05/31/2012 06:14 pm ET Updated Jul 31, 2012

Isn't There Anybody on Our Side Anymore?

It's no secret that Americans are losing faith in many of our institutions. It's no wonder, either. Reading the news makes you think that there isn't anybody on our side anymore.

How about our colleges and universities, those bastions of higher learning? Their only intention is to educate their students and help America keep up with the rest of the world -- right? Nope. As a terrific Associated Press investigative story reported, it turns out more than 9 million students are getting ripped off by quasi-legal bank fees, and the students' colleges and universities are complicit in the robbery.

How about our hospitals, those respites of care for the seriously ill? Nope again. The StarTribune newspaper reported that Senator Al Franken (D-MN) hauled a "corporate responsibility officer" of the Chicago collection firm Accretive Health into a hearing, where the senior VP for the company apologized for employees who referred to patients as "stupid," "deadbeats" and "schmucks" (look up the Yiddish meaning). That's bad enough, but at least two hospitals had Accretive collectors on the premises to:

"...squeeze cash or credit-card payments from patients, sometimes while they writhed in pain before receiving medical treatment."

So neither our educational institutions nor our medical institutions can be counted on to protect us. Maybe we can call the cops? Uh... not so fast.

In one of the first comprehensively detailed breakdowns of money and property seizures by law enforcement agencies, the state of Minnesota said its law enforcement agencies took over $5 million in cash, vehicles and property from citizens -- in many cases, citizens who had not yet been convicted of any crimes. The executive director of the Minnesota ACLU called it a "shakedown."

Of course, I'm sure the rationale for decision-makers at these institutions was that everybody at other colleges and other hospitals and other law enforcement agencies were doing it, too. To them we say: your mother was correct when she told you, just because everybody else is doing it doesn't make it right.

You had mothers, didn't you?