Crime, Punished and Unpunished

Mark Steyn comments on the Justice Department’s apparent persecution of Conrad Black, and adds this contrast:

As to white-collar crime, what about the one type of white-collar crime that goes entirely unpunished? For an accounting fraud of $567 million, Enron’s executives went to jail, and its head guy died there. For an accounting fraud ten times that size, the two Democrat hacks who headed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick, walked away with a combined taxpayer-funded payout of $116.4 million. Fannie and Freddie are two of the largest businesses in America, but they’re exempt from SEC disclosure rules and Sarbanes-Oxley “corporate governance” burdens, and so in 2008, unlike Enron, WorldCom or any of the other reviled private-sector bogeymen, they came close to taking down the entire global economy.

Really, you could make the point more broadly. It used to be routine for Congress to exempt itself from the legislation it passed to govern everyone else. (Anti-discrimination statutes, to take just one of many examples, did not apply to Congressmen’s own employment practices.) One wildly popular element of the Contract With America was its pledge to subject Congress to the same laws as everyone else. To a considerable degree, I believe that did happen, beginning in 1995.
But in a much more important way, Congress continues to behave in a manner that would be felonious if it were a private company. Its budgetary practices are appalling–the Democratic Congress hasn’t passed a budget in more than two years, and now refuses even to propose one–and the accounting gimmicks it uses to conceal its fecklessness from voters–the Social Security “Trust Fund,” for instance–would be criminal if engaged in by a publicly-traded company.

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