The Scapegoat

The world needs a culprit, so Bernard Madoff has become the face of the financial crisis.

Finally! Someone is being punished. 150 years in prison. That soothes our hearts! That proves it’s not just the little guy who always suffers!

What a mistake. Bernard Madoff is being unjustly pilloried for the financial crisis. He ran a Ponzi scheme that, unlike other schemes, wasn’t designed to bring instant gratification to the greedy. Instead – and here’s the genius of it – it was supposed to provide stable, crisis-resistant rates of return that were slightly higher than more conservative investments.

What he did was undoubtedly illegal and led to the financial ruin of many of his investors, so his sentence was justified. But his deeds were the exact opposite of what the banks did. His system was so conservative, it took a total collapse of the credit sector to bring it down.

The sentence comes at a time when it’s obvious banks are once again beginning to speculate with the same toxic paper that caused the crisis in the first place. They’re doing it with money hot off the government presses. While the public comforts itself with Madoff’s sentence, those responsible for the crisis still walk free to take up where they left off.

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