There are two problems with schadenfreude. First, it's just not nice to delight in another person's misfortune, which is what schadenfreude entails. Second, there's a nasty kind of karma attached to it, whereby the misfortune you find amusing while it's happening to someone else suddenly lets go of that other person and latches on to you instead.
You could be laughing at the clumsy ox who just slipped on an icy sidewalk and tumbled into a snow bank when, all of a sudden, absorbed in your misguided mirth, you execute an even more ridiculous pratfall. That's what you get for laughing at the first fellow.
Sometimes, though, it's hard not to laugh.
Take those poor suckers who live in Harvey, just south of Chicago. Their mayor, Eric J. Kellogg, raised millions for a hotel construction project by offering municipal bonds, but put much of the investment money to other uses.
Why was the city building a hotel? Good question, but here's the funny bit: Kellogg diverted nearly $2 million in bond proceeds to fund the city’s payroll and other operational costs unrelated to the hotel project.
How did this guy ever get elected mayor? How'd he think he'd get away with his harebrained scheme?
As a matter of fact, he didn't get away with it, though he did get off easy for some strange reason. The Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of fraud, fined him $10,000, and forbade him ever to participate in municipal bond offerings again.
Kellogg was not obliged to admit to the fraud that he obviously committed and was fined for. Why? Another good question.
We would be tempted to laugh at this ridiculous mess, if it didn't remind us so much of an even bigger mess closer to home: the Collinsville Area Recreation District (CARD) with its multimillion-dollar debt.
Who are the suckers who allowed this boondoggle to be created and mismanaged for years on end? We are. Who's laughing now?