George Graham

Too Big to Jail? It Sure Seems So!

Joe the bug man likes to debate political issues with Sandra and me. He is one of those folks who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and simply can’t understand why everybody else can’t do the same. So you can imagine that we don’t see the world through the same pair of eyeglasses.

But Joe said something yesterday that resonated with me, and it’s still resonating.

He was repeating some statistics he had heard on talk radio, and the figures would give anyone pause. The bottom line is that more people are living off government support than are paying into it. Yes, you’ve heard it before. It’s the takers vs. the makers – the Battle Hymn of the Republicans.

Of course the figures are skewed, including as they do such programs as Social Security, which is not welfare at all but an annuity that we codgers bought when we were working, except it’s from the government instead of a financial company like Prudential.

I made that point and went on to suggest the talk radio big mouths were yelling their heads off about welfare fraud to distract people like Joe from the real scandal – the heist of trillions of dollars by big banks and other corporate looters, aided and abetted by the politicians.

Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, sprang to mind. I pointed out that Scott’s health care company had defrauded Medicare of so many billions that he paid a $1.2 billion fine to settle the case.

“If it were me I would’ve gone to jail,” Joe said.

And that’s what stayed with me.

If you or I – or some homeless waif – steals a package of ham from the local supermarket, we are likely to end up behind bars. But the bankers and the other big shots rip off taxpayers for billions and when they get caught they pay a fine.

It seems we hear about these deals every day. Wall Street’s giants are running wild – and paying off the feds with peanuts.

Wall Street is not alone.

The headline in this morning’s paper ¬†screamed about Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s former outfit) admitting to criminally destroying files in the BP oil spill disaster and agreeing to a fine of $200,000. I would be laughing if I weren’t so distraught. Halliburton is one of the world’s most scandalous companies, with a history that suggests total disregard for such irrelevant things as laws. These guys have raked in trillions around the world, reaping billions from the Iraq misadventure for one thing.

To this corporate behemoth a $200,000 fine is like you or me dropping a quarter in a beggar’s tin cup. A quarter? Make that a penny.

If you or I obstructed justice by destroying evidence in a criminal case, we would rot in prison. So did somebody at Halliburton get hard time?

You must be kidding!

Click here for the Halliburton story.

 Click for more on big bank fraud.

Click here for some background.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com