February 14, 2011

Making the victim pay for the crime

Sam Smith

Add Obama's budget to numerous actions at the state and local level and one thing is clear about the current fiscal crisis: the victim is going to be made to pay for the crime and most of the perps will either get off free or actually come out ahead.

The media and pols are treating the crisis as though it were just another economic catastrophe, sort of like a hurricane or tornado. It is nothing of the sort.

It is the result of deliberate, reckless and wanton actions by those whose control over the economy vastly outstrips the aggregate power of ordinary citizens. And it is the result of deliberate, reckless and wanton actions by those whose control over the economy has substantially increased thanks to the deliberate undermining of legal protections designed to protect ordinary citizens, such as the bipartisan repeal (with Bill Clinton's happy signature) of the 66 year-old Glass-Stegel Act, an early step in recovering from the Great Depression.

Yet, while 50 state attorneys general - 43 of them elected by the people - have joined in an investigation of the subprime scandal (in no small part the result of the Glass-Stegel repeal), the main thing we have heard from the federal attorney general, Eric Holder, is a vague promise to look into the matter.

Aside from the fact that this strengthens the argument for an elected federal attorney general, it illustrates how indifferent the Obamites are to dealing with obvious criminal and civil offenses that have been committed in the guise of a "free market economy" by bankers and others.

One could, for example, argue that the RICO conspiracy laws should be used as forcefully against Wall Street as they are against drug dealers. Or consider this definition of the felony known as reckless endangerment: "A person commits the crime of reckless endangerment if the person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. Reckless conduct is conduct that exhibits a culpable disregard of foreseeable consequences to others from the act or omission involved. The accused need not intentionally cause a resulting harm or know that his conduct is substantially certain to cause that result. The ultimate question is whether, under all the circumstances, the accused’s conduct was of that heedless nature that made it actually or imminently dangerous to the rights or safety of others."

But nothing like this is about to happen in our corporatist Congress and White House. Instead, according to Obama's plan, heating assistance for the poor will be cut by fifty percent, the community development of poorer communities will be slashed, Pell grants will be cut, cleaning up the Great Lakes shoved to the back of the line and so forth.

In other words, the ordinary citizen - the victim of a major bipartisan fiscal felony - is going to have to pay still more while those responsible for the offense escape and/or find new ways to profit upon it.

In other words, the crime continues and gets worse.

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