And thus we have a perfect oligarchical system in which, literally, our most powerful and well-connected elite are free to break the law with impunity, exempt from any consequences. While exempting themselves, these same figures impose increasingly Draconian "law and order" solutions on the masses to ensure that even small infractions of the law prompt vigorous prosecution and inflexible, lengthy prison terms.
As Matt Stoller recently noted in an excellent post on the bipartisan orthodoxies that are untouchable in political debates, "there are 1 million people put in jail for doing what Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush have done" (buying and consuming illegal drugs) and "2 million people are in prison in America, by far the highest total of any other country in the world." It's almost impossible for the non-rich to defend themselves effectively against government accusations of criminality, and judges have increasingly less sentencing discretion to avoid imposing harsh jail terms. Punishment for crimes is for the masses only, not for members in good standing of our political and corporate establishment.
Where our political elite break the law, our leading media stars and pundits fulfill their central purpose by dutifully arguing that establishment figures who have broken the law have done nothing wrong and deserve protection, even our gratitude, when they do so. In the view of our establishment, even mere civil liability -- never mind criminal punishment -- is deeply unfair when imposed on lawbreaking corporations, as we see in the "debate" over telecom immunity.
This same warped principle is also expressed in how our establishment scorns the work John Edwards did in representing maimed or dead individuals against the corporations which, through recklessness or negligence, destroyed their lives. From a letter from Theodore Frank of the American Enterprise Institute to the New York Times today (h/t Jay Diamond):There is a critical distinction between Mitt Romney's and John Edwards's wealth. Mr. Romney, as a businessman, made investments that created wealth. Mr. Edwards, as a trial lawyer, made his money through lawsuits that merely took from one pocket and gave to another, and probably destroyed wealth in the process. (Mr. Edwards's multimillion-dollar medical malpractice verdicts almost certainly hurt the quality of health care in North Carolina.)Anything that results in accountability for our largest corporations is inherently bad, even when they're found under our legal system to have broken the law or acted recklessly. Thus, John Edwards' self-made wealth is deeply dishonorable and shameful because it came at the expense of our largest corporations and on behalf of the poor and dirty masses, while Mitt Romeny's wealth, spawned by his CEO-father's connections, is to be honored and praised because it benefited our establishment and was on behalf of our glorious elite.
Little wonder that Mr. Romney understands that to improve the economy, one needs to expand the pie, while Mr. Edwards's policy proposals focus entirely on the redistribution of the existing pie without thought for the future adverse consequences to the size of the pie.