It took us a long time to get to a calm place with AIG. Amazingly, it took Scott Herman a lot less time. In a parallel situation on The Real World, Scott reacted immediately in the manner in which we are now acting, after two weeks time. Let's take a look at this, starting with AIG.
The cultural consensus on AIG has shifted wildly over the last two weeks. Until two weeks ago, AIG was an insurance corporation who was too big to fail. They were something we desperately needed to save.
Last week, they became pariahs. Calling for the punishment of AIG was the new Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer; it was the new populist soapbox stand. Politicians and media members alike wanted to at least tax them in not to encourage them to kill themselves.
This week has felt a little bit different. The uproar has dulled to a murmur. The first reason for this is probably just our collective outrage fading over time - the realization that the AIG bonus scandal has run its course through the media and it hasn't altered the economic challenges that face us. The second reason was Jake Desantis's bodyslam of an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Times. We just are not as surefire or gung-ho.
Contrast that winding route with Scott Herman, who, on The Real World, did not need two weeks. Don't believe me? Watch and consider the circumstances. (skip ahead to the last segment at around at 38:15):
In this case, Katelynn had laid out a lot of money to pay for a crucial surgery. She, like AIG, simply did not have enough money to ensure that she could cover all future spending activity. And in the episode that aired two weeks ago, she resolved herself to her last option. She was going to declare herself bankrupt and close up shop. Her run on the show was done and she was going to go home.
In swoops Scott, playing the role of the U.S. government. Scott makes a simple claim- that Katelynn is a unique member of the house who plays a role no one else can play ("to be a voice"). In other words, Katelynn is too important to the show to fail. So Scott bails her out. Scott gives Katelynn $1,500 so that she can go on living in the house. Scott covers some of her bills, like the government is covering some of AIG's.
Then, in last night's episode, Katelynn awards herself something much more chutzpah-ish than a bonus. The Real World travels down to Atlantic City on a gambling trip, and Katelynn decides to play at a black jack table. She is using the money Scott gave her to keep her afloat for obviously non-business purposes. The pundit, in the form of house mate Ryan, makes the astute point:
If her financial problems were so bad to the point where she was trying to leave and Scott had to give her $1500 to stay and put her back on her feet, [she] shouldn't gamble!
What's interesting is that Scott himself takes a very laissez-faire position, observing but never telling her what to do, and when pressed, he explains himself to J.D.:
You have to let people make their own decisions.
... and Scott is saying that even with his own money. I think Scott believes that if you bail someone out, you have to let them live their life, and that ultimately, if you allow them to lead the life they want to lead, or to run the company they want to run, there is a better chance they can repay your money and your faith in them.
Over the last week, it seems we have slowly come over to Scott's point of view. Will it work out for Scott and Katelynn? Will it work out with us and AIG? I hope so, and I'll be watching The Real World and the real world to see what happens.