Bernie Madoff was made by privilege

The Weaponized Privilege of Bernie Madoff Is Still Unsettling

A Ponzi scheme of $65 billion goes way beyond gall and greed.

Bernie Madoff is a liar and a pariah. The con man from Queens, New York, attempted a massacre of sorts.

Bernie didn’t attempt his massacre with bullets. He used bluffs, instead. Even so, his crimes killed people and put people in the red.

On December 11, 2008, the F.B.I. arrested Bernie Madoff and exposed his bloated Ponzi scheme of an estimated $65 billion that defrauded about 21,000 victims.

As the financial crisis of 2008 fostered reasons to panic and cling to pennies, Bernie’s clients rushed to withdraw the money they knew he had stacked for them.

With the rising requests for withdrawals, Bernie confessed his Ponzi scheme to his sons who called the authorities.

His victims included individuals, institutions, and even charities. Several people lost everything because they trusted Bernie Madoff. The Madoff Victim Fund and other efforts have paid about $12 billion to his surviving victims with more to come.

In the shivering shadow of Bernie’s appreciable devaluation of lives, 4 people connected to Bernie Madoff committed suicide including— his oldest son Mark Madoff who hanged himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest.

The investigators never charged his wife Ruth, but a few of Bernie’s associates served time.

Bernie is serving a jail sentence of 150 years.

Greed is one theme to this horror story.

It makes sense for people to get the best returns on their investments.

But within the quest to make the most was the insatiable thirst to increase wealth without questioning the numbers no one should have believed.

The mutual interest in greed by Bernie and his victims was the worst give and take.

A vicious capitalism, rigged regulations, and the stingy zeal to deregulate helped to make the gross tragedy of Bernie Madoff.

But America’s investment in privilege also sponsored Bernie’s crimes.

Bernie had credentials to boast, but his name and his word alone were enough to instill confidence in people who begged to be in his exclusive portfolio.

Bernie withstood the easy questions by saying the formula to his magic numbers was “proprietary.”

In New York City, where “stop-and-frisk” was a daily burden for Black and Brown people, Bernie’s racial profile exempted him.

What America considers a crime is also a social construct with systematic privileges and disadvantages.

Bernie’s privilege allowed him to continue his daily activities of wiping out accounts in unrecoverable ways.

When you realize people chased Bernie Madoff to throw their money at him, it’s wrong how many everyday people still struggle to get paid their worth.

Then there’s also the automatic way corporate America moves qualified resumes headed with “Black names” to the permanent file of no callbacks.

Bernie had a privilege that made it possible for him to rise with the credit score of certain attributes America doesn’t readily extend to everyone.

Based on color and other factors, America automatically extends innocence, intelligence, and believability.

America racializes who’s safe and who commits crimes.

It’s conceivable any of Bernie’s victims may have been more concerned about a street robbery than an elite fleecing from a well-respected industry leader.

Similarly, people rush to leave cities for small towns based on their prejudice and perception of safety.

But small towns are still vulnerable to mass shooters who storm and spray bullets that ricochet off the walls of the best schools.

Society’s prejudice about who commits crimes leads to an excessive focus on certain crimes, racial profiling, and even death by neighborhood vigilantes and cops who only see subjects with imaginary guns.

White-collar crime is varied, and it isn’t only a crime for those with plenty of funds they can trust. But often it doesn’t get the dangerous stigma or fearful scrutiny it’s fully worth.

Bernie Madoff proves someone’s privilege can make white-collar crimes catastrophic.

Even though the F.B.I. doesn’t clearly list them as a separate line item, white-collar crimes add-up and count too.

On average, other crimes amount to $15 billion in losses each year. In contrast, white-collar crimes cost anywhere from $300 billion to $1 trillion in losses per year.

Plus, those who commit the most elite white-collar crimes usually have the financial resources for dreamy defense teams to argue and win the lightest wrist slaps and jubilant high fives.

It’s also a standard practice for businesses and well-endowed people to make donations and support lawmakers who in return make laws that give white-collar criminals advantages.

Privilege is a bump stock that gives Bernie Madoffs everything they need to be mass looters.

Bernie Madoff may be a greedy and heartless man with immeasurable gall, but his privilege put him in the position to easily execute a widespread larceny of livelihoods.

Privilege can unfairly pay off for honest people, and a properly used privilege can help vulnerable people.

But we also have to deal with what is especially real — the privileged steal.

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