A Modest Proposal

swiftIt is nearly three hundred years since Jonathan Swift published his scathing satirical tirade against economic abuse and the callous attitude displayed by the wealthy of his day.

This post is not going to be satirical.

Three centuries after Swift lambasted greedy landlords for consuming the lives and livelihoods of their impoverished tenants, we have Wall Street darlings like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf giving lip service to accountability while avoiding any real responsibility whatsoever to the more than two million victims of fraudulent treatment by his bank.

In the course of the Senate hearings, it has come to light that Wells Fargo executives did not ignore the numerous whistleblowers – Wells Fargo employees with a conscience – who courageously did the right thing and reported ethics violations instead of following orders. No, the executives took the reports seriously enough to fire the whistleblowers rather than stick their own necks out in the name of justice. As a consequence, the massive fraud claimed more victims, including the former employees’ family members who suffered loss.

Mr. Stumpf was unable to answer Sen. Warren’s simple question – has he returned one nickel of the money he earned during his company’s scam? – with manly forthrightness. He refused to commit to any specific positive action at all. He even tried to blame the employees – those pressured to enact the shady transactions even while the bravest and most honest among them were being shown the door.

rich-and-poorJohn Stumpf is a poster boy for the worst of America: already very wealthy, yet greedy for more; eager to squeeze hard-working Americans for profit rather than lend them a hand; contemptuous of the very idea that privilege entails responsibility. These shameless individuals not only harm the nation’s good people, but are a stain upon the nation’s repute. For remediation, I have a modest proposal of my own.

Stumpf described his low-level employees’ salaries as “good-paying”; they make roughly one hundred fifty dollars per day. It would seem reasonable to assume that Stumpf considers one day to be fairly compensated at one hundred fifty dollars. Seeing as how a single NSF fee amounts to thirty-five dollars, it thus seems safe to estimate that the average scam victim lost more than a day’s compensation.

I propose that, beginning with Stumpf, every executive in a position of responsibility be made actually to respond for crimes against the public committed on their watch. In modest terms, this could be set at one day’s incarceration for every member of the public affected by the crime. This is particularly modest taking into account that many of our citizens are serving lengthy prison terms for crimes with no victim at all.

go-to-jailRounding off the number of Wells Fargo scam victims to two million, Stumpf would face a prison term of two million days, or 5479 years and five months. With good behavior, that could be reduced to 2739 years and eight months.

Stumpf will almost certainly never hear of this proposal. After all, Bernie Madoff was sentenced to a mere 150 years for swindling rich investors; it is difficult to imagine that he would have seen the inside of a jail cell had his victims been hard-working Americans. Still, is it not modest and reasonable that the penalty for a crime should be proportionate to the damage done? The more we demand change, the more likely we are to get it. Contact your congressional representatives and tell them we want accountability to trickle down just like wealth in this country, and God bless America.

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