Government and Organized Crime

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

I’ve said before that “the only difference between government and organized crime is in whose rules you follow.”

When I first realized that (long before I posted it in this blog), I was responding both to police behavior and the sense that taxation was a form of protection racket, in which you are protected not from common criminals–for them, the police will come after a crime has occurred and take a report, then maybe find (all too often) an African-American (or at least someone who can ill afford to defend themselves) to lock away–but from the government itself which might otherwise imprison you for tax evasion.

And while I was well aware that those taxes paid for war, this was well before I came to grasp the extent of the serial rape, mass murder, and genocide campaign that characterizes United States history. And it was before the collusion of the Obama administration with corporations, particularly the military-industrial complex with an utterly and completely predictably failed escalation in Afghanistan, banking interests with a weak financial reform that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will be in a position to further gut, and the health care industry with a mandate that millions of people buy insurance that will let them down when they need it (coupled with an exemption to leave uncovered those who need insurance the most).

These are criminal acts on a breathtaking scale. And if our only remaining shred of a distinction between the U.S. government and organized crime is the rule of law, the CIA drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere; an insistence on preserving an option to torture in defiance of international law; multiplying secret prisons; and perpetuated violations of constitutional protections against domestic spying strip it away.

This government stands exposed as a profoundly criminal regime that protects rather than prosecutes criminals. The insight I had so long ago, based on police behavior, barely scratched the surface.

But after reading the latest about how Tim Geithner, who enabled the financial crisis that brought on the depression, is being put in control of the consumer protection agency that the banks hate and being given broad new powers, I’m feeling just a little extra sick about it today.