When can we play the blame game?

“This is not the time to play the blame game,” I hear a lot of politicians talk about the financial crisis. When they weren’t saying that, they were saying, “This is not the time to point fingers.” OK, fine. When IS the time to play the blame game? When IS it time to point fingers? If not now, when? After they’ve left office? When they’ve safely landed in a $700 billion taxpayer-provided golden parachute? It seems there is only one simple rule to the blame game: Don’t blame anybody.

But when you hear someone say, “This is not time to play the blame game” you can be sure of one thing – that they are the people who are to blame. If they weren’t to blame, wouldn’t they be saying, “Don’t blame me, blame the other guy, point the finger at him.”

I know it rhymes and journalists love rhymes, but when did blame become a game? “Gee, honey, I just took our 401k to Las Vegas and lost it playing Texas Hold ‘Em.”

“How could you?” the wife wails, “What’s the matter with you? That was our future, you’ve thrown it away and it’s all your fault.”

“Is this really the time to play the blame game? Is this the time to point fingers? Shouldn’t we figure out what went wrong and where we’re going from here? Do you know anyone with $700 billion that we could borrow until we get back on our feet? I’m pretty sure I can win back that 401k if I have a big enough stake. Stop playing the blame game and help me find a solution to this horrible problem, won’t you?”

Kids who don’t do their homework, auto mechanics who charge you but don’t fix your car, surgeons who cut off the wrong leg could all learn a lesson from politicians – let’s not play the blame game.

“Gee, doc, it looks like you transplanted a kidney into a guy that needed a liver. He’s not going to make it.”

“Is this really the time to play the blame game? There were so many people who could have done things differently, the nurses, the anesthesiologist, the admitting clerk, the guy who empties the garbage, the patient. There’s enough blame to go around. I don’t think we should engage in useless finger-pointing, we should try to make sure that this never happens again. Now could some please notify the widow-to-be for me, I’ve got a meeting with my stockbroker.”

Teens who learn not to play the blame game will find life much easier and happier.

“Yeah, Mom, the car is totaled, and the police found beer and weed in the back seat, but is this really the time to play the blame game? I’ve got to sober up in time to get to class or they’ll drop me from the football team. There will be plenty of time for finger-pointing later, when we can get to the bottom of this and find the person or persons responsible.”

Let’s see, if you rob a convenience store of $50, they blame you and you go to jail. You turn a $100-billion company into a $100-million dollar company, and no one’s to blame. You rob investors and pension funds of millions of dollars and no one’s to blame. There will be time be time enough for that later, when the people to blame have left the country and moved all their money to the Cayman Islands.

If we can’t play the blame game, maybe there is another game we should play, the Fair Game. Let’s pay our CEOs, our congress and our president on a sliding scale depending on how well the economy is doing. We lose money, they lose money. We make money, they make money. Then we wouldn’t have to play the blame game.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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