Julio 17, 2009

Get Thee To a Cardboard Box

This post is one of those non-personal musings (rants?) about current events, rather than a detailed explication of my recent activities.

What I'm musing about here is Bernie Madoff, after reading something about him and his "victims" in the latest issue of Harper's. (why do I instinctively put "victims" in quotes? Read on...) In this short entry in the Readings section of the magazine, the editors provide a selection of Victim Impact Statements sent to the judge during the sentencing phase of Madoff's trial. This one particularly struck me:

Madoff deserves no better than to live under a bridge in a cardboard box, scavenging for food - the existence to which he has undoubtedly consigned some of his victims.

Now, is this complete hyperbole, or is this writer actually claiming that some of the people who invested money with Madoff are now literally homeless paupers because of his betrayals?

How could this be? Of course I sympathize with any innocent people and organizations who were cheated by this guy, especially non-profits who were affected. But let's get real: anyone who put all their eggs in one basket sort of, at least somewhat, deserves whatever they get. I mean, c'mon! You gave Madoff ALL your money? Every cent, other than the $1000 you spent on that magnum of champagne you drank the night before he got caught? Did you even give him the Rolex on your wrist?

Everyone with a brain understands that you should diversify your investments. You put something in high risk, high yield ventures but keep some in something solid, like treasury bonds or, hell, maybe you might just want to keep some of it back in an FDIC-insured savings account, for a rainy day? You don't just hand everything you have to some fast-talking guy named Bernie. Even poor people understand this. That's why they have multiple kids.

Or "invest" in friends and family so that you'll have someone who'll take you in on their couch when you lose your home, maybe.

The thing is is that this "impact statement" and all the others elide a certain unspoken truth that very few are talking about, regarding Madoff's scam but also applying to the general financial crash we are all still reeling from: you can't get something for nothing, and if you think you can and you put everything into your something for nothing scheme, then you're a fool. And there have been an awful lot of fools, of various types, getting the other shoe stomping on them.

And if you're rich enough to be investing in the first place, in anything, you're on a level, you're in a class, far above many many people in the world. A huge number of people even in the U.S. make barely enough to stay out of poverty, and in the wider world, the numbers are even grimmer and "investing" means having enough kids so that after half of them die you'll still have enough able bodies to till the fields and take care of you when you're old.

Madoff certainly had no right to steal your money, oh "victim," but where did you get that money in the first place? Was it really yours? What gives you the right to have all that money to invest, when most people in the world struggle every day just to feed their families? You are the beneficiary of a global, millennial ponzi scheme called Late Capitalism, and you're too stupid or in too much denial to know it, and you're now whining because you were too stupid to at least stash a little emergency funds away somewhere safe?

You're on the karma payment plan.

Posted by steev at Julio 17, 2009 05:08 AM
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