Sun, Jul

Who Robbed the Bank?

RANDOM LENGTHS - Just about every week I receive a slew of press releases from the Department of Justice touting the indictment, prosecution and/or conviction of a few of their prime cases once in a while you’ll see them in the Random Lengths News Brief column.

They range from the exotic Ponzi schemes, common Medi-Care fraud, tax fraud cases and even human trafficking but once in a while the arrest and prosecution of an unfortunate bank robber.  

Now bank robbery isn’t quite what it used to be– the average modern-day stickup artist only gets away with paltry $12,000 or less and it’s a federal crime to boot if you get caught. Fifteen to twenty is a long time to spend in a penitentiary for that kind of money.

Fame and fortune hardly go hand in hand any more either. In the old days Jesse James or Pretty Boy Floyd became legends of folk lore by robbing the wealthy bankers and then sending off a car load of groceries to the needy families on relief or at least getting even with those damn Yankee railroad barons, who were seen as even bigger thieves than the bandits by the general population.  

Today nobody is writing songs about Freddie the Freeway or Sweet-Tooth bandits. And the really big bandits like Bernie Madoff or Ken Lay of Enron fame certainly do grab the headlines but they are nobody’s folk heroes.

What’s even more annoying is that the really, really big bank robbers these days are the ones who actually own the banks and insurance conglomerates and hedge funds, these are the ones who basically are responsible for tanking our economy to the tune of billions if not trillions of dollars collectively.

Now this is what I call a stick-up job and for the most part we don’t even know who these crooks are!  

Even more than annoying than the size of their crimes and their seeming ability to remain anonymous is that because of the size of their institutional crimes we are now obligated to bail them out merely to save ourselves.  I’m not sure which is the bigger crime.

This all devolves down onto us citizens who pay taxes and vote, to a damnable choice between total economic disaster–ala the Great Depression– or a shared pain and suffering plan, raising taxes and cutting jobs. At least that’s how it’s presented to us and on May 19 those of us who vote will be posited with these worst of all choices.

This is more like a Pirates of the Caribbean dilemma–devil or the deep-blue-sea– with a gun at our heads, jump and swim or die.  Most of us will take our chances with the sharks as opposed to the bullet.

Now the anti-tax neo-Boston Tea-Bag folks are brewing a rebellion that is exclaiming the socialists are coming!  Now I’m not sure who is really behind this group of tea-toting rebels but socialism this is not.  

For the last 35 years we have been sold on this Reagonomics concept of less government, less taxes and trickle-down economics equals prosperity for all. We have now seen the end result of such right-wing theories of deregulation of the financial markets promising the almost mythical belief that the “free market” with right itself. I have long been criticized for calling this wrong. Disaster is the word right next to crisis in understanding that what needs to be done to correct this Great Recession.  

The cure is to re-regulate the capital markets, tax the Wall Street bankers at 35 percent and to redistribute the earnings to the working class by way of reducing the taxes on their wages.  

For what we have seen over these last few decades is that while the rich have gotten way richer, just look at the million dollar compensation packages of the top CEOs, the working classes average wages (adjusted for inflation) have remained flat.  

This has happened while those who can’t hide their incomes bare an ever increasing burden of the civic debt.  This I assert is a robbery of the public’s pocket by the thieves who rob you with a ball-point pen rather than a six gun–even though today it is by a computer and deregulated legislation.

The best example of this kind of heist was the deregulation and subsequent robbery known as California energy crisis– Enron was the main culprit and the fact that they were ultimately prosecuted is of little solace since Ken Lay their CEO died before being convicted and sent to prison.  

Very little of the $30 billion in losses were ever recovered by the state as Enron went bankrupt before they could be sued.  This is the still unresolved problem with the California budget which no one wants to address. Even our former Govenator who rode in on the coat-tails of reform to cure the state of mismanagement.  

The odd footnote to this scandal is that after Enron’s collapse it was AIG that went in to purchase their derivatives trading group to expand into this unregulated market that has now gone bust. What do we have to do to avoid going through these things twice?

Didn’t anyone see this coming?  Yes they did. A decade before. Her name is Brooksley Born, Chair of the  Commodities Futures Trading Commission in 1997, and after suggesting that the government regulate this market she hardly was going to be reappointed by Bush Junior in 2001.  

In the end what America deserves and what justice demands is that we ultimately hold those accountable who have robbed our banks, pension funds and insurance plans the same as we would surely prosecute the common bank robber who passes the stick-up note to the teller.

And 15-20 years behind bars with financial restitution would not be too much to expect either.

Does the DOJ have a list of their top ten white-collar crooks that they can send me? Do you?

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News. More of Allen and other views and news at  randomlengthsnews.com where this column was first posted
) –cw

Tags: Medi-Care, tax fraud, Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, Enron, Great Depression, bank robbers, banks,
James Preston Allen

Vol 9 Issue 89
Pub: Nov 8, 2011