Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Rule of Law

In his post, Too Big to Jail,  Simon Johnson writes: Among the fundamental principles of any functioning justice system is the following: Don’t lie to a judge or falsify documents submitted to a court, or you will go to jail. Breaking an oath to tell the truth is perjury, and lying in official documents is both perjury and fraud.

My parents and I arrived in the US in 1949, from a German DP camp (displaced person camp). We entered the land of freedom via Ellis Island. I was almost 3 years old. We'd come from a country where secret police knock on your door in the middle of the night and take you to jail.  As students in Ukraine, both of my parents were political activists fighting to free Ukraine from Polish and then Soviet domination. My father spent 4 years in Polish prison and my mother was sentenced to death by a Soviet kangaroo court. She documented her experiences in Scratches on a Prison Wall published in 2009.

I grew up with an immigrant's belief in the goodness and justice of America. Over the years, that belief (ideology) has been eroding. The final nail in my ideological coffin has been America's response to it's own financial crisis of 2008.

In previous financial scandals there were prosecutions and convictions:
*In the savings & loan crisis of the late 1980's Charles Keating, among many others, spent time in jail.
*The Enron scandal of mid-2000 saw prosecutions & convictions
*Tyco CEO, Dennis Kozlowski, was convicted in 2005 and went to jail.

Yet today, after a crisis which nearly brought down the US and the rest of the global economy, there has been no real investigation of the crimes committed -- although it is obvious to any informed observer that there was perjury and fraud. The Rule of Law applies to "regular people" who make up our ever growing prison population, but obviously, not to those in power. Three plus years after the crisis, there have been no real investigations. The people who created the crisis are still at their jobs and are working hard to undercut the flimsy regulations Congress barely managed to pass.

The Banks which were Too Big to Fail and were bailed out with trillions of taxpayer funds have become even bigger. The CEO's and upper management continue to collect their bonuses funded by taxpayers. And, as Simon Johnson writes they are also now Too Big To Jail.

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