Submitted by: Editor
The Arrogance of Stolen Wealth
Forget the absurd dog and pony shows held on capitol hill - you know, the televised, overly long verbal inquiries presided over by incredulous politicians that are meant to shame shameless billionaires. Over the past year (and even before the banking moguls), we witnessed executives from the automotive, oil and tobacco industries attempt to explain financial shenanigans that created vast fortunes for a few and left millions with nary a penny in their pockets.
We have listened to Republicans defend "capitolism" at its very worst and watched as Democrats attempted to scold "children" so arrogant, so self-righteous that the full weight of the U.S. government is but a stink bug that can be brushed off their $5000 custom-tailored sleeves. What do the circus routines on Capitol Hill really accomplish? What have they accomplished? Nothing. Exactly nothing. All of the manufactured outrage in the world can't cover the stink of corruption in corporate America or the complicity infecting both sides of the political aisle. Politicians accept bribes, in the form of campaign contributions, to look the other way while corporate leaders devise brilliant and complicated business schemes that guarantee massive windfalls for a few at the extreme expense of the general public ... and none of it is "technically" illegal. Just look at Bill Nelson's motivation for blocking financial reform.
So, instead we get to listen to pseudo-sophist fall guys like Fabrice Tourre, the 31-year-old Frenchman who calls himself Fabulous Fab (and who deserves to be beaten to a fleshy pulp), explain why, as an employee of Goldman Sachs, he isn't ashamed of stealing billions from peasants. We get to listen to brilliant cosmic assholes, who also deserve to be beaten to a fleshy pulp, like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, exhale in the most excruciatingly pompous manner why his company is blameless for their deceptive and crooked Vegas-style schemes. We get to watch as hedge fund billionaires like John Paulson stand on the fringes of these scandals, chilled mojito in hand, just laughing all the way to an offshore Caribbean bank with his $4 billion dollar profit.
Is there anyone alive who does not believe that the Fabulous Mr. Tourre was NOT pulled aside by his superiors and told, "Listen Fab, you are indeed fabulous, but how would you feel about taking the fall for this derivatives mumbojumbo? We'll make sure you never have to work a day in your life ever again. Whaddaya say champ? How would you like a suitcase full of cash in exchange for a favor? Fabulous."
These schemes should make you very angry.
Anyone who has followed these and many, many, many similar corruption rackets, anyone who has watched a billionaire corporate bigwig get prosecuted for his outrageous schemes knows that they aren't afraid of being sent to prison. For them, a short stint in Club Fed is almost like a badge of honor among corporate honchos. It's almost as if they plan for the circumstance. Almost as if they expect the outcome. Sure, their arrogance usually obscures the eventuality of prison and they seem genuinely shocked when they finally get caught and held accountable for defrauding millions of people. But what is a six-month jail sentence and a paltry fine to someone who will walk away with billions after they "pay their dues to society"? Jail is a vacation that virtually guarantees they will be forgotten by the 24-hour news cycle.
Do they care if their reputations get tarnished? Would you care about your 'rep' if you knew that in six months you would be able to reenter your fabulous life having secreted away enough money to support a small country? I dare say you wouldn't give a damn.
Here's the rub. These men, the Blankfeins, Madoffs, Petters, Paulsons, and so very many more make massive sums of money by creating roulette schemes they can't lose by betting with your money. The yearly incomes of these men are so mind-numbingly staggering they defy all reasonable logic. Stolen money. There is no other way to explain how a few men can earn so much money legally. They devise schemes that take advantage of loop holes in our financial system to defraud investors "legally," then walk away smug in their self-righteous belief that their ability to game the system justifies their wealth.
Take them to court: What do they care? It's not like they can't afford to defend themselves with a dozen of the best sleazy attorneys money can buy. Put them in jail: So what? Bernie Madoff is one exception to the rule, but most of these white-collar crooks are fined a few million dollars and get slapped on this wrist with a 6-month jail sentence to be served in a prison akin to a summer camp for kids.
What difference does a paltry fine make to a man who earned $150 million in one calendar year? What difference does a short-term jail sentence make to a man who will simply walk back into a life of fabulous wealth the day he is released?
This brings to light the pattern mentioned previously. Every single crooked, corporate, thieving son-of-a-bitch who has been prosecuted and jailed, with few exceptions, has not only retained the vast majority of the wealth he stole but has become far wealthier after his release from prison. Nearly every one to a man is richer now than when he was actively stealing money as a CEO, executive, hedge fund manager, banker or politician.
- There is little doubt that Ruth Madoff conspired in her husband's scheme yet, to this day, she lives a life of fabulous wealth on roughly $90 million in "personal" funds that were not subject to penalties when Bernie was convicted.
- In April 2002, Alfred Taubman was sentenced to a year in prison and paid combined federal and civil fines of nearly $157.5 million for his role in a price-fixing scandal that rocked the international art world. He was given leniency because he was a philanthropist - revered for giving away huge sums of stolen money. Taubman was estimated to be worth $2 billion when he donned the stripes of a convicted felon. Upon his release, he walked right back into a life of absolute luxury. He used his ill-gotten gain to expand his strip mall empire and, as if this injustice wasn't enough to prove that life will always be tilted in favor of wealthy crooks, he was given a huge publishing advance to write his memoirs, which went on to become a national best-seller.
What is the solution? Jail time doesn't work and simply wastes valuable public funds. Fines don't work, because to a billionaire, a fine of multiple millions is simply pocket change.
The only solution that will prevent corporate crooks from stealing is confiscation. Every single dollar, every asset, every tie, every watch, every bobble, every paper clip these men own should be confiscated. Every penny should be taken from their bank accounts - and the bank accounts of their wives, mistresses, children, foundations, and piggy banks. Every dollar they paid themselves should be stripped from their family and used to pay down our national debt or invested in universal health care or our public school system.
These men deserve to be penniless, to live like squatters in a rat-infested, putrid, cardboard box. They deserve to be dirt poor for rest of their lives. The only way to make them repent, to burst their ego bubble, is to force them to watch as everything they own is taken from them and their families. They should be forced to watch as their fabulous lives are ripped from their grasp. They should watch as their wives give up their million-dollar fur coats and their children are drummed out of ivy league schools and off of polo teams. They should be banned from publishing books and memoirs and capitalizing on their criminal notoriety. They should be forced to eat at soup kitchens and dine with the people they helped put on the street.
Confiscation is the only way to "teach" a white-collar criminal a lesson they won't soon forget. And the only way to ensure that this trend will not continue with others simply following in their wake. The only thing these people are afraid of is being "poor."