The above meme is a natural follow up to my earlier post on capitalism's death wish. In effect, the banks don't even have to try to be good anymore because Congress is letting them regulate themselves. As they write their own legislation our nation's largest banks are gorging themselves financially and - like the nobility, military, and religious classes of the past - have slowly carved out a culture of privilege and immunity.
The rest of us who can't bribe Congress - and who saw our financial prospects worsen after the banks ruined the economy in 2008 - still have to play by the rules. If you're poor, things get even worse.
As Matt Taibbi points out in The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, as income disparities continue to grow in America so do the kind of silly activities that attract the attention of our law enforcement system. Think about it. If you fail to pay, say, a simple parking ticket because you have no money you will end up with fines, warrants, and just might find yourself in jail. But if you nearly bring down the economy with reckless market bets - which are ultimately backed by the U.S. taxpayer - you're probably going to get a big fat bonus.
What we have is a system where white-collar criminality is rewarded, while being poor opens you up to all kinds of criminal charges. Think this is a bit too harsh? Think again.
Violent crime in America has dropped by about 45 percent over the past two decades. But America's prison population has more than doubled during that time. So what's going on? Reports about conditions in Missouri help us to see part of the problem: There are many communities in America that depend on a financially punitive system of fees and fines that hit people of color and the poor especially hard.
One thing's clear from the statistics. It's not the people who almost destroyed our economy serving time. It's people of color and the poor who are filling our jails.
Put more simply, being poor is increasingly criminalized in America, while the bankers are enjoying privileges once reserved for nobility.