You know the statistic. We incarcerate a higher proportion of the population than any other country does. Hundreds of thousands of young, now aging, men, are doing hard time for possession of small amounts of drugs. More and more people find themselves in jail because they got caught with bench warrants for their arrest for exorbitant fines they could not afford to pay. More than a century after debtors prisons were abolished, thousands are again behind bars because of debts. But one category of felon is free on the street. I refer, of course, to corporate criminals. Consider the case of a checkout clerk at Walmart who puts her hands in the till and walks off with a couple of hundred bucks of the company's money. That clerk could expect to face prosecution and jail. Now consider her boss, who cheats her of hundreds of dollars of pay by failing to accurately record the time she clocked in, or the overtime she worked.
There's a pattern here. Whenever the push for taxing Wall Street speculation starts to build some serious steam, the Obama administration dusts off their proposal for a big bank fee. This fee idea was is a good one. The problem: Obama officials have presented the big bank fee as an alternative to a financial transaction tax.
Timothy Geithner's new book about the financial crisis, Stress Test, is basically an argument that the Wall Street bailout succeeded. That's hardly surprising, given that Geithner was in charge of the bailout when Treasury Secretary, and so has an inherit interest in telling the public it succeeded.