it's still hard to believe that bernie madoff did it: more than $50 billion worth of ponzi scheme. people begged the man to take their money. what they got back was the equivalent of, "oh, ok, if you insist."
what in the world could he have been thinking? did his kids, who helped him run the business, know? did his wife, with whom he spent night after night? did the so-called auditors know? how could they not have known?
there are times when pleading guilty just doesn't cut it. we have to know more. how was it done? what happened to the money? as a result of madoff's actions, people are suicidal or close to it. a kid goes into a grocery store, takes out a gun and spends a lot of years in prison even though he never fires his weapon. this madoff guy killed dreams and retirements and inheritances and made people so destitute that they had to un-retire and sell their homes and whatever futures they had worked all their lives for.
it doesn't help that all kinds of fox-like authorities who were charged with watching the chicken coop were told that it didn't add up. that was a reflection of the bush years: a securities and exchange commission that didn't do its job and a justice department that never seemed to meet a monopoly it didn't like.
it was another opportunity for the anti-semites to get crazy. it didn't matter that major jewish institutions were among the most ripped off and that some of the most prominent jewish families in america were among those most victimized.
as i interviewed one congressperson after another about the banking failure that was happening at the same time as the madoff affair, i asked them what we have learned. what do we have to do to ensure that we can monitor the greed and proclivity for evil? i hear very little in the way of a sensible program to make sure that it doesn't happen again.
you had better believe that madoff, allowed to go about his business despite warnings, is symptomatic of a larger problem. what is really needed is a systematic approach to protecting all of us from harm. no one seems to want government running business, but it is time to make sure that government becomes the umpire in a game rife with greed. madoff is but a symbol of what unbridled greed can bring.
-- alan s. chartock is president and ceo of wamc/northeast public radio and an executive publisher at the legislative gazette.