The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful” by Glenn Greenwald from Chapter 3 on page 150 and I quote: “As a trivial but telling example of this new indifference, consider that in August 2009—just after Goldman’s “blowout” profits had been announced, with the vast bulk of the country beset by unemployment, foreclosure, and other forms of economic suffering—the New York Post reported that Laura Blankfein, the wife of Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and her friend Susan Friedman, the spouse of another Goldman partner, had created an ugly public scene at a Hamptons fund-raiser, yelling in protest because they were forced to wait in line with lesser donors:
“Their behavior was obnoxious. They were screaming,” said one witness. Blankfein said she wouldn’t wait with “people who spend less money than me.”
Another observer said the women were so impatient, it was as if they were waiting in line for a kidney transplant instead of a charitable designer clothing sale.
Friedman shouted at the event organizer, “You have lost so much money because of this. . . .Why should we be treated like the $650 donors?”
Sources said Blankfein and Friedman had bought tables with blocks of tickets going for $833 apiece, as did many of the women who were waiting patiently in line, happy to raise $3.4 million for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.”
When today’s financial elites do make gestures to appease the public, they are often so halfhearted and miserly that they achieve the opposite effect. The miniscandal caused by Blankfein and Friedman followed closely on the heels of a memo from Goldman’s CEO requesting that Goldman executives temporarily refrain from public displays of opulence until public outrage at the firm died down. When leaked, that memo generated even more anger.
In September 2009, by way of responding to increasing outrage over its shocking profits so soon after the taxpayers rescued it, Goldman announced that it was putting $200 million into a charitable foundation aimed at supporting educational initiatives around the world. As virtually every press report noted, though, given the size of Goldman’s quarterly profits, that was a ridiculously small amount to trumpet. Clearly, Goldman’s executives were confident that their ownership of the government insulates them from any real accountability, and they simply perceived no need to give away a larger amount of money to satisfy the public. Public rage today is impotent; it has no mechanism to produce consequences.
By contrast, the commitment to equality under the law was so strong in the early twentieth century that criminal investigations proceeded even when there was a handy excuse to sweep the lawbreaking under a rug. Consider, for example, the famous Teapot Dome scandal. In 1922, a little over a decade after Theodore Roosevelt left office, President Warren Harding’s secretary of the interior, Albert B. Fall, leased the U.S. Navy’s petroleum reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and other locations to Sinclair Oil without soliciting any competitive bids. In return, Fall received at least $100,000 in gifts disguised as interest-free “loans.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on this lease using information leaked from a source within the Interior Department. The very next day, Democratic senator John Kendrick introduced a resolution to investigate the matter. Initially skeptical but troubled by the allegations, the legendary Republican senator “Fighting “ Bob La Follette arranged for a thorough investigation and even allowed a member of the opposition party, Democrat Thomas Walsh, to chair the panel.
Just as the investigation began to intensify, in the summer of 1923, Harding died in office. This is the point where most modern Beltway insiders would expect any inquiry into the Harding administration to quietly go away. After all, what is the point of obsessing over the past? But rather than simply moving on, Harding’s successor, Calvin Coolidge, continued to pay attention to what had transpired and eventually appointed a special counsel to prosecute the wrongdoing uncovered by Walsh’s investigation. Coolidge justified this as being necessary under the rule of law: “I feel the public is entitled to know that in the conduct of such action no one is shielded for any party, political or other reason.”
By 1929, Fall became the first cabinet official to go to prison. Almost overnight, Harding was posthumously transformed from a popular president into a national disgrace, all through the efforts of his own party. (No wonder that, shortly before he died, Harding had reportedly remarked: “I have trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!”) Compare this to today, when a Democratic president, the supposed opponent of the Republican party, refuses to investigate and prosecute pervasive wrongdoing that occurred under his Republican predecessor, invoking instead the absurd principle of look-forward-not-back.
In 1922, a single no-bid kickback contract retroactively destroyed an administration’s reputation. In the twenty-first century, this sort of brazen corruption is not even a blip on the radar. Instead, far more systematic and devastating criminality is protected—most aggressively by the very people charged with punishing it.
In June 2010, this decline was aptly summarized in a USA Today op-ed by the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. The article’s headline poignantly asked, “Do laws Even Matter Today?” enumerating the countless scandals of elite lawlessness that have gone entirely unpunished and even uninvestigated over the last decade, Professor Turley wrote:
“A legal system cannot demand the faith and fealty of the governed when rules are seen as arbitrary and deceptive. Our leaders have led us not to an economic crisis or an immigration crisis or an environmental crisis or a civil liberties crisis.
They have led us to a crisis of faith where citizens no longer believe that laws have any determinant meaning. It is politics, not the law, that appears to drive outcomes—a self-destructive trend for a nation supposedly defined by the rule of law.”
What we have allowed to take root is the living, breathing embodiment of lawlessness. It is a full-scale rejection of what Jefferson, in his letter to George Washington, described as “the foundation on which all [constitutions] are built”: “the denial of every preeminence.” Through their ownership of political and legal institutions, corporations and banks have secured not only virtually absolute immunity from the dictates and accountability of law, but also the power to shape new legislation as a tool to advance their interests. This rancid state of affairs is everything the founders had most urgently wanted to avoid, and is exactly the dynamic that even the most sober legal theorists have described for centuries as the hallmark of lawlessness and tyranny.”
(IF THE CONSTITUTION, AS IT WAS WRITTEN, WAS TO PRESERVE THE ORDER OF LAW, WHAT WE’RE GETTING TODAY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FIRST TERM IS LAWLESSNESS BECAUSE, WHILE PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS DONE A BETTER JOB THAT WHAT PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH DID, ALONG WITH HELP FROM HIS VICE PRESIDENT, DICK CHENEY, ON HIS INVADING OF IRAQ, ONLY LATER TO FIND OUT THEY DIDN’T HAVE ANY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WERE KILLED THOUGH AND HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY WAS SPENT TO TRY TO RESERECT THE DAMAGE WE HAD CAUSED. EVEN TODAY, WE HAVE THE ROLE THE CIA PLAYED IN BENGHAZI, LIBYA AND IF THEY ARE DOING A GOOD OR BAD JOB OF RUNNING THEIR ORGANIZATION. SOME AGENTS, SUCH AS VALERIE PLAME, COUDN’T FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION IN IRAQ. NEVERTHELESS, SCOOTER LIBBY HAD TO DISCLOSE HER NAME AND ENDANGER HER LIFE BECAUSE, UP TO THAT POINT, NO ONE KNEW SHE WAS AN UNDERCOVER AGENT. SCOOTER LIBBY DID GET CONVICTED FOR HIS LIES BUT DIDNT’ SPEND ANY TIME IN JAIL, CREATING THE IMAGE OF-–DOES OUR SYSTEM HAVE ANY JUSTICE? IF YOU’RE IN A POSITION OF BEING A CORRUPT POLITICIAN OR A CORRUPT BANKER, YOU DON’T ALWAYS GO TO JAIL WHEN YOU PROBALBY SHOULD. THEIR IMAGES HAVE TO BE PROTECTED. THE PROBLEM IS—THE CROOKS GET JUST THAT MUCH MORE BOLD OR DARING. JUST TAKE THE FIVE BIGGEST INVESTMENT BANKS, WHO CONTROL 95 PERCENT OF THE GROWING DERIVATIVES MARKET AND HOW THEY ARE PROTECTING ANY SORT OF INVESTIGAITON, CONCENING THEIR VALUE OR REGULATION. WHAT SORT OF IMAGE DOES THAT LEAVE HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY AND VENTURE CAPITALISTS, WHO ARE EXPORTING JOBS TO THE CHEAPEST LABOR MARKET THEY CAN, SUCH AS TO BANGLADESH, WHERE GARMENTS ARE BEING MADE BY WORKERS EARNING ONLY 18 CENTS AN HOUR AND THE BUILDING COLLAPSED AND OVER 1,000 PEOPLE DIED. YOU WOULD THINK THIS WOULD END SUCH PRACTICES BY COMPANIES SUCH AS WALMART, WHO IS INVOLVED IN THE GARMENT TRADE WHERE THE WORKERS WERE ORDERED INTO THE BUILDING WHEN IT WAS ABOUT TO COLLAPSE. EVEN THE POLICE TOLD THEM TO STAY OUT BUT THE MANAGERS TOLD THEM TO GO IN, PROVING THEY HAVE MORE POWER THAN THE LAW ITSELF. IT REALLY IS TIME FOR A CHANGE.
LaVern Isely, Overtaxed Independent Middle Class Taxpayer & Public Citizen & AARP Members