Prosecute the Malefactors

I have come both reluctantly and late to the belief that President Obama will lose re-election unless he moves, and moves quickly, to prosecute the main Wall Street malefactors of the 2008 economic collapse.

Last Sunday’s segment on “60 Minutes” about the activities by Lehman Brothers executives (and their accountants) to fool investors, regulators, and customers was one of the most damning pieces of journalism I’ve seen on what happened and who was responsible. Reporter Steve Kroft deserves a Pulitizer for his reporting on this colossal, cynical, and arrogant bamboozle of the American people. In case you missed the show, watch it on your  computer screen.

Kroft’s investigation was not the first time “60 Minutes” has laid out reports on exactly what happened and who some, maybe even most, of the main villains were. On a Sunday evening a few months ago, I watched with mouth agape as correspondent Scott Pelley reported on blatant forgery in the housing crisis. For all to see, he revealed in shocking detail how some of the biggest banks in the country participated knowingly in an assembly-line forging of mortgage documents.

The reporting of Kroft and Pelley on the economic crisis has provided all the leads – names, dates, witnesses – that the Justice Department could possibly need to begin legal action against the suspects. In fact, their reporting has uncovered what Congressional hearings should have uncovered two or three years ago.

The failure of Congress to act seems explainable to me this way: the Republications are bought and paid for by the nation’s big-money interests. Their rule-or-ruin approach to government calls for doing nothing in the hope that they can win back the White House with Romney – at which point Wall Street can begin hosing all of us again – with impunity again.

But the failure of Obama to act is to me a puzzler. He could unleash a full-scale Justice Department investigation tomorrow morning. Why hasn’t he acted? Some think it’s because Obama himself appears very cozy with big-money figures like Tim Geitner and Hank Paulson. Others say that Obama’s political incubator was Chicago, so what do you expect?

Frankly, I don’t know anymore what to expect. Steve Kroft reported that it has been four years since Lehman Brothers crashed but that no one has been prosecuted for the out-and-out swindling that was involved. But though I don’t know what to expect, I know what I’m seeing, and what I’m seeing are angry citizens who believe – who in fact know – that they’ve been screwed over by Wall Street, losing homes, jobs, pensions, savings, and that nothing has been done about it. If you’ve forgotten how angry they are, watch the video here:

Yes, things are quieter. For now, at least. But those angry citizens are still out there, watching and waiting to see what, if anything, happens to the bastards who took them to the cleaners and brought the United States of America to its knees.

Better do something, Mr. President. You won’t win re-election with charm and rhetoric alone, and the hour grows late.

Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After service in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English, and then began a (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and ended years later in Atlanta at The (great) Atlanta Constitution, which I left in late 1982 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. My second novel, Atlanta Blues, spent a few minutes on the best-seller list in (at least) Columbia, S.C., and was described in one newspaper’s year-end roundup as “one of the three best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” My third novel won no honors but at least didn’t get me hanged; titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in the high school of a Georgia town. For my next novel, And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, I returned to an Atlanta setting for a story about the redemptive powers of, in this case anyhow, “that good rock ’n’ roll.” I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. One of its stories, “R.I.P.,” was a winner in the S.C. Fiction Project in 2009. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.comand I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.