Just trying to get away with it?

Mark Dempsey is a Sacramento writer and political junkie

Sacramento Bee columnist Eric Hogue recently criticized the Occupy movement’s goals with this question: “Are we, as a society, about getting ahead or getting even?” That beautifully summarizes the 1 percent’s defense of its privileged position.

Assertions like Hogue’s that the United States is “an ‘opportunity’-based society” ignore the history of the last four decades, when median real incomes for the bottom 90 percent stagnated. Meanwhile, inflation-adjusted income increased five-fold for the top 0.01 percent. Social mobility has plummeted. The “opportunity” narrative also can’t explain why taxes on corporations and the “job creators” are at 60-year lows, yet unemployment remains high.

Consider one who answered opportunity’s knock: Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Mortgage (since acquired by Bank of America). Mozilo made nearly $500 million securitizing mortgages that were 80 percent fraudulent. Bailing out just one of his enterprises (IndyMac) cost more than the entire 1980s savings and loan bailout.

What became of Mozilo? He was threatened with prosecution, and settled for $65 million in fines without any admission of guilt. That’s “opportunity” for you!

But here’s the historical perspective: During the savings and loan scandal (during the Reagan and first Bush administrations), the Office of Thrift Supervision filed more than 10,000 referrals for criminal prosecution, and the Justice Department prosecuted more than 1,000 cases with a 90 percent conviction rate.

The current mortgage meltdown is roughly 70 times larger than the savings and loan scandal. In response, OTS has filed zero referrals for criminal prosecution, while the Justice Department has prosecuted just 10 cases.

So the Occupy movement protests something more accurately called “injustice” or “corruption,” not success. As it stands now, the second Bush and Obama administrations will be the most corrupt in history.

The corruption Occupy confronts is not just federal, it’s pervasive. Sacramento proposes offloading $500 million of its parking-meter revenue to get $250 million for a stadium that aids a privately owned team. This is nothing new. President George W. Bush “earned” 75 percent of his net worth because he persuaded the citizens of Arlington, Texas, to build a stadium.

So the real question is: “Are some of us just trying to get away with felonies?”