If you have been keeping track of the trends in the U.S. since the beginning of this century, you could readily observe that the repetitive actions of the federal government defend those who knowingly “break the law.” The most recent proof of that contention is the lackadaisical enforcement of federal law pertaining to illegal immigrants and the employers who hire them because they work hard and demand little.
I won’t go into the states rights issue, the cost to individual states for harboring these vagabonds, and the difficulty of integrating immigrants who don’t speak English, don’t know the rules of this country, drive without licenses and insurance, and boldly use the Emergency Rooms in our local hospitals.
To lawyers “breaking the law” means doing things that are specifically prohibited by statute and their implementing regulations, constitutional or not. To the rest of us who try to obey the laws that restrict our individual freedom, that simple definition ignores the behavior of those who flaunt the law or conduct their business in the unregulated areas of human life.
The behavior of the peddlers of toxic mortgage backed securities guaranteed by the giant insurance company, A.I.G., were legal because there were no laws regulating derivatives and the swaps that should have been suspect because rating agencies were not doing what they were expected to do.
Using TARP money to bail out the “too big to fail” banks who paid their executives outrageous salaries and bonuses was helping greedy speculators, not law-abiding taxpaying citizens who will ultimately foot the bill. Corporate law protects the “rational” decisions of the responsible members of a bank’s board of directors who approve executive pay policies.
The F.D.I.C. is bailing out failed commercial banks today as they did during the Saving and Loan catastrophe. Like the S & L banks, insolvent banks went along with the questionable behavior of other banks that closed their eyes to unworthy credit risks. The federal government also bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Both organizations ignored their responsibility to investors that required them to accept sound credit risks. Certain watchdog agencies failed to do their job because there were no laws that specifically told them how to perform their audit function!
In 2008 I had a private conversation with a former bank examiner in Texas who told me why he quit his job. His boss repeatedly refused to punish the banks which he examined that were not following proper procedures. When there are no proper procedures on the books, can a business be prosecuted for breaking an unwritten law?
Health insurance companies are charging high premiums for healthcare and dental coverage and increasing those premiums each year at rates that far exceed inflation. That isn’t illegal, of course, because a business can charge customers “what the traffic will bear.”
Many individuals who can’t afford to pay those premiums and who work for small companies who don’t provide subsistence for healthcare insurance, don’t buy a health insurance policy. That is their private decision, but not any longer. It won’t be legal in 2014 to save your money by not buying an outrageously expensive healthcare policy.
Look at the unique freedom the credit card companies have today. There are no usury laws in certain states. Consequently, any credit card company housed in those states can charge a customer whatever interest rate they choose, whatever late fees they like, and whatever transfer fees they can get away with. It’s all legal, and the federal government tolerates the obvious abuse of decent citizens who use credit cards. Even a legally blind person can see that the credit card companies aren’t “breaking any laws” because no federal usury laws are on the books today.
I don’t want to go into the current income tax law, because what’s considered legal under that law depends on the curious rationale used over the years by various Congresses. Suffice it to say that blatant favoritism is converted into “acceptable” legal tax accounting practices which are inequitable.
This is the consequence of our progressive income tax theory which permits all kinds of specific exceptions for whatever pleases the House of Representatives and their lobbyists. The taxpayer has little to say about that backroom legislation and the last minute earmarks that add new exceptions to the law!
Over the years I have learned that the best advice for frustrated taxpayers and disgusted citizens is, “Don’t break the law, make the law!” Numerous powerful incumbent politicians are making the law and breaking the law. A person’s history of unethical practices is frequently ignored by government officials when making appointments. Respected Senators have been called on the carpet for egregious behavior. The devious use and reporting of campaign contributions is another murky area of suspicious behavior of politicians and their helpers.
As young kids we learned, “you’ll be OK if you aren’t caught with you hand in the cookie jar.” However, if you are a talented politician with friends in high places, questionable behavior may be considered legal or tolerable for a time until a messy scandal ensues. And even then, if you volunteer to pay back the taxes owed and a token fine, everything will be forgotten and you will be permitted to go on wielding the baton for your sycophants.
The various enforcement agencies of the federal government complain that their staffs are inadequate to enforce all the laws and regulations on the books today. Nevertheless, Congress is approving thousands of pages of new legislation each year which are not well understood by citizens and poorly implemented by the local people responsible to interpreting the law.
In each new law there are many exceptions, unacknowledged loopholes, and vague procedures which can be interpreted more than one way until they challenged in court. Then a judge seeking fairness and justice looks over his or her shoulder at prior court cases and legally accepted precedents.
Well, someone has to look out for those whose ignorance of the law is no excuse for their unacceptable, anti-social, and unscrupulous behavior. Those “innocent-until-proven-guilty” scofflaws usually did what they did because it was what others had done before them. If the altruistic federal government isn’t going to care for those who “break the law” and “skirt the law,” who will?