How many people went to jail for causing the 2008 economic collapse of not just the United States, but the entire global economy?
I thought the answer was zero, it turns out I was wrong. The answer is one, one person from Wall Street went to jail post 2008.
It’s not just an income inequality gap that exists and is expanding in America, there is also a judicial inequality gap. Since I’m white I’ve only noticed this recently. If I was a minority I would have likely not just written about the disparity, but would have been arrested and put in jail already.
In America, white-collar criminal really is a double entendre. One for the type of crime, a second for the race of the criminal.
Though maybe it is time to update the image and the term. Something more appropriate would be green collar crime. Though the fact that almost all of the white-collar corporate CEO’s were/are white; it is the quantity of dead presidents in their offshore bank account that is the blade to their prison term skate.
What does it say about us as a society that we allow this kind of disparity to justice to become the norm? Is the damage caused by the architects of the ’08 collapse greater than, equal to, or less than the robbery of a single person? How about the rape of a single person? The murder of a single person? Selling drugs to a single person?
I’m not pretending to have an answer here. I am certainly not standing on a pedestal.
Was the damage caused by World Com and Enron akin to a serial robber? A serial killer? A serial rapist? A drug kingpin? How do we measure the collateral damage? Is the death by stabbing of a man in his early twenties different from a retiree who finds out they have lost all of their money in a Ponzi scheme and is destitute without the physical ability to earn for the rest of their life?
What about the people who kill themselves due to an economic depression? What if they have spouses and children? Is their loss, pain, and suffering different from a woman who gets robbed and raped at gun point walking home from the train station?
When entire neighborhoods and towns are put into foreclosure. Hundreds, thousands, millions without work, shelter, food, water, or hope for the future…are the people responsible for causing so much human tragedy somehow less evil, deserving less scorn, and less judicial prosecution than a teenager who runs over a kid while texting and driving? What about drinking and driving?
When blood is spilled, lives taken, innocence stolen in violent crimes we as a society hunt down the criminals, lock them up, throw away the key, and turn the other cheek while they are habitually raped in prison. Victims of violent crimes and their families are forever changed, unable to ever fill the hole created by an evil person that took something that can never be given back.
But is that psychological damage not shared by victims of massive financial crimes against society like in 2008? When we aren’t talking about a single person losing a job or life’s savings but a large percentage of the global population. Are the strains placed on society not akin to that placed on the immediate friends and families of violent crimes?
If not, can we at least as a society agree that we should lock up hedge fund managers, investment bankers, and Ponzi schemers that cause global recessions and depressions as strictly and regularly as we lock up drug dealers and users?