• Sona Chaturvedi

Justice Not Blind For Wealthy

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Lock him up!

Donald Trump would not be president of the United States if we as a nation took certain crimes more seriously and aggressively prosecuted white-collar criminals. America’s failure to curb the destructive tendencies of the very rich, or the pretend-rich in Trump's case, enabled him to become a leader. The president, his friends and former Trump campaign and administration officials all hide behind the law. “Trump took advantage of a system that gives first, second, third and seemingly infinite chances to the elite,” states Jennifer Taub, author of Big Dirty Money. As president, he has been investigated, impeached, tried and summarily acquitted for high crimes and misdemeanors over his dealings with the Ukraine and his attempts to impede Congress. Trump also oversees the Justice Department and its investigations of white-collar crime, including cases involving many of his friends and associates.

How can justice be considered blind under this corrupt system of protecting the wealthy? Short answer, it can’t.

Trump is the perfect example of why so few wealthy people are held accountable. Like other members of the top .01 percent, he can act with seeming impunity, able to buy or influence his way out of trouble. Look no further than Jeffrey Epstein and how long his victims were silenced.

Yet, Trump is a symptom, not the cause.

The phrase, “white-collar crime,” was coined in 1939 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland to describe an offense committed by, “a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.”

By their very definition, these criminals are getting preferential treatment. The privileged almost never pay for their misdeeds, while the rest of the population endures prison time for everything from possessing small amounts of marijuana to not paying their healthcare bills.

A defendant’s social and economic status is even more obvious at sentencing. You might think that a person with all the wealth and advantages that society confers might be deemed more, rather than less, culpable than ordinary street criminals. On the contrary, many judges seem to believe that a fall from grace is punishment enough, especially since white-collar defendants, often older white men, pose little danger to society, at least with respect to committing violent crimes.

“Such empathy rarely extends to the burglar or the small-time drug dealer,” Taub notes. “The lack of similar concern for poor offenders is astonishing.”

This all loops together in a vicious, well-designed, diabolical circle. The wealthy hide behind the systems put in place to protect everyone, not just them, while GOP lawmakers have successfully manipulated the system by inserting loopholes in almost every piece of legislation.  When their malfeasance is detected, the wealthy deploy an army of high-priced corporate attorneys that the rest of us cannot afford. These lawyers then employ a number of tactics -- such as court filings, extensions and lawsuits upon lawsuits to cover up the lawsuits filed against them -- to avoid consequences for their clients' illegal practices. The rest of us are then fed a lie, that the wealthy deserve these protections because they can afford it.  We need an absolute transformation of the justice system, so the people who appear to drive through life with no roadblocks are treated in the same manner as everyone else. Whether this is possible is up to who WE, the people, elect as lawmakers. We need to elect defenders of the Constitution who have a strong sense of civic duty. We are caught in a system of a self-reliance delusion; justice is only justice if you can afford it through your hard work. We live in a society in which it’s almost laughable to go through the charade of getting to the point where we are allowed to arrest a person of means, let alone prosecute them. For every Trump, Bernie Madoff or Kenneth Lay of Enron, there are countless others. They are all summering in the Hamptons or jetting off to Aspen in the winter. If you want to live in a culture that celebrates winning at all costs, with corrupt presidents and an elite class that gets away with committing crimes, then that’s OK. It’s just not justice, and it is definitely not blind.