that he had become suicidal but she kept that to herself and did not encourage him to seek the care he needed. Now she shares in the profits from the business her late husband ran with a relative and in which the woman never lifted a finger to help.

In 2010, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on why poor-performing companies continued to receive contracts from federal agencies. At that time, more than $500 billion of taxpayer money was going to contractors annually, and the Committee wanted to know why federal agencies were not using the remedies of suspension and debarment more frequently against bad contractors. The Committee noted that it had considered a related issue a year earlier and that virtually nothing had changed. Federal agencies were still slow to suspend or debar poor performers and instead were still awarding lucrative contracts to suspended or debarred companies.

Government institutions being what they are, likely little, if anything has changed in the last decade. Plus, there are many examples of unqualified and inexperienced companies gaining multi-million dollar federal contracts under the last administration, thanks to political and family connections.

When bad actors are not held accountable, what does it mean or signal, to the rest of us? Are we dupes or dopes for trying to follow the straight and narrow path?

My homeland of Italy is known for its overly generous pensions for legislators. I read that, as of April 2018, the 2,600 members of Parliament who had retired before 2012 still received pensions of up to 10,000 euros per month. In fact, an MP who served for just one day received a monthly pension of more than 3,000 euros for 34 years until he died!

Later in 2018, the lower chamber of Parliament voted to reduce the pensions of retired MPs by about half. But the upper house Senate has not followed suit. In the meantime, ordinary Italians have seen their minimum retirement age go up and their pension pay-outs go down.

Some time ago, I expressed my disgust about this to a cousin whom I always considered honorable and upstanding. You know what my cousin said?

“I should be so lucky to get into politics and wrangle a nice pension for myself.”

In the face of so much corruption and opportunism, I suppose we can be guided only by our personal moral compass.

Simpler times: Be Pure or Else – Assisi, Italia courtesy of “Anton”

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