The worst criminals in our society are the super rich. Bankers and CEOs cause horrible pain and suffering to millions of people around the world, but they are rarely punished for their crimes against humanity. Poor and working people, however, are incarcerated at ever increasing numbers, even though the crimes they commit usually stem from real need instead of greed.
The super rich can ruin people’s lives and are rewarded for it. It’s not just that many CEOs and executives are given a pass for drug use and illegal prostitution. Big banks and corporations are responsible for laying off thousands of workers, kicking people out of their homes, and destroying lives. Banks caused the 2008 financial collapse by committing fraud and manipulation. What did they get? Bailouts. Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and seven other U.S. banks received $175 billion and paid $32.6 billion in bonuses to their executives in 2008, the same year the crisis began. In 2010, Goldman Sachs settled a lawsuit for $550 million for cheating investors, the same year they made $39 billion. Even though Goldman Sachs stole money from poor and working people through predatory lending, it was rewarded with $12.9 billion in taxpayer’s money. GE has been found guilty of environmental pollution, price-fixing, discrimination, stealing classified documents, felony fraud, and retaliation against whistleblowers. Regardless, in 2010 GE reported U.S. profits of $5.1 billion, paid no taxes and claimed a credit of $3.2 billion. For big companies, criminal behavior is just part of doing business.
Meanwhile, poor and working people are punished for crimes of desperation and need. Today the prison population is about 2.3 million people. The majority of federal and state prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent or drug-related crimes. About 30 percent of prisoners were unemployed when they were arrested and 70 percent of state prisoners had an income of less than $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year.
The judicial system is set up to target the poor, and rewards the super rich for destroying the lives of millions. Under capitalism – the rich get richer, and the poor get prison.