We must preserve the rule of law. That’s what U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said while threatening to deport 800,000 immigrants who arrived in this country as children.
That rule of law thing is a favorite talking point of conservatives, implying that anyone who has a different view supports lawless behavior and the end of civilization as we know it.
Of course, hardly anyone talks about the rule of law when it comes to Wall Street executives and bankers responsible for the Great Recession.
I’m talking about some of the wealthiest people in America who caused the failure of banks, the collapse of the mortgage industry, the loss of billions of dollars to pension funds invested in the stock market and the devastation of 401(k) retirement funds.
Average citizens lost their homes and their jobs and then had to bail out the banks and brokerage houses with billions of dollars in federal loans.
Since we are a nation of laws, you would think hundreds of people ended up in prison for perpetrating such a fraud.
Here’s what President Barack Obama had to say about the lack of Wall Street prosecutions at a news conference when he was still in office:
“One of the biggest problems about the collapse of Lehman and the subsequent financial crisis and the whole subprime lending fiasco is that a lot of stuff wasn’t necessarily illegal, it was just immoral or inappropriate or reckless….
“I think a part of people’s frustrations, part of my frustration, was a lot of practices that should not have been allowed weren’t necessarily against the law, but they had a huge destructive impact.”
Well, isn’t it odd that the rule of law did not apply to all those schemers and swindlers who became wealthy and lived in fabulous mansions while working stiffs suffered?
Those who feel the full force of the rule of law always seem to be poor, especially minorities, who can’t afford high-priced legal assistance and lack the ability to influence people who write the laws.
I have long advocated mandatory minimum prison sentences of 10 years for anyone convicted of public corruption.
I believe there is no crime that has a greater impact on society. An elected official who uses his office to enrich himself and his friends doesn’t steal just tax money, he steals the public’s faith in government.
In Illinois, the most common defense heard during corruption trials is, “This is the way the public’s business has been done for a hundred years.”
In other words, it’s not a crime; it’s just politics.
As absurd as that sounds, it’s what many elected officials believe because they have been practicing the art of pay-to-play since their first run for office. I would call it bribery. The influence buyers and sellers, the people who write the laws, call it deal-making.
You hardly ever hear any powerful person mention the “rule of law” and its importance when referring to politicians, corporations or billionaires.
Sessions never talked about the importance of the rule of law when President Trump was pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who had been convicted of contempt of court for violating the rights of illegal immigrants after the court told him to cease and desist.
Trump’s pardon is exactly the sort of action that undermines the public’s faith in the justice system. If you have the right friends, the law does not apply to you.
The betrayal of those covered by the Dream Act (people who illegally entered the U.S. before 2012 and were under the age of 16 at the time), is an extension of a broader appeal to the racists and bigots in this country. It undermines the very foundation that supports the rule of law.
The real problem facing the United States is that immoral, inappropriate and reckless conduct by elected officials is not only legal, but often rewarded.
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