The author makes good points regarding the lack of justice shown by the Justice Department and the President. We begin to get the feel for what went wrong and why the financial system has become bigger and more risky since the crisis began. She judges the justice system's weaknesses with fairness and candor. Her essay does not make us feel any less cheated but it shines new light in dark corners.
Our Morally Bankrupt Government, Justice Edition Part I: Enforcement Against Financial Meltdown Perpetrators
By Abigail Caplovitz Field - Reality Check
Perhaps the clearest window into a nation’s soul is its criminal justice system. Criminal law is legislated morality: certain acts are so vile, we exile the perpetrators to prison. But not every criminal. America will never have enough resources to catch and prosecute all criminals. As a result many guilty go free without ever being pursued, simply because the government decided spend its limited resources elsewhere. Looking at whom the government prosecutes, therefore, is an easy way to see law enforcers’ priorities in action.
Sadly, when it comes to the Financial Meltdown perpetrators, scrutiny reveals those priorities are deeply distorted. Our law enforcers chose to become the protection detail of our wealthy-beyond-dreaming-crooks-in-chief, while throwing the book at their guilty but less destructive subordinates.
Who should we be prosecuting? Well, there’s Dick Fuld of Lehman; James Cayne of Bear, Stearns; Joseph Cassano of AIGFP; Angelo Mozillo of Countrywide; and E. Stanley O’Neal of Merrill Lynch, just to name a few. There’s also all the bailed out top bankers still in power, such as Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and the meltdown era executives at the other biggest bailout recipients: Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley. And that’s not an exhaustive list.
As I lay out below, AG Holder and President Obama have abandoned the cherished American principle–the core democratic principle–of equality before the law. That’s a kind of moral corruption that strikes at the heart of our national identity. And as best I can tell–again, the evidence follows–this corruption flows from Treasury Department/Wall Street fear mongering and revolving door conflicts of interest.
Worst of all, our top law enforcers abandoned equality before the law precisely when our democracy desperately needs it. Our only defense against the growing tyranny of the 1%, the only means we have of policing the bounds of their power, is the vigorous and equal enforcement of the law.
The Buck Stops with Holder and Obama
A couple of housekeeping notes first: Many at Justice and in the FBI are ethical and moral people who try very hard to do right by the American people. So even though I use the word “Justice” as in Justice Department throughout, my critique does not apply to the people below the very top. Fundamentally only Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama are responsible our Department of Justice’s enforcement priorities.
Attorney General Holder runs the show, but President Obama gave him the job, and can fire him at any time. Holder’s enforcement priorities and strategies therefore must reflect Obama’s priorities. I realize that’s a very formal take, but it’s the only defensible one. I don’t care how much who knew about what, how decisions are or were in fact made, or any other framing or excusing of AG Holder & President Obama’s responsibility for our criminal justice priorities. In our democracy the only political control We, the People have on our national criminal enforcement priorities is our vote for President. And an incumbent President’s strongest advertisement of his enforcement priorities is his Attorney General and his record. The buck stops with them, period.
Another important caveat about this critique: I’m only looking at all things Financial Meltdown. In this part one, I’m looking at the prosecution of perpetrators, bankers and the companies they run. In part two I look at Justice’s defense of our legal system, of the rule of law itself. While Justice is responsible for many other topics–combating terrorism, for example–the Financial Meltdown devastated our economy, deranged our democracy and destroyed trillions of dollars of ordinary Americans’ wealth. So though I’m only grading one subject, it’s not a gotcha quiz. Nor does it say anything about Justice’s performance in those other areas.
Please read the rest of this fine essay here