Glorifying Greedy Bastards

So, yesterday saw Bernie Madoff plead guilty for his more than $60 billion fraud scheme. I didn’t see any of the footage, but Mrs. Blue tells me that it didn’t seem like ole Bernie thought he would enter his plea and go directly to jail. I guess he figured he’d get some time to settle up affairs, screw his wife and/or mistress one more time, and perhaps commit suicide or flee the country.

Judge decided that a 70-year-old rich guy was a potential flight risk and revoked bail, sending him directly to jail. Good call, because let’s face it, if  a guy named Leroy Jenkins had bilked a bunch of old ladies out of just $60,000 in money (much less $60 billion), he’d go straight to jail out of concern he might flee.

I haven’t yet seen anyone claim that Madoff’s treatment in this way was unfair, but I’m sure that somewhere out there is a commenter at a newspaper Web site or at some blog who has done that or will at some point. I’m sure there will be someone who in print or in conversation will say, “He’s an old guy who fucked up. Why throw the book at him like that?”

On the lesser end of the scale, I’ve have seen one person argue that he’s probably a victim of abuse as a child, and abused kids often grow up to be abusers, and he simply abused people’s money instead of their bodies. (Honestly, someone said that, as if we should blame some previous generation for Madoff’s personal misbehavior.) I’ve seen a person who blamed poor regulation, and actually claimed that Madoff wasn’t to blame for this gigantic Ponzi scheme, but rather the inept regulators—who by definition always will be incompetent because if they had any real skills they’d be in the private realm where they could make lots more money instead of being in civil service. (Yes, that argument really was put forth.)

So, you can see why I’m waiting for someone to say, “It was only a white collar crime. Why so harsh on him?”

Because even in this troubled economic climate, where our nation and perhaps our world hovers at the edge of a financial abyss, people still glorify the folks at the top. Even after letting them shit on us from up high for so long, we still want to be them. We envy them. We revere them.

And that’s why rich people who swindle us don’t earn our ire in the same way that a “Leroy Jenkins” at the street level would. They don’t get punishments that truly equal the scope and depth of their crimes. If you’re simply a thief or a hustler, you’re scum. But if you’re white collar, you just let yourself go a little too far and really, no one gets hurt in the long run because everything will correct itself. Deal drugs and you’re killing people and should be treated accordingly. Run off with their investments, thereby driving some to kill themselves and some to die early from stress or lack of money to take care of themselves (while also ruining the lives of their families), and somehow you’re not a killer or a destroyer. You’re simply a little too greedy.

You even get to have neat little terms attached to what you did, like “Ponzi scheme.”

Instead of just saying you were an evil, selfish prick of a crook who ruined lives on a scale that no mere street-level hustler could ever hope to match.

12 thoughts on “Glorifying Greedy Bastards

  1. temple

    I laughed my butt off while reading this. Because it’s so TRUE that you have to either laugh or cry. And the really sad part is that even seeing the truth in black and white people will still choose denial.

  2. Deacon Blue

    Yeah, I try to choose laughing whenever I can, even if the laughter is a bit bitter at times.

    Saves on the Kleenex tissues. 😉

  3. Aro

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that all the rest of us are exactly as enamored with rich people as you are. I don’t think your insight is quite that unique.

    White collar crimes should be punished even worse than blue collar crimes, be cause they typically cost society so much more. This guy just blew $60 billion dollars worth of hourly wages, sweat, ingenuity, and fiscal responsibility. Think of all the work that went into that!

    Frankly, this guy should be strung up by his balls and flogged until until he can’t scream anymore. I’d watch that on Pay per View.

    But it won’t happen. This guy is probably going to Club Fed, and why? Because he’s got money and good lawyers, that’s why.

    So I don’t think you’re hitting on the right thing here. It’s not that America loves rich people. It’s that white collar crimes don’t have a chalk outline on the floor, and the legal system is sometimes retarded when it comes to justice, especially when money is involved.

  4. Deacon Blue

    But that WAS my point, sans the decription of particularly brutal forms of punishment.

    I’m not that enamored of the rich, frankly. I’m using the royal “we” here, as it’s a general failing that we follow the rich and watch what they do. I’d rather see Battlestar Galactica or Big Love or something.

    I think it should be clear that my implication here is that white collar crime should be punished FAR more harshly.

    As to whether or not my insight is that unique…never said it was. Just happened to be what was on my mind at the time.

    But it’s not just a flawed system of justice here…it is the general societal attitude that somehow, a scam of this magnitude is less harmful than a more street level or blue collar crime. I hear outrage out there, but it’s still fall short of where it should be for crimes of this scale. The fact is that by and large, Americans let their politicians and their businesspeople get away with murder and really aren’t that shocked or appalled at what they do.

    As the economy sinks farther into the toilet, that may change, and someone may start rolling out the guillotines…but we ain’t there yet.

    We’re still mostly giving these kinds of guys a pass, and so the justice system mostly does too.

  5. Aro

    I added you to my blogroll because you and I are stunningly alike… aside from the cussing and all in public forum. Good stuff.

  6. Deacon Blue

    Do you mean you’ve added me to your personal favorites or that you have a blog and you added me to that blogroll there? Because if it’s the latter, you might want to share the link to your blog.

    In any case, glad to be on your list and hope I can keep your interest.

  7. Aro

    My interest is kept. I’ve read a few things here before, but never commented. You can find my blog at

  8. Deacon Blue

    I’ll definitely check it out. Time to update and modestly adjust my blogrolls soon anyway, so I need to scope out some new ones…ought to make sure I give a fair chance to those of my readers. :-)

  9. Seda

    You’re absolutely right that these crimes are not taken anywhere near serious enough. One of the big flaws in our “justice system” is that the one who can buy the best lawyer generally wins. We need to change from a system of “get the client off the hook at any cost/convict the defendant no matter what” to “find justice.” I don’t see it happening. Way too much money for the lawyers as it is now. So Leroy will continue to get five years for bilking someone of $60,000, while Bernie and Kenny get two or three years for bilking billions.

    The punishment is nowhere near proportional to the crime.

    If it were, can you imagine what Cheney would get?

    Things like that almost make me wish there really were a hell. But not quite. :-)

  10. Deacon Blue

    Cheney cannot be prosecuted, as the laws don’t adequately cover the prosecution of amoral, death-dealing androids built using alien technology.

  11. John Scott Dot Net

    I think Madoff may be a bad example. From rich to poor to – pretty much nobody – wants Madoff to get off easy.

    He stole from a bunch of white collar conservatives (and in some cases regular blue collar workers, retirees, and widows) who in some cased worked all their lives for the money they invested with Madoff. Another commenter called “Aro” said:

    “This guy just blew $60 billion dollars worth of hourly wages, sweat, ingenuity, and fiscal responsibility. Think of all the work that went into that!”

    I think the majority of Americans would like to see Madoff in a “pound you in the ass” prison for what he did. Unlike, perhaps, Winona Ryder who didn’t go to jail for shoplifting thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, or unlike O.J. Simpson, who somehow didn’t get convicted of murder.

    I think you could be wrong about where Madoff ends up. Since he lost so much of other people’s money, his assets are being confiscated. There will be none of his money left to pay for a hotel-style prison.

    And he *is* 70. Wherever he goes, he won’t last long.

  12. Deacon Blue

    In many ways, you may be right that I picked a bad example. But still, even if no one is vociferously defending him, there is still a lack of the kind of outrage we’d see over a lot of criminals. I mean, this is a scale of damage that should evoke anger on the level of someone going into a home and gang-raping the whole family before torturing them to death. What Madoff didn’t wasn’t just something that hurt rich people. The effects of what he did trickle down to tiny non-profits who are closing their doors to people who need help because the foundations and such that used to fund them are now unable to support as many causes.

    I really don’t think he’ll get country club treatment. But I also don’t think he’s going to be hated in the short run or long run anywhere near as much as someone who wasn’t in the upper echelons, and I somehow doubt he’ll be in a position to have to deal with “dropping the soap in the shower”…though you never know…


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