Bernie Madoff, reports the New York Times, is feeling mistreated.
Two years into his 150 year sentence for defrauding hundreds of investors, destroying dozens of charities, and crushing the financial security of people who trusted him with their future, Madoff thinks it was unfair for Judge Denny Chin, who sentenced him, to make certain that he would die in prison. Accusing Chin of having “zero understanding of the industry”—meaning what, I wonder; that it was normal for the investment industry to set out to ruin people?—-and saying that he was being made a scapegoat while Wall Street firms and government officials “walk away free,” Madoff told reporter Ben Weiser, “Remember, they caused the recession, not me.”
Yes, and the Crusades started the chain of events that led to 9-11, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Asian policies lit the fuse for Pearl Harbor. Madoff, despite saying repeatedly in the article how remorseful he is, obviously doesn’t get it….even the fact that his son committed suicide in despair over his family’s culpability hasn’t penetrated his warped sense of self-justification. There have been serial killers who did less harm than Bernie Madoff; the number of lives and families his scam devastated reaches into the thousands. He received a prison sentence of 150 years only because the U.S. doesn’t treat white collar crime, even on an epic scale, as a capital offense. Madoff is a strong argument for why it should.
In a related article, Judge Chin explains how he determined Madoff’s sentence. The tipping point was the case of a widow, whose husband had invested with Madoff and had died suddenly. She was worried about his funds, and Bernie hugged her and promised that his money was safe with him. Then he persuaded her to put her pension funds and other assets in his Ponzi scheme as well. Today she has nothing. Chin concluded that Madoff’s conduct was evil, and that a heavy sentence was essential to show society’s disapproval of such vicious, heartless greed.
Who could disagree with him? Only Madoff, which is why his lament over his fate serves to validate it. “Everybody does it” was the ethically bankrupt motto of the financial sector brigands who paved the way to America’s fiscal collapse, and sociopaths like Madoff took the opportunity to exploit the fast and loose culture to enrich himself and his family several steps further. “Everybody” may have been willing to risk the nation’s economy to get richer; “everybody” may have been greedy and irresponsible. But only a few despicable bastards were willing to hug a frightened old lady, knowing that what she would take as a gesture of kindness and concern was really a cynical device to trap and rob her.Madoff proved then that he was a predator, and he hasn’t changed.
We all should feel a little safer, thanks to Judge Chin. As for Bernie Madoff, calling him an Ethics Dunce is an insult to ethics dunces.