Speaking with reference to the mess that under-regulated financial engineering and blindingly short-sighted Greenspan Fed policy, Paulson said:
"We have in many ways humiliated ourselves as a nation with some of the problems that have taken place here."
Considering that Paulson was CEO of a company that helped produce the bubble and was part of the administration that helped prevent effective regulation, I'd say that Paulson would be correct if he were speaking in the royal "we" and left the nation out of it.
I am unable to imagine that Paulson could possibly think that the nation as a whole played any part in the mess. Sure, lenders, borrowers, agents, and most everybody else involved acted to maximise their own economic interests and the mess couldn't have been made without them. But, that is the whole point of the regulations that Paulson and party fought against - to prevent parties from acting in a way that endangers the whole economy.
And Paulson knows this. Anyone who has taken macroeconomics 101 knows this. It is an economic assumption: individuals act in their own best interest, even if it may be harmful to themselves and others.
So, to get back to Paulson's statement, I don't think "we have humiliated ourselves" at all, I think our regulations have failed.
Also, to be fair, the "as a nation" part is also bunk. The same stupid things that happened in the US happened in most of the rest of the developed and developing nations. "As a people" would be more accurate.
We, as a people, failed to have effective national regulations because of internation competition to juice earnings through the application of shortsightedness. That's how I see things, anyway.