Brett Ramsey has served as a full-time political science instructor at Austin Peay, Democratic candidate for TN state representative, and owner/agent of an insurance agency. He currently serves as an adjunct political science instructor and owner/instructor of a new venture he created called "College Preparedness Program. More information can be found at www.collegepreparednessprogram.com.
The Common Criminal
by Brett Ramsey,posted Mar 7 2013 11:07AM
General news stories across various media outlets and formats can differ greatly in content, style, and certainly topic, but two consistencies are that most stories are about people doing bad things, and most of those people would be considered blue collar citizens as opposed to white collar ones. The first part of this makes sense, seeing as how media outlets are trying to get better ratings, and people prefer to see stories about bad things instead of good things. We might wish to think better of our society, but let's not kid ourselves. The latter part is more perplexing, though. For whatever reason, we tend to focus our attention on lower class criminals committing lower class crimes as opposed to upper class criminals perpetrating, many times, much worse and far reaching crimes that affect large segments of the population. But why?
The answer, as far as I can tell, is simply that those are the crimes and criminals to which we are privy, so we focus our attention on what we can see and not what we cannot. People with lots of money can afford many pleasures, one of those being the ability to make sure others don't see their bad sides (or at least pay off those who do see such a side). Plus, wealthy people often make many generous donations, spread amongst various organizations, which garners good will in their favor, even in the face of eventual crimes they may be found to have committed. It would be difficult for the police, for instance, to fervently pursue an individual who'd made large donations over an extended period of time to their union or to fund the construction of a new precinct, despite finding out that money originated from teachers' pension funds.
Conversely, everyone knows somebody they see as a good-for-nothin', milking the system and likely committing various crimes. It doesn't matter that many of those people we think we know really aren't the people we think they are. It's our perception, and that becomes our reality. So, when we see people on t.v. being arrested for shootings, drug busts, or common theft, it further reinforces our stereotypes about certain types of people, and it creates general conceptions of what we come to think a criminal is and looks like.
Don't believe me? Just picture a common criminal in your head right now. The opposite of that image is a clean-cut, well dressed, probably white, man or woman who most of us trust with our money, whether at a bank or other investment service. Those are also the type of people that sometimes become Bernie Madoff types and eventually get caught from when their ponzi schemes catch up with them. More often, however, these types of criminals are more aware of how to use laws and lawmakers to work for their best interests and reciprocate in turn, leaving the general public in the dark and with a balance past due. I'm talking about the criminals whose actions led to the savings and loan crisis, auto makers' bailout, housing bubble burst, and various other financial collapses over the years, particularly since President Reagan began the process of deregulating the financial industry.
And to my knowledge, not a single person responsible for any of these crises has spent one day in jail, much less even risked prosecution. Many of them still have high ranking government or private sector jobs and continue to add to their fortunes with multi-million dollar salaries, all while we the taxpayer cough up the money to pay for their negligence and fraud. So, the next time you're upset about the woman down the street or the guy at work who you just know are taking advantage of the system for what might amount to several thousand dollars a year, just think about those folks in the high rises, looking down and laughing at us as we continue to step on the backs of our fellow people just to try to make it to the second floor.
Brett, I can say I am in agreement with you on this one. I would like the prosecutions to start with the politicians who make laws for the rest of us to live by, but themselves ignore and violate. Charlie Rangel and Tim Geithner both managed to avoid paying taxes on large sums of income and never saw the inside of a jail cell either. I don't see how de-regulation of banks would lead to any crime, or facilitate their commission though. The housing bubble was a direct result of Frank-Dodd which forced mortgage lenders to issue loans to people who did not previously meet the criteria to repay it. Millions in loans were issued, people were unable to repay, houses were foreclosed, etc., and now here we are. That is a result of regulation, not de-regulation. Government, while having good intentions, is the problem not the solution.