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Matt Towery / January 9, 2009

Between Madoff, the Banks and Chrysler It’s Clear: America Coddles Its Crooks and Con Artists

Say you shoplift. You get handcuffed and tossed into a nasty jail cell. It happens every day, just about everywhere.

Say you commit a really serious crime. It’s likely your bond will be set at a price too steep to afford. You’ll sit in jail until your case is heard.

But you’re not the man who swindled billions of dollars from unsuspecting investors. Not the man who apparently violated the order that allowed him to live under “house arrest” in his luxury Manhattan home, even after he “gifted” over $1 million in jewels to close friends.

You’re not Bernie Madoff, he of the special treatment. You’re not the guy who has ruined families and triggered suicides.

Unbelievable. And Madoff isn’t alone. Late last year, as America’s financial system was near collapse, Congress put its political neck on the line and passed the Troubled Assets Relief Program. It was a $700-billion bailout supposedly designed to free up liquidity and help rescue financial institutions that were sinking under the weight of homeownership and other loans that had gone sour.

With at least a good portion of the first half of the TARP funds having already been distributed, the requirement that the funds be used to make good on bad loans has been dropped. The banks have done little if any lending to individuals, small businesses or anyone else. Beyond that, many in the financial sector took home nice fat bonuses, as if the year had been a rousing success.

But the con games don’t end with the banks.

After receiving billions of our hard-earned tax dollars in a bailout of Chrysler, we came to learn this week that the privately held company seems to believe that it has no duty to make its finances available to public scrutiny.

Unbelievable! To me, Chrysler is now a public corporation using public funds to keep going.

It gets worse. When Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli was begging for a bailout from Congress and the White House, I don’t recall him ever suggesting that $4 billion would only keep the company afloat for a month or so.

But now comes an AP story this week, “Chrysler’s fate running on empty: Car analysts expect it to die.” The piece quoted Chrysler’s chief financial officer saying the company needs “ … $7 billion every 45 days to pay parts suppliers.” The article went on to note that “… analysts question whether the company’s meager sales are generating enough cash to make those payments.”

That’s funny, because just days earlier, when Nardelli won his bailout prize from the White House he said, “This initial loan will allow the company to continue orderly restructuring while pursuing our vision to build (vehicles) … people want to buy.” Now that hardly seemed like a warning to the public that funded this “loan” that it was likely just throwing good money after bad toward a hopeless situation.

So we’ve been conned by the recognized con artists like Madoff; by the financial institutions who haven’t done anything to help the rest of the nation with the bailout funds; and now by a carmaker that may have known darn well it couldn’t survive, and yet took our money without letting us see what is being done with it.

Do these people not realize that we’re talking about real money? Obviously not. Instead, they’ve collectively been coddled and treated as special breeds, instead of like the financial curs they are.

We’ve been scammed. Our national treasury has been looted. Our justice system has been exposed as a joke. And the trail of tears – financial and personal losses – just gets longer and wetter.

I supported the idea of the first bailout of financial institutions. Not because I trusted them, but because I knew another week’s worth of panic would have left them with no stock value, and thus no capital. The result would have been a decimation of our economy.

But everything about the way we have dealt with these “untouchable” people and institutions – letting Madoff carry on as usual, letting banks hoard the gifted cash and letting Chrysler fudge the facts – makes me sick. I hope we can get every last one of these rotten scoundrels.


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