George Carlin Was Right, About the Death Penalty and Bankers

06/19/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

George Carlin was right. About a lot of things, most particularly about the death penalty. Also about bankers. In George's time, drug dealing was the big thing. He objected to the death penalty for drug dealers, but not for those who made their business run smoothly and more profitably. Here's part of what George had to say:

"The death penalty doesn't mean anything unless you use it against people who are afraid to die. Like... bankers who launder the drug money... you want to slow down the drug traffic, you got to start executing a few of those fucking bankers. White, middle class Republican bankers. Let's bring back crucifixions... on TV... Halftime! Monday Night! The Monday Night Crucifixions! You start nailing one white banker per week to a big wooden cross, you're going to see that drug traffic begin to slow down..."

George Carlin didn't quite live long enough to see the Great Wall Street Heist of 2008. But it doesn't take much to imagine his reaction to "Too Big To Fail." Just think how much different Wall Street's behavior might be today had we been "nailing one white (investment) banker to a big wooden cross" each Monday night since September 2008 when the bottom fell out of the financial industry's boondoggle and the American taxpayers were panicked into footing the bill.

Some may think the death penalty itself is archaic. A lot of people think it's a rare occurrence. It isn't. And, like a minor heart attack is really just one that happens to somebody else, a rare execution is one you don't hear about. Some may be surprised to learn how often we use the death penalty these days. Since the Supreme Court ended a ten-year hiatus on executions in 1976, we have put to death 1,200 people. Yes, that's twelve hundred men and women killed by the state in your name and mine. Those executed ranged in age from a 22 year-old Native American man in Oklahoma to a white man who was 77 years old when he was killed by the state of Mississippi. Of the 1,200 executions, 11 have been of women, ages 28 to 62. A majority of those executed, 671, have been white; 418 were black and 87 were Latino; 15 were Native Americans; 6 Asians. One Pakistani and two simply listed as "Other" complete the 1,200 legally killed by state authority.

As of March 2010, we still have 3,277 people awaiting their executions - 1,457 whites; 1,364 blacks; 379 Latinos and 77 others. There are no bankers on this list. Nobody from Goldman-Sachs, AIG, Bank of America, JP Morgan, or the host of other Wall Street firms and big banks who participated in, and benefited from, the financial convulsions they caused to happen which have tumbled the US economy into chaos since 2008. And, naturally enough, there are no hedge fund managers on Death Row either. So, take a good look. Has the financial chicanery come to halt?

I realize that some may say that bankers, hedge fund managers and the princes of finance who gave us mortgage derivative schemes can't all be guilty. Could be. That makes sense since we already know that not all those actually sentenced to death since 1976 were guilty either. In fact, since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 138 people who were locked away on Death Row, counting down to their final hour, have been exonerated and released. In the last ten years alone there have been 55 such exonerations. Fatal errors avoided. How many of the 3,277 still sitting on Death Row right now are also innocent? Who knows? Some, no doubt, and a few of them, with a little luck, might just be exonerated in time - that is in time before they run out of time forever.

Maybe George Carlin really did have the right idea. Maybe a few Wall Street gangsters socked away on Death Row might throw a frightful scare into their greedy colleagues and make them think twice before they pull off their next caper and ruin who knows how many more people's lives. And if some of these Wall Street thugs are truly innocent, well, let them have the same fighting chance all the others have. Perhaps, someday someone might exonerate them. In the meantime, as George might have put it - "You're going to see that Wall Street stealing begin to slow down..."