Friday, January 17, 2014

Welcome to Kleptocracy
                                 Linked: Obama chauffeurs UBS banker Robert Wolf has become increasingly clear that no prominent banker would be prosecuted for fraud in the run-up to the financial crisis.

    With the exception of the unfortunate William Henry Harrison, every president has left his mark on history. So far, Barack Obama’s distinction is turning these United States from a plutocracy into a kleptocracy.
    While he’s avid about detaining, disappearing and droning whistle blowers, and even terrorists, he remains well disposed to the perpetrators of the biggest financial crimes in history. Rather than prosecuting them, he prefers golfing with them.
     Of course, there’s nothing new about the rich getting away with almost everything. But up until Obama that ‘almost’ consisted of some felonious financiers actually getting their comeuppance. In the Great Depression, Richard Whitney, head of the New York Stock Exchange, did three years in the clink. In the big savings and loan scandal in the 80’s, 700 banks went belly up and over a thousand bankers were prosecuted. Bernie Madoff, if you recall, was arrested when Bush was still in the White House. He paid dearly for his scams because he robbed a lot of rich people. And that's not allowed in capitalist America.

      But cheating the unrich has become a flagrant business under Obama. Typically, the media reported that Bank of America and its peers openly hired  people at $10 bucks an hour to forge mortgage documents. Usury, a crime in the Bible but no longer in America, has become ubiquitous.
     Though the wealthiest banksters are obviously immune from criminal prosecution no matter the nature of their crimes, their corporations have been obliged to share a small part of their swag with Uncle Sam. There are loads of lawyers at the Justice Department busily negotiating fines with the culpables. They often announce big numbers, like the $13 billion JP Morgan Chase is supposed to pony up for its predations. Little noted is that many of the penalties are tax deductible or, that after cases quiet down, the Feds reduce or forgive the fines. So the bad guys are sometimes slightly discomfited, but not enough to bother business as usual. That's why their share prices keep rising despite the penalties.
      Not surprisingly, we have been treated to a spate of stories recently about how well Wall Street has weathered all the wrist slaps Obama has laid on them. Below are two recent headlines with their links that tell us that we indeed live in a kleptocracy

Steep Penalties Taken in Stride 

By JPMorgan Chase  

Bank of America Fourth-quarter Profit Rises
As Bank Shakes Off Financial Crisis

     I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that if you commit crimes, the punishment ought to abash you a bit and discourage you from committing others in the future. Crime should not make you richer, fatter and happier--unless, of course, you live in Obamaland.