Is Wall Street a Gang? Part II
Not too many would note the irony that while police make hundreds of arrests for relatively minor offenses (e.g., disturbing the peace) – which usually end up being dismissed in court – within the confines of the buildings high above the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters there is rampant criminality. I mean this literally, for over the years the “top 1%” has indeed engaged in some of the worst crimes, destroying millions of lives while raiding the U.S. treasury of trillions of dollars. As thousands of protestors are carted off to jail in handcuffs, few of the corporate crooks ever see the inside of a jail. They literally are getting away with murder.
According to FBI figures about two people will be murdered within the next hour, most often by a gun or knife. However, about six will die in the next hour while working or from diseases they contracted through their employment. Unsafe working conditions are responsible for about 100,000 deaths each year. As documented by David Friedrichs work-related accidents cause 1.8 million disabling injuries each year. A book appropriately called A Job to Die For, Lisa Cullen, notes that an estimated 165 Americans die each day from occupational diseases and another 18 die from an occupational injury (that totals 66,795), while there are 36,400 non-fatal injuries on the job each day. She also notes that occupational diseases, death and injuries cost us around $155 billion each year, dwarfing the crimes shown on television. Importantly, about half of these work-place deaths, accidents, and related diseases are preventable. They could be avoided if the employers operated within the confines of the laws and regulations set forth by various state, federal, and local legislation.
Want more examples? Consider the recent BP Oil spill. Long before the famous spill in the Gulf of Mexico, British Petroleum was in trouble. In March, 2005, 15 workers died in an explosion at BP’s refinery in Texas City, Texas. It was the third fatal accident at that facility in four years. BP admitted “mistakes” and took responsibility for the explosion. Under Texas law, executives could have been charged with reckless homicide or involuntary manslaughter. This leading death penalty state, however, declined to file any charges.
Then there is the Pharmaceutical company Merck which manufactured Vioxx, a drug designed to treat arthritis. The company’s early clinical trials revealed high risk of heart attack and stroke in patients using the drug. The company ignored the risks and the drug was widely marketed and prescribed to patients. The FDA estimates that between 88,000 and 139,000 people suffered heart attacks or stroke after taking the drug, and 60,000 died
Aside from these and other crimes, the top 1% has been engaging in the wholesale rip-off of the American public. As documented by Dean Baker, starting in the 1970s there was a concerted effort to undo all that had been accomplished by the New Deal. It was a shift from manufacturing to what is known as “financialization.” As Noam Chomsky observed: “Financial institutions expanded enormously. A vicious cycle between finance and politics accelerated. Increasingly, wealth concentrated in the financial sector… And the politicians rewarded them with policies favorable to Wall Street: deregulation, tax changes, relaxation of rules of corporate governance, which intensified the vicious cycle. Collapse was inevitable. In 2008, the government once again came to the rescue of Wall Street firms presumably too big to fail, with leaders too big to jail. Today, for the one-tenth of 1 percent of the population who benefited most from these decades of greed and deceit, everything is fine.”
This beneficence has often come at the expense of taxpayers, as literally billions of federal dollars have been funneled into the coffers of the super-rich, as documented by numerous studies. Also, while millions of citizens suffer from the present economic crisis, many large corporations have paid virtually no taxes via offshore accounts, as documented here and here.
I could go on and on with examples of the criminality of the “one percenters,” but it would extend this dialogue to more than a dozen parts. Interested readers should bookmark this web site for constant updates of corporate and white collar crime.