Edwin Edwards, the flauntingly corrupt former governor of Louisiana, once bragged that “the only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” He won the election and even spoke to a convention of investigative reporters, many of whom had been documenting his misdeeds for years, that I attended in San Antonio in the mid-1980s. The feds eventually got him and sent him to the hoosegow.
Ol’ Edwin should have been a well-connected investment banker. Goldman Sachs, the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money,” has been cleared of wrongdoing for its role in bringing on the greatest financial catastrophe since the Great Depression.
If President Obama thinks forcing the Securities and Exchange Commission to back off will improve his campaign funding, he’s as naive as a Goldman muppet. According to Bloomberg, Goldman, which gave lavishly to him in 2008, has reversed course along with the rest of Wall Street and is backing wealthy Republican Willard Milton “Mitt” Romney. So has GE, which Mr. Obama has bootlicked so obsessively.
Goldman’s wrongdoing and sleaze have been tirelessly documented (see here and here and here and here — for starters). But if the local-yokel financial gangsta wanna-bes that wrecked Washington Mutual got away with it, what should we expect for the godfathers of Wall Street’s fraud and grifting?
We will be lectured about the difficulty of successfully prosecuting white-collar crime. But the laws never seem to be written or tightened to make such prosecution possible. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any nation on earth, even has a thriving for-profit “prison industry.” But those inmates don’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and investing in candidates who will game the system to their advantage. When that dynamic nearly brought on a second Great Depression in 2008, one might have thought that our “leaders” would have learned something. But, as Upton Sinclair noted, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
So they got away with it, completely, definitively. One party is bought off and clueless. The other is bought off and fanatical for even less policing of the depredations of the plutocrats. Nothing less than the rule of law has been destroyed by our elected leaders, a good many of our opinion leaders and a nation where too many would rather obsess over Lindsay Lohan and reality television than read a daily newspaper. This is sowing a storm for someday and God help us when it hits.
This Week’s Links:
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Just ‘doing God’s work’
Except the ‘thou shalt not steal’
Next, plagues and locusts