The very rich and the very incorporated have long been able to rob, plunder and despoil with de facto impunity. Now, however, the billionaire Koch Brothers and their Republican puppets want to ensure that their flouting of the law will get the rubber stamp of de jure impunity.
The Kochs and their think tank, the Heritage Foundation, are being unfairly praised for spearheading bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. The decriminalization of low level drug use among the poor and minorities is just the fig leaf they need. Their real aim is to ensure that white collar crime at the very highest levels may be committed with impunity from now until the cows come home... or more likely, until they are barbecued alive on the polluted killing fields of Koch-sponsored climate change.
That the corruption allowing for the de facto impunity of the rich is well nigh complete is evidenced by the revelation that Obama administration officials have been secretly negotiating the criminal justice reform bill -- not with Congress, but directly with Koch Industries. From The Washington Post:
Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden huddled Thursday with White House counsel Neil Eggleston and the president's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to discuss the prospects for criminal justice legislation, which has made recent advances but may run aground because of an impasse over a proposal that would change the burden of proof for some corporate crimes.In other words, ignorance of the law and of the consequences of criminal behavior would be an excuse.... but only for the very rich and the very incorporated. Not that any BP officials are actually going to prison for the lethal Deepwater Horizon disaster, not that any Wall Street CEOs are actually being prosecuted for the worst financial disaster in modern history, not that any General Motors bigwigs have been indicted for dozens of defective ignition switch deaths. These people simply want the guarantee of immunity and impunity to be ironclad, engraved into law. All they'd have to do for a get out of jail free card is to plead stupidity.
One measure that passed the House Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support— the Criminal Code Improvement Act — would require prosecutors in cases as wide-ranging as food tainting and corporate pollution to prove that defendants “knew, or had reason to believe, the conduct was unlawful,” otherwise known as “mens rea.” President Obama and several congressional Democrats have warned the change could derail legislation that otherwise enjoys significant support from both parties.
Because they've grown a little fatter, they've grown a little meaner, and they need that Christmas angel of impunity on their shoulders.
For you and me, ignorance of the law would still be no excuse. An unpaid traffic ticket could still land us in debtors' prison.
The rich want unequal protection under the law. They want to change the Constitution, not just bribe politicians and judges to ignore the Constitution.
And all that Obama and "several" Democrats can do is warn that this death blow to what is left of democracy "could" derail the reform package? I mean, the phony Christmas deadline these officials use every year as an excuse to ram through legislation that hurts citizens and rewards the rich is one thing. That the legalization of plutocratic crime and dismantling of the Bill of Rights is even being contemplated is a whole new kettle of very rotten fish.
Jarrett admits to a very cozy relationship with the Kochs' lawyer, exchanging several emails a week with him to secretly discuss the legislation. (Can't wait for those emails to made public decades from now, when the statute of limitations has safely run out. Or until Wikileaks provides them.) Right now, the official cover story is that Jarrett is prevailing, getting the Kochs to change their minds about granting premature immunity to rich people and polluters like them as a prerequisite to getting the justice reform bill passed. After all, the chances of them ever being punished for their misdeeds are already near zero. If anything, they are rewarded for their misdeeds, in the form of waivers, tax breaks, and admission to the inner sanctum of the White House itself.
Meanwhile, it is a given that the Koch lawyers are also secretly huddling with Republican congress critters, making them an offer they can't refuse even as they give themselves and the White House cover. Will the White Plutocrats' Impunity Bill squeak through at the 11th hour, just in the time for their holiday vacations to Aspen and Hawaii? Or, do we call up our congress critters and say "Hell, NO!"
As Karen Faulk wrote in In the Wake of Neoliberalism, a chronicle of the social justice movement that sprang up in the 1990s after Argentina's Dirty Wars, "corruption in the public sphere and the impunity that guarantees it are part and parcel of the neoliberal state."
Argentinians took to the streets to protest the cover-ups of psychological and physical violence, directly relating them to the ensuing economic and social violence made manifest by the rampant criminality of the oligarchs and the impunity granted them by corrupt public officials. Citizens not only didn't accept the official story that "we tortured some folks," they rightly and directly correlated the whitewashes of the Dirty Wars with the injustices later wreaked upon the populace by free market neoliberalism.
Something similar is now going on with the Black Lives Matter movement protests. These young activists understand that the impunity of the rich is tantamount to the denial of human rights for the poor. They are reacting to the myriad ravages of neoliberalism: physical and psychological, economic and judicial.
The United States version of the Argentinian "disappeared" have names like Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and Laquan McDonald. Elsewhere on the planet, they are largely nameless, and they number in the millions. They are the detritus of war and colonialism. They are the collateral damage of the Neoliberal Project.
And meanwhile, the White House secretly and cynically negotiates with the abhorrent Koch Brothers as our cold, lean lives hang in the balance.
Plutocratic impunity has got to go. We need a little justice, right this very minute.