A mere seven million dollars out of the trillions of Goldman's money was spent on privatized counseling services to young Rikers inmates in an effort to help them become responsible members of society. No Goldman money was spent on a jobs program to help them become responsible members of society once they were released. No Goldman money was spent on housing for young offenders or their families, many of whom who lost their homes and jobs when Goldman helped wreck the economy during its previous betting spree on subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations.
Nobody at Goldman has ever paid his debt to society by going to prison. Even rare criminal convictions have a way of eventually getting overturned.
And now Goldman's social impact scheme, placing odds on youthful recidivism rates, has been blessedly shut down one year early by the city. Not because cynically betting on the desperation of indigent people is morally wrong, mind you -- but because a couple of rich investors are said to have lost money on the deal. The black and Latino kids kept getting arrested and sent back to Rikers despite the Goldman-subsidized jail counseling sessions.
Knock me over with a feather.
As is typical for Goldman, though, it will recoup most of its own losses based upon a loan guarantee from Michael Bloomberg, Forbes godzillionaire and mayor of New York at the time the scheme was hatched.
Also as is typical for Goldman and other too big to fail/jails, the early shutdown of their gruesome scam is actually being touted as a resounding success story. That is because the rich were not taxed to pay for it! The paper losses by a banking casino using Rikers inmates as chips will in no way discourage the billionaire class from continuing to bet on the misfortunes of the poor. Social impact bonds will be part of the dystopian landscape as long as neoliberalism lives. The hyper-rich will always find new ways of extracting blood from the masses.
Because when you are obscenely rich, nothing succeeds like the failure of others. Or, as the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey was wont to say,"Nothing exceeds like excess."
The house never loses.
Social impact bonds are beginning to actually replace the government safety net as a means of "helping" the poor. From the Chronicle of Philanthropy:
Pay-for-success efforts, also known as social-impact bonds, involve private or philanthropic investors funding new approaches to social issues, with an opportunity to earn returns if programs meet preset targets and governments take them over. Goldman Sachs ended up spending $7.2 million on the Rikers effort but will recoup $6 million from a loan guarantee offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies.Not once did the philanthrocapitalists question why black youths failed to stay out of prison. Not once did they ponder whether crushing poverty, police brutality, the racist war on drugs, stop and frisk policies and other forms of racial profiling contribute to the prison recidivism rate. Never once did they condemn the culture of cruelty at Rikers itself. All they care about is making money and "unlocking the potential" of capital as more and more people are locked up in the increasingly privatized American prison system.
The model "can unlock new pieces of funding, private capital especially," said Jim Anderson, who leads the Bloomberg foundation's government-innovation program. "Even though we didn't get the result with the [recidivism] program that we all wanted and hoped for, we now know that definitively, thanks to the social-impact bond structure that we put in place."
As I have written about before, President Obama's own "Brothers Keeper" scheme is also modeled upon the social impact bond structure. When he first announced his initiative, he pointed to Bloomberg/Goldman's Rikers Island program as one of his inspirations. Under Obama's version, corporations will be given government money (tax breaks) in order to study social problems and "invest" in black youths, while the black youths themselves will not receive any direct cash aid at all. It was under the 90s Neoliberal Bill and Hillary Clinton regime, after all, that direct cash aid for the poor was triangulated right out of existence. And then came their own personal version of Social Impact on Steroids, aka the Clinton Foundation. There is so much money in poverty. It's a most ingenious paradox.
A few experts, though, have questioned the ethics of using social impact bonds as a means of profiting from social ills while purporting to cure them. From an August 2012 New York Times article on the Rikers scheme:
“I’m not saying that the market is evil,” said Mark Rosenman, a professor emeritus at Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, “but I am saying when we get into a situation where we are encouraging investment in order to generate private profit as a substitute for government responsibility, we’re making a big mistake.”Rosenman is too kind. The market is indeed evil when it's unregulated. It's not that mistakes are being made, it's that crimes are being committed... by the wealthy investor class and the political system that enables it.