Currently reading Matt Taibbi’s book “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap” which is yet another important piece of writing from this US journalist and author. Basically he’s exploring why not a single banker went to jail or was personally fined in the wake of the sub-prime crisis, which is clearly the greatest financial scam in history. Governments openly refer to the large scale fraud that took place so there’s no grey area to all this. At its most blatant were the ratings agencies slapping AAA status on sub-prime mortgage packages which permitted conservative institutions like your pension fund or city council to drop your money into this toxic crap. This is loosely equivalent to turning the distance meter on a car back or falsifying a car’s papers to hide the fact it was written off in an accident. Except the devastation was on a grossly greater scale. If you think I overstate this then wait until you retire and find yourself eating cold beans while wrapped in a carpet in your damp bedsit. And as Taibbi quickly zooms in on the fact that the kind of guys carrying out dodgy car sales come from the other side of the tracks from the bankers.
White-collar crime is rife and rarely does anyone go to jail and in the case of the financial crisis rarely does anyone personally pay a fine. Yes the banks may settle out of court for billions, but that comes out of the banks pockets (which were lined by bailout money anyway). Now I had my own thoughts about all this which were along the lines of perhaps the ruling classes looking after their own and seeing the poor as somehow being subhuman. However although there may be an element of this, the picture Taibbi paints is more twisted and related to a game playing scenario: what are our chances of getting a conviction?
Do relatively low paid state prosecutors really want to go head to head against intelligent, ruthless, well connected people with unlimited access to the best legal services in the world? I mean when you are being measured and sometimes paid against your success rate is it not just easier to randomly pick up poor folk for any random misdemeanor? In the USA they say that if you can’t pay bail and you go in then you stay in. If you can pay bail and stay out then you stay out. Most people arrested (85%) can’t even pay the $1000 bail which means they go in and by the time the case is heard you’ve already been in the pokey longer than the sentence (time served) and not fighting is cheaper and quicker: you’ve already done the time.
A messed up world, folks, a messed up world. Why the poor don’t take up pitchforks and storm the bastille again I don’t know. Or maybe they’d never get the pitchfork home from the hardware store without being arrested for possible future crime. If you’ve never seen Minority Report then do so – it’s where we’re headed, except without the creepy clairvoyants: just arrest poor people randomly because they “fit the description”.