“The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Matt Taibbi has written a very well researched book about the disparity of our justice system when dealing with the poor and helpless, versus dealings with the ultra wealthy (Big Finance).

Since 2008 not one person has been convicted of a crime for bilking taxpayers and investors out of billions of dollars.  This is largely the result of a paper written by Eric Holder long before he became Attorney General where he advocates considering the collateral consequences of prosecuting Financial fraud.

It may be Holder’s paper or it may be simply laziness, but a multitude of financial fraud cases have been settled by fine in civil court, paid by the corporation, rather than criminal prosecution of individuals for the crime of ‘fraud’.  In fact many in the law enforcement and political fields do not consider ‘fraud’ as a ‘crime’.  It is frequently considered simply a matter of business, i.e. making money.

Matt compares this treatment of the high and mighty to the treatment by law enforcement of the poor and helpless.  In these cases ‘fraud’ is almost an automatic crime and a large contributor to the massive increase in the incarcerated population.

Did you know that we have more convicts than Russia had in it’s gulags,  in fact we have the largest number of convicts in the history of the world.  There are more black prisoners today than there were black slaves in slavery’s heyday.

I was taken back by Matt’s use of illegal immigrants and welfare recipients to illustrate the plight of the poor and disadvantaged.  I have little sympathy for illegal immigrants and am prejudiced against welfare in general.

But as I listened to Matt’s examples I became appalled at the loss of dignity inflicted on these illegal immigrants and welfare recipients.  Even though I lack sympathy for illegal immigrants that does not mean that they should be treated so poorly.  The same is true of welfare recipients.

The simple fact is that we all see wrongdoing by illegal immigrants and welfare recipients as costing us, the taxpayer, directly.  We do not see financial fraud in the same light.  Instead of a direct cost we see financial fraud as a ‘victimless’ crime.

As a result criminals who bilk the public or investors out of billions of dollars are routinely let off with the corporation paying a fine.  A fine that is almost insignificant to that corporation.

At the same time welfare fraud is persecuted to the limit of the law.  A few hundred or thousand dollars may easily result in a significant period of incarceration.

There is nothing ‘fair’ about this difference in treatment.  The law becomes meaningless when it applied differently because of wealth or position.

The failure to criminally prosecute the individuals involved in the financial disaster simply assures us that the same or similar practices will occur in the future.

We haven’t solved the problem of the financial collapse, in fact we have almost certainly guaranteed that we will have more problems in the future.

Many of these individuals are in the 1%.  Those who are accumulating more and more of the wealth.  Failure to criminally prosecute tells these individuals that they should continue to add to their wealth, without regard to the legality of the methods used to acquire those gains.  It simply insures that the ‘divide’ or wealth gap will increase.

We, the people, are responsible.  We don’t scream about the disparity, in fact we tend to encourage it.  We don’t want illegal immigrants or welfare recipients ripping us off and we encourage law enforcement to do exactly what they are doing.  We also fail to see the ‘unfairness’ of ‘fines’ in place of criminal prosecution for ‘victimless crimes’.

The problem is that many of the ‘crimes’ committed by illegal immigrants and/or welfare recipients are ‘victimless’.  Why should they be treated differently?

Can we trust a government that allows laws to be enforced arbitrarily?  I don’t think so.

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