Why the double-standard lack of accountability for the criminal actions of the financial firms of Wall Street has been a topic of concern of mine for quite some time. The recent story about the woman going to jail for food stamp fraud brings this issue to stark light, as bankers walk free after literally trillions of dollars of fraudulent gains from both criminal activity and unwarranted bailouts from the public treasury. David Sirota addresses this quite well with this piece on the abject criminal hypocrisy that this represents, and the underlying reasoning why justice is simply not being served by our so-called law enforcement agencies.
At the local level, the same governments that plead poverty when they’re asked to enforce their laws on financial fraud have somehow found plenty of resources to deploy their militarized police forces against Occupy protesters. At the federal level, it’s even more blatant. As we learned in a little-noticed Washington Post piece on Tuesday, the same Obama administration that has refused to spend political capital and federal monies to go after Wall Street is expending new resources to crack down on the supposedly rampant problem of food stamp “fraud.”
Tracking an individual example of this phenomenon, Matt Taibbi makes clear that it’s really difficult to overstate just how revealing this kind of thing is. Wall Street crooks who stole trillions of dollars are rewarded by the administration with additional trillions in bailouts. Meanwhile, those crooks - now-impoverished victims, so poor they are on food stamps, mind you - are being targeted by the same administration for criminal investigation for allegedly making a few extra bucks on recycling empty bottles.
Taken together, these microcosmic examples (and there are plenty of others) all illustrate an inconvenient truth: namely, that law enforcement decisions today are not being guided by resource questions or dispassionate analyses of priorities, they are being guided by political will.
In states, it’s not that governors and attorneys general (other than those in New York, Nevada and California) want to go after financial fraud but can’t; it’s that they don’t want to go after that fraud, and they do want to shut down anti-Wall Street demonstrations. Why? Because, in the words of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, they fear the demonstrations are “something that could easily catch on.”
Likewise at the federal level, it’s not that President Obama wants to pursue Wall Street crime. It’s that as the biggest recipient of Wall Street cash in American history, he is making deliberate decisions both to avoid prosecuting the financial sector, and to continue past policies that make prospective prosecutions more difficult than they need to be; all while playing to old “welfare queen” demagoguery with a new election-year effort to villainize food-stamp recipients.
In these decisions, we are being taught a lesson we should have learned from the instantaneous changes after 9/11. Before the terrorist attack, we were often told we were so broke, we had no money to address any national priority (other than massive tax cuts for the wealthy, of course). Immediately after the attack, however, we suddenly had unlimited resources to wage adventurist wars and finance the Military/Homeland Security/Police Complex. Of course, nothing about our budget situation changed; the only thing that changed back then was the whims of politicians.