Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shamed Republicans on the Senate floor for perpetuating the already problematic rigged legal system that protects corporate lawbreakers and the rich, bringing to light two Republican proposals that protect corporate lawbreakers and make it harder to investigate and prosecute bank fraud.
“We have one set of laws on the books, but there are really two legal systems. One legal system is for big companies, for the wealthy and the powerful…In this legal system, instead of demanding actual punishment for breaking the law, the government regularly accepts token fines and phony promises to do better next time,” Senator Warren said. “The second legal system is for everyone else…In this legal system, the government locks up people up for decades, ruining lives over minor drug crimes, because that’s what the law demands.”
At issue is the Republicans running to the rescue of white-collar criminals again, even when there is evidence that it is already very difficult to prosecute corporate actors for suspected criminal deeds because it is hard to prove intent. Instead, regulators have relied on civil actions and fees, which clearly shows the disparity in justice between everyday people and the wealthy and powerful.
So Republicans are trying to make it harder to prove intent for white-collar criminals. They are doing this by holding up a bill that is supposed to help reduce mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenders unless Congress includes a “mens rea” amendment that would make it harder to prosecute white-collar criminals.
“If adopted, this amendment would severely weaken the already anemic enforcement of federal white-collar criminal laws,” Warren wrote in a report called “Rigged Justice” that she released last week.
Republicans didn’t leave off their protection of the wealthy there, however. They have another bill (H.R.766) that would make it harder to investigate and prosecute bank fraud. Senator Warren was not impressed with that bill, either. It is set for a vote Wednesday.
“The American people expect better from us. They expect us to straighten out our criminal justice system and reform drug enforcement practices that do nothing but destroy lives and communities. They expect us to stand up to unjustified violence,” Senator Warren said on the Senate floor. “They also expect us to protect the financial system and to hold Wall Street executives accountable when they break the law. They expect us to hold big companies accountable when they steal billions from taxpayers, when they rip off students or veterans or retirees or single moms, or when they cover up health or safety problems and people get sick, get hurt, or die because of it.”
We are supposed to have “blind justice” but we do not have that. We have $$$$$ justice, color-biased justice, and gender-biased justice (in other words, the not-in-power biases) and it is only getting worse, courtesy of the Republicans ruling both chambers of Congress currently.
Post Bush Great Recession and subsequent taxpayer funded Big Bank bailouts, it’s disturbing that Republicans feel their priority should be ensuring less accountability for the powerful corporations and bankers that use our taxpayer-funded infrastructure in order to make huge profits and then get a socialized bailout from the little people when their risks don’t turn out well.
Wall Street didn’t go to jail after defrauding the American public and rendering their pensions worthless. Instead they asked for yet another handout and got it. So it’s not clear why they need to be protected more.
Republicans don’t apply their belief that prison/punishment deters petty criminals to their Wall Street funders.
Republicans feel so strongly about protecting the wealthy that they are holding up a bill to reduce mandatory drug sentencing unless Democrats will agree to give corporate actors a get-out-of-jail-free-card. A card they do not even need, if recent history is taken into account.
Remember this the next time a cynical friend tells you that both sides are the same. They are not, and the proof is in the policy and bills.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.