Today, we’re going to look for the Obama legacy in how the federal government treats those who steal from the public or from the poor.
The current bankster scam in the news right now is Wells Fargo, whose bosses deliberately incentivized thousands of $12 an hour employees to buckle down and sell connected financial services to customers who did not need or want them in order to keep their jobs or be eligible for promotion.
For the record, Wells Fargo is not the only bank to do this. It’s been a standard kind of corrupt bankster move all over the world for decades. Wells Fargo made billions doing it this time alone.
So how do scamming banksters get handled in the age of Obama, and is it any different from what came before?
The answer is that a thousand or two bank workers will be disciplined or fired. For a small fine, a mere fraction of what its executives stole, Wells Fargo got the Obama Justice Department to co-sign on their professed innocence of any crime and to guarantee their immunity to lawsuits filed by the people they robbed.
Too big to jail
Obama’s first attorney general famously declared the banksters too big to prosecute or even investigate, and his second attorney general wrote the fine print on the similar “get out of jail free” and the “can’t be sued by the people I robbed” cards Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and of course Wells Fargo received in 2008-09. It wasn’t always this way.
When savings and loan officials scammed the public out of billions during the first Bush administration, federal prosecutors put thousands of them in prison. Obama could have done, and was expected by millions of his voters to do the same. He simply chose not to, which helped Democrats lose the Congress in 2010.
In eight years, Democrat Barack Obama has gone further to protect criminal banksters and their investors than any Republican dared go before him.
Take a quick look at the Obama administration’s handling another kind of theft from the poor: wage theft.
Even winners lose
Economist Richard Wolff estimates the yearly value of wages which employers refuse to pay, illegally withhold or otherwise steal from their workers in this country at several times the value of all the reported burglaries and armed robberies. Employers traditionally are not prosecuted, and in Los Angeles it’s reported that 83 percent of workers who WIN a case filed for stolen wages against an employer never recover a cent.
Wage theft seems to be an area where little has changed. Previous administrations never bothered themselves about it, and neither did the Obama administration.
Finally, not even the briefest of Barack Obama’s legacy on elite financial crime is incomplete without noting the president’s role in the massive expansion of the charter school racket.
The Obama administration spent $4 billion in federal stimulus money outside any congressional or other oversight to incentivize the closing of thousands of so-called “underperforming public schools” mostly in Black and poor communities.
Educational crime wave
The near-complete absence of public accountability on the part of charter schools predictably ushered in a nationwide white-collar crime wave as charter school operators, their officers, contractors and their sugar-daddy investors scrambled for shares of the cash that used to go to public education.
Thus, the past eight years reveal the definitive Obama legacy on elite financial crime. It’s not just too big to jail. It’s simply not punishable, or even investigatable, as long as you steal from the poor or from the public.
Bruce Dixon is managing editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.