Newspapers have reported on many cases of corporate fraud at the highest executive levels in the past two years, but Callahan cites other instances of people going to often questionable lengths to succeed. It's estimated that half of all major league baseball players are taking steroids to enhance their strength and performance. Many attorneys regularly overstate their hours to stay competitive with their colleagues. To get into the right college, high schoolers will turn in papers written by tutors, while their parents shop for psychologists willing to diagnose a learning disability to gain extra time on the SAT.
Callahan, director of public policy center Demos and frequent TV commentator, has a simple explanation for this proliferation of cheating. In a cutthroat economic climate, everybody wants to get ahead, and decades of deregulation have made it easy to bend the rules. He further argues that when the middle class sees wealthy cheaters get away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, it inspires them to follow suit. A fairly obvious premise, to be sure, but the book's strength lies in tying together assorted detailed descriptions of cheating throughout the system and explaining the connections between disparate acts like r‚sum‚ inflation, tax evasion and illegal downloads. He offers straightforward, commonsensical solutions, including increased funding for federal enforcement agencies.