Who doesn’t revel when reading a story about a grandmother who bonks a bandit on the head with a baseball bat?
Yet I have to wonder why white-collar bandits are treated with some kind of “code of silence” today when Americans have done more damage to their own country than any disenfranchised Arab with a weapon and no hope.
I have to speak from a personal point of view, because I never imagined I, as a 62-year-old, would have to rely on my monthly $612 Social Security as my sole means of income because a lifetime of savings are lost or in limbo, in the hands of multi-millionaire CEOs.
Perhaps my lifelong frugality began with my Midwest upbringing. I remember how I glowed as a 10-year-old when I spread out 50 silver dollars on my bed (even then I trusted silver more than paper.) I shared a paper route, and sold Christmas cards and wildflowers to neighbors and I saved everything.
It’s important to add I was in leg braces from the polio I suffered as a two-year-old.
The day I turned 16 I applied as a bagger with a supermarket chain. By then I had exercised enough to get by with only a bad limp. As a frisky teenager, proud of his ’53 Plymouth (bought for $35) and starting to date, I admittedly didn’t save much but always managed a little.
I was always so tight with money. I remember telling my girlfriend Sue I knew she loved me because I never spent any money on her. She replied, 'Well, it sure isn’t because of your car!'
I knew these halcyon days would end, and common sense told me my walking days would be limited as I grew older.
In retrospect the later years flew by. After graduating with a journalism degree, I was hired by Rupert Murdoch as a reporter in Sydney, Australia, then I worked a while as a bartender in Paris. Brace-free and wanting to explore the whole world, I knew it would be an expensive ambition unless I worked for the airlines. Back in Sydney, Qantas was my choice, so then came Rio and Barcelona and Tokyo and the Trans-Siberian Railway and Capetown.
What traveling taught me was that America then was one of the few places in the world where a middle class guy could still expect to own a house. It broke my heart, but the exchange rate was right so I got a transfer to San Francisco and bought my first building with my savings.
Probably if you were to ask any handicapped person what their two most important goals were, 'independence' and 'dignity' would be the answers, and I had both.
Journalism was still in my blood, so I founded a house-and-garden magazine, San Francisco Gentry, and my goals were further strengthened.
Post-Polio Syndrome is kind of a new malady. The polio effects come back. Polio people really hadn’t grown old since so many victims got the disease as kids. But when I found out I couldn’t tackle those hills anymore I realized I had PPS and it was time to move to a flatter and warmer climate.
So I bought a little house in the desert, and wondered what to do with my savings. Trust deeds seemed like a perfect investment. A builder who has 70 percent in a property needs the remaining balance to finish the project. The lender owns the deed and has a personal guarantee. I still think, properly handled, they represent a fine investment.
So my Christmas card money, my bagger money, the reporter and building money all went into trust deed companies operated by confident and personable CEOs. Yes, think Madoff.
Don’t ask me how, as the lawyers will have to sort it out, but they have lost hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, yet the owners of the companies live like kings. One said he couldn’t refund my money, but later in the year bought a Lear jet. And what a wonderful collection of valuable cars he has.
Letters and calls in the previous years to the FBI, the IRS, the SEC and politicians had produced zero results. At most, I got a form letter thanking me for my diligence. I have a feeling if I sent a letter to the local police saying a guy across the street is selling marijuana there would be five squad cars outside his place within hours.
Yes, the newspapers almost daily have tales of a Ponzi scheme or some such crime which has bilked people out of billions, but again, I have to ask a question. Where is the offenders' initial fear of repercussions?
If the government doesn’t take preventative action and reluctantly takes follow-up action why should corrupt CEOs fear anything? By then most likely their assets are often in offshore accounts where it is practically impossible to sue a foreign government for damages.
'This is a time to move forward,' 'This is not a time for finger- pointing,' politicians say as corporations lay in rubble and owners revel in opulence.
Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” asked why people aren't rioting in the streets instead of typing e-mails in all caps.
I no longer have achieved my two goals. I am tempted to get a baseball bat but it’s difficult to walk across the room now.
Kurt Sipolski (canman619