Another group Congress has missed

October 05, 1994|By Art Buchwald

THE MOST disappointing aspect of the new crime bill is that Congress has not set aside any money to punish those who have committed white-collar crimes.

Since white-collar crime is now growing faster than blue-collar crime, you would think that some provisions would have been made to deal with the problem.

Stephanie Ross, a white-collar crime consultant, said that while it is hoped that the new bill can reduce street crimes, Congress has thrown in the towel about stopping criminal activity on Wall Street and in various halls of government.

"Wouldn't more hard prison time be a deterrent to white-collar criminals?" I asked.

"The problem is they never get to prison. The people who commit white-collar crimes hire the best lawyers in the country and, after stealing millions of dollars, they plea-bargain their way to a cruise on the Love Boat," Stephanie explained.

"What you're saying is that if someone had a choice, it would be smarter to commit a crime that involves enough money to hire F. Lee Bailey than a public defender."

"Do you know how many people went to jail for emptying out the safes of the S&Ls in America?"

"Four?" I guessed.

"Only two and a half executives did any time, and that was because they refused to tell where the money was hidden. There's no crime bill in the world that can stop the rich stealing from the poor."

"Didn't the Republicans propose that if you got caught selling phony government bonds to the public three times in a row, you would get life imprisonment?"

"Yes, but the white-collar-crime lobbyists defeated it. Nobody knows how much money from widows' and orphans' savings goes each year to help politicians get elected. If you look at the S&L scandals, you'll see their officers were the biggest supporters of the elected officials," replied Stephanie.

"How about more police to patrol the buildings where white-collar crimes are committed? Maybe that would stop them," I suggested.

"It wouldn't be enough to discourage the hard-core embezzlers. They'd wind up bribing the police with phony real estate deals," she said.

"We have to make our sentences a lot stiffer. If someone who stole $100 million is going to be sentenced by a judge to 300 hours community service, it ought to be a maximum-security place like Disneyland."

7+ Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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