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|July 9 - July, 15 2009
Back to Letters
Madoff is not the problem
by Jim Hightower
Well, they sure nailed Bernie Madoff, didn’t they?
The 71-year-old Ponzi schemer was sentenced to 65 years in the federal pokey for fraud, 50 years for money laundering, 20 years for filing false reports, and 5 years each for false statements, perjury and theft. He’ll be 221 years old when he gets out.
Madoff was a crook on an almost-unimaginable scale, having run the largest, longest, most widespread Ponzi scheme in history. He bilked some $80 billion from tens of thousands of victims. His fraud wiped out the life savings of hundreds of small investors.
Meanwhile, he was living the high life of Wall Street elites, including owning a $7 million New York penthouse, yachts and a French villa.
So Bernie’s gone, and that’s that. Only, it isn’t. Madoff was not just some rogue financial slick who worked the dark corners of the system. He was the penultimate system insider who brazenly committed his gigantic fraud in broad daylight. Wall Street’s other barons lionized his acumen and Washington officials not only saluted his integrity, but actually sought out his advice on relaxing regulatory policies. He is the product of an era of financial excess and laissez-faire foolishness. He didn’t scam the system — the system is a scam, and he merely rode it further than most.
Putting Bernie away for a century-and-a-half (a sentence three times longer than even the prosecutors sought) takes care of him, but not the system. The phony swirl of Wall Street’s swaps and derivatives, the job-busting deals of hedge funds, the government’s weak and meek regulatory structure, and the culture of excess that allowed Madoff to flourish — all of this continues.
It’s not the occasional outlaw that’s the problem, but the in-laws — those who rig the system for their gain, at our expense.
Instead of thrusting safety instructions at us, how about just putting safe ingredients in the pies?
For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown — visit www.jimhightower.com.
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