The Real Criminals Are Walking Free

Last week, eight city officials from Bell, California, including the mayor, were arrested and taken to jail on corruption charges. The officials are charged with stealing over $5.5 million from the city treasury. The accused city council members gave themselves $100,000 salaries and took $1.2 million in additional pay to attend fake meetings that lasted only a few minutes long. And the city manager used public funds to give himself an $800,000 salary and over $2 million in personal loans.

The case has attracted attention and it is easy to understand why. The problem of public officials getting rich at our expense is not unique to Bell. Many people were glad to hear about corrupt politicians being led away from their homes in handcuffs.

While these politicians deserve to go to jail, their case just serves as a decoy for the real criminals in this society. The mayors who don’t pay taxes, the lazy public administrators who give themselves fat salaries and personal loans at our expensethese people are just mimicking the bigger thieves who are committing a massive robbery against ordinary people every single day: the corporations, banks, and the politicians who do their bidding.

For most of us, the economic crisis has meant nothing but pain and insecurity. Not so for the corporations. They have been posting record profits and their stocks have been soaring. Why? Because they have laid off millions of workers and have made the remaining workers do more work with less pay. The corporate bosses use fear and intimidation to try and get workers to empty their wallets and work harder for less. Only instead of using a gun or knife, they use the threat of taking people’s jobs away.

And what about the criminals whose actions triggered this economic crisis in the first place, the major banks? In the years immediately before this crisis began, they made trillions in profits in the so-called subprime housing market. Smelling the prospect of huge profits, major banks like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo preyed on people’s desires of owning their own homes by tricking them into mortgages they knew they wouldn’t be able to pay back.

And what did the politicians do after it was revealed that the big banks made trillions of dollars ripping off ordinary people? They handed them trillions more! To this date, over $4 trillion in so-called bailout money has been paid to Wall Street’s major banks.

Now that these politicians have given trillions in bailouts to the banks; now that they have given billions in tax breaks to corporations and the rich; now that they have launched trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistanthese same politicians are telling us that there isn’t money for us! The budget deficits are getting out of control they say, so we have to cut. Cut money for schools. Cut money for public transit. Cut money for social security. Cut the salaries of public workers. And on and on.

The corruption and arrogance we see in local politics is simply a reflection of the true nature of this system and the people who run it. The real criminals in this society are walking free.