Judging by my in-box,
there seem to be no shortage of organizations and individuals obsessed
with an image: Dick Cheney and George Bush in prison, and Karl Rove
in the next cell. Never mind that Congress doesn't have the guts or
the President, or the gumption to go after those responsible for the gutting
of the Constitution. Nevertheless, there are many campaigns and calls
to hold the last administration accountable for its crimes.
At the same time, as
we watch an economy in free fall, there seems to be a lot less agitation
for a serious investigation of those responsible for this collapse.
Even as you overhear conversations in every bar and union hall that
begin with "those bastards should be in jail," few progressives
are leading the charge to demand a Jail-Out alongside those stimulus
bailouts. It's as if economic crimes provoke a ho-hum reaction among
Oddly, some corporate
media are more sensitive to the seething, mass public outrage.
TIME did a piece on the 25
individuals responsible for the crisis
including politicians and CEOs. They ran a photo spread with their images
against the background of police line-up. CNN profiled corporate criminals,
Most Wanted: Culprits of the Collapse ."
CNBC is running a series on " American
Greed " -- mostly of small
time con men.
Daily , an independent analysis
company, identified key corporate figures as " The Architects of Destruction ," suggesting that actions by key industry
leaders resulted in the economy's collapse.
Of course, the Madoff
case stays in the news even as he stays in his fancy apartment. The
investigators have now determined that he never made any trades with
the money investors trusted him with.
Tom Lindmark seemed shocked
to hear this on the Seeking Alpha financial blog:
now turns out that Mr. Madoff may not have traded any securities for
the past thirteen years. You heard that right. The guy just ran his
Ponzi scheme. No extra complications. All of which begs the question
of what were his employees doing? Did they just show up, surf the Internet
and text friends for all those years?
this easy to get away with things, evade arrest and live the good life,
why are all of us walking on the right side of the line? Who are the
is a deeper problem, however. How did he get away with it? Lawyer John
Coffee of the Columbia Law School addressed that question in a recent
"I think our regulatory system failed and failed
badly over basically the last six or seven years in failing to spot
a Mr. Madoff. Although, in fairness, Mr. Madoff has been a crook
for almost 20 or 25 years and we can't just pick on the last couple
of years there. But I think that the regulatory system allowed
these offerings when there was evidence that lending standards were
being relaxed at the mortgage loan originator stage, when the underwriting
standards were being relaxed and in which credit rating agencies were
becoming so conflicted that the really sophisticated person no longer
believes their ratings."
new crime stores came to light this past week.
a mere 8-billion-dollar fraudster, who we were told was arrested, but
there's evidence that as many as 52,000
Americans dodged taxes
with secret accounts in the Swiss bank UBS, which was also deeply invested
in worthless subprime securities.
Friday, the NY Times reported the arrest of mortgage scammers who recruited
prisoners to apply for subprime loans, a $10 million rip-off. They were
busted by the DA's office in Manhattan.
Rich, once again, asks THE question: "Americans
are right to wonder why there has been scant punishment for the management
and boards of bailed-out banks that recklessly sliced and diced all
this debt into worthless gambling chips."
Who in Washington is
even talking about this? Who is going to prosecute these serial offenders
and other new cases popping up every day? The FBI told Congress it is
investigating 500 white collar crime cases, 39 connected with the financial
crisis. Earlier, they said they were looking into 27 companies.
At the same time, they
admitted that a large number of their trained corporate crime investigators
had been reassigned after 9/11. Many had been ordered to chase terrorists
even after the FBI and CIA, which had knowledge of Al Qaeda pilots in
the country, failed to stop them.
Take a look at what's
happening now with financial institutions, known as "Zombie banks"
that everyone realizes are insolvent. No wonder there are increasing
calls for nationalizing them -- to save the system. Two members of our
feared Republican Guard, Alan "Maestro" Greenspan and Senator Lindsay
Graham (along with Democrats Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer) have said
it might not be a bad idea. That same notion, so far scotched by the
Obama Administration, drove the markets to new lows.
The Wall Street Journal
reported: "The White House, meanwhile, reiterated that it 'continues
to strongly believe that the privately held banking system is the correct
way to go.' Of course, this may just be a rhetorical ploy, since
publicly admitting it was considering nationalization would depress
stocks even further."
Some on the left are
quietly launching pro-nationalization on-line petitions while the Right
is fighting loudly with anti-Obama TV ads appropriating words like "fiscal
responsibility" and "accountability" and organizing vigils in
the streets with placards against the stimulus. They are ridiculing
Obama as a "savior" and the "Messiah" while carrying signs like
"Stimulate the Economy, Give Me a Tummy Tuck." They are playing
down and dirty with protest techniques once exclusive to activists while
those of us who realize more radical measures are needed are, once again,
mostly on the sidelines.
The right has found a
new Joe the Plumber-like loudmouth demagogue in CNBC's Rick Santelli
whose rants were challenged by the White House.
That attention is likely
to encourage him more and make him a martyr if the network shuts off
his mike. (Controversies like this are great for ratings.) But bear
in mind, he and so many others blame "irresponsible borrowers" without
ever mentioning the words "mortgage scam" or "predatory lending."
So, Obama, the centrist,
is under attack by the Right with progressives mostly passive even as
the public demands action against corporate criminals and their enablers.
(Yes, that cartoon in the NY Post was offensive, but is that what angry
activists should be focusing on?)