By Richard Gilliam
The term “class warfare” has cropped up a lot lately. This mainly comes from corporatists and the ultra-wealthy when the subject of raising taxes is broached. I don’t like to pay taxes any more than the next man or woman, but they are a necessity if government is going to supply services to its citizens which they expect and require, but today I’d like to talk about class warfare in a different light. I’m talking about a double standard the non-wealthy experience when it comes to crime and punishment.
Our jails are over-filled with drug-users, alcohol-abusers, small-time robbers, burglars, swindlers, and murderers. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the rule of law. I believe that persons that commit crimes against others deserve to be separated from the rest of us if they cannot leave others unmolested and abide by society’s rules. You see, I’m hesitant to use the “p-word”–punishment–because I believe that except in the most egregious cases, rehabilitation rather than punishment benefits both the individual and society more equitably. But a couple of current events highlight the inequality of our current criminal-judicial system.
To date, the Justice Department has failed to prosecute even one crooked banker or stock market manipulator that perpetrated the investment and banking failures of AIG, Lehman Brothers, and others. Millions of hard-working Americans lost their homes to unscrupulous and predatory bankers, lenders, and their agents, prompting the biggest shift in wealth–from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy, since the Great Depression of the 1920′s and 30′s. Because of their irresponsible investment practices, several of the largest banks in the country precipitated their won demise and would have failed, but our elected officials saved them using taxpayer dollars. Yet the men and women that are supposed to represent us did not offer the same financial bail-out to the very same homeowner-taxpayers that the banks swindled.
It is these same corporatist politicos that have formulated policies and stripped regulations, enabling the corporate malfeasance that has devastated the middle class and has motivated tens of thousands of our citizens to take to the streets in protest. These politicians’ continued ignominy threatens ultimately to launch us into another civil war if systemic change does not occur.
Even the international community recognizes to what extent our government colludes with the ultra-wealthy. In light of the MF Global Failure, and the suspected misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funds under the watch of CDO Jon S. Corzine, a former New Jersey governor, one German banker said his constituents would pull their assets from American markets if any criminal activity was not prosecuted. He opined that our financial aretakers would be tantamount to “gangsters” if allowed to flout the law with impunity.
So what does this have to do with you and me? Well, you, the taxpayers, are paying to keep me locked away for years, when the cost of my crime was negligible to everybody except my victim. But unscrupulous, ultra-wealthy financial manipulators have cost us all billions of dollars in lost assets, lost homes, lost retirement savings and peace of mind. And not one of them has been held accountable for their actions. Ic all that true class warfare, and i hope you, the people of America, will speak out and compel the politicians to hold themselves and their cronies responsible just like I’ve ben held responsible for my transgressions.
Richard Gilliam is a writer currently serving time in a California prison.