Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Corruption everywhere

OK, after every election, there is a cleaning up factor plus of course rumors that are shown later to be untrue. But I cannot remember an election followed by the discovery of so many bad guys in so many high places and in so many fields (I do not claim that these bad guys belong to any political party, I am just surprised that we got so many popping up).
There is of course the wave of investment schemes like Madoff followed by Allen Stanford. We are over 60 billions dollars for these two, which explains that the many millionaires recently arrested by the FBI do not make headlines: Canadian George Georgiou (a fraud of only 26 millions so far), David Gwin from Colorado (only a multi-million dollar fraud scheme), Niketa Williams, of San Francisco, California (condemned for wire fraud to reimburse 1.6 million dollars), Robert Miracle, of Bellevue, Washington, Mukhtar Kechik and Fahimi Fisal (operating a $65 million Ponzi scheme, five people in Oklahoma (for a fraud over 41 millions), Scott Luster from Missouri (only a 4.5 million fraud) all of them arrested in February alone. What is a million dollars nowadays? Not much, of course, it is easy to spend, but in my neighborhood it is still the value of about ten houses. All these frauds add up to a lot of money lost by innocent people. On the budget I am on, I could feel the difference when a thief took off with my purse and less than 100 dollars in it. Ponzi schemes are very common at all financial levels: here in Savannah GA I find that I frequently have to explain it to naive and uneducated people in my neighborhood: there is always a false prophet or a false friend ready to take advantage of the poorest people.

We are all aware of the housing problems, but there is also a lot of pure mortgage fraud. In the first 20 days of February alone, we see cases popping up in Missouri, in Maryland, in Florida and in New York.

I have been surprised to see educators on the take too. It ranges in the last few months from a Professor of Western Kentucky University misusing Federal money to people accused of embezzlement, bribery, corruption, kickback and racketeering.

And to top it all, we now get judges on the take in activities so mean that it is hard to comprehend. Two Pennsylvania judges have been charged in a fraud scheme involving the placement of juveniles in juvenile detention facilities. The two judges "jailed juveniles for profit". You can read that story in the New York Times here and here

And there are the things that we seem unable to correct: dishonesty in sports, 30 million Americans on illegal drugs, enormous frauds in medicare-medicaid, and the horrible abuse of the military by their suppliers (The military are easy victims: it is the same all over Europe).

I am not claiming that we, ordinary people, are perfect, just saying that we, ordinary people, do not want to hurt other people. Some of the public sense of morality has degenerated in the US since the 1980s. Maybe too much easy money- easy credit produces that. Maybe it is a side effect of women having to work instead of staying at home, maybe it is linked to increases in separation and divorces, maybe it is the increasing disparity between the poor and the rich so lavishly exposed on TV. Maybe all of it. What I do know is that it starts early: most kids, according to surveys, cheat at school. But we got to reduce this corruption before we fall like the Roman Empire or the British and French Empires once dominating the world and brought down by their own rot.
This corruption is going too far.

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