The Real Thugs

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There’s been a lot of talk in Cleveland, Ohio about the young people in our city who have chosen the thug life. There’ve been a number of incidents that our local paper has jumped on like some pit bull, shaking and chewing these stories to death. There is certainly a need to be concerned and an urgent need to address these issues, but we need to put these problems in perspective.

I remember Whoopi Goldberg in one of her monologues stating that she wasn’t as afraid walking down a dark alley as she was walking down Wall Street, because the street thugs would only steal your clothes and jewelry, but the thugs on Wall Street will steal your future.

This is loosely quoted, but it resonated with me, because the thugs I’m most worried about kill 56,000 people a year. Americans die from occupational diseases such as black lung and asbestosis, while tens of thousands of other Americans fall victim to pollution, contaminated foods, hazardous consumer products and hospital malpractice. Compare this to 16,000 Americans who are actually murdered. And according to the Corporate Crime Reporter, although those 56,000 deaths are often the result of criminal recklessness, violators are rarely prosecuted.

The thugs I’m most worried about have cost this nation trillions of dollars. Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year. The savings and loan fraud – which former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called “the biggest white collar swindle in history” – cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion. And then you have your lesser frauds: auto repair fraud, $40 billion a year, securities fraud, $15 billion a year – and on down the list.” Burglary and robbery – street crimes – costs the nation $3.8 billion a year.

The young people in the street are nothing more than canaries in the mine. We rail against them, but ignore the larger causes which seep through our society like a poisonous gas, killing our hopes and dreams for a better society through lies and machination. It’s easier that way. And I suspect it’s better for the politicians and media. Then they won’t have to single out any of their friends and acquaintances. But I can assure you, if we don’t start confronting the thugs at the top by electing politicians that will actually fight corporate crime, it makes the work to take back the streets that much harder.

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