“ I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism.”
from War is a Racket by Brig. Gen. Smedley Butler
“All of them are racketeers, but the corporate kinds are nastier.”
William B. Reynolds, Investigator
Guido sold the best pizza in Brooklyn. He had learned how from his Mama, a woman who understood why fresh matters in the Old Country. Guido's Pizza was therefore the busiest pizza parlor in Brooklyn, with customers standing in line for a seat. But Guido was ambitious; he wanted to expand into the now vacant shop next door so he could serve not only pizza but his Mama's special Marinara Sauce on their home-made pastas along with those knife thin slices of her special sausage and the roasted Mozzarella cheese dish that they reserved for special holidays.
Then, Guido imagined, he would open up franchises. Guido fancied the business model of McDonald's, Guido had hopes of becoming an International businessman with several shops in Manhattan. He sometimes gazed across the water to New York City, promising himself and his Mama, now deceased, that it would be so. He would even build a shop in their village back in Italy.
His Mama would be proud.
So Guido went down to the see the Capo, Mr. Clametto for a loan. Mr. Clametto sometimes came by to have a pizza, Clametto was always dressed well, in an expensive suit and bright tie.
Mr. Clametto slapped him on the back and shook his hand.
“What! You need money, God forbid you should have to ask when you make the best pizza I had in my life, even home in Sicily. Vinny will set you up. Say no more.”
Vinny had counted out 50,000.00 clams in hundreds on the way out, backed by the full faith and enforcement of Mr. Clametto's organization, Costa Nostra. Guido had never seen so much money in his life.
Today, Guido's Pizza has a different kind of clientèle and Guido understands that there was a hook in the cash.
Too much cash always has a hook, embedded deep enough so you do not see it. There would be no chain of shops serving wonderful food for Guido, only barriers to dreams.
Some racketeers come in flashy ties. Others wear quieter apparel but the hook is always ready and waiting.
Today Americans are finding the hook in the mortgage they took out on their home. Some of the mortgages written in the last seven years promised – and gave the borrower – 125% of the value of the house. Borrowers could hardly believe that it could be so easy to realize their dreams. Vacations, desperately needed medical treatments for those they loved, making their home into the vision they had hungered to have when they were still young enough to enjoy it. There were lots of reasons for borrowing. But those loans were made when the dollar was solid and real estate seen as an investment that could be expected to be better than gold. Those dreams are also dying. You see, your government has found a way to convert your home into a form of currency and you into a serf.
Vinny and Mr. Clametto wanted their money. So do those better dressed racketeers.