Will Barack Obama Confront Corporate-Criminal Complex?
By John F. Miglio
Five, ten years from now... they're gonna miss John Gotti.
-- John Gotti
Martin Scorsese captured the transition brilliantly in Casino when he showed the old Mafia-run casinos being torn down and replaced with the new corporate-controlled casinos, a striking metaphor for the death of “family business” in America and the rise of the white collar corporate-criminal complex, which, not coincidentally, supplanted the Mob during the years Ronald Reagan was president.
In fact, by the end of the 1980s, traditional gangsters like John Gotti (known as “The Dapper Don” and “The Teflon Don”-- no relation to Ronald Reagan, “The Teflon President”) were on their way out. Gotti himself was the last of a dying breed, a tough street guy who stood by his word, rewarded his friends, and murdered his enemies. And when he finally got caught and convicted, he received a life sentence at a maximum security prison where he eventually got cancer and died.
In contrast, the white collar corporate criminals of the 1980s had no sense of Old World honor and rarely served more than a few years in cushy minimum security federal prisons known as “Club Feds.” During the same era as Gotti, for example, Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky each served only about two years in minimum security prisons for insider trading.
Over the years, however, this has changed, and some of the white collar crooks in the new millennium have received much stiffer sentences. Jeff Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, received over 24 years in prison, and Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco, is currently serving 8-25 at a tough prison in upstate New York. Too bad Kenny Boy Lay died before he went to the slammer. The stories he could have told about his old pals Bush and Cheney!
This brings us to our current crop of top shelf criminals-- no longer street-smart wise guys carrying guns like Gotti, or even white collar crooks cooking their companies’ books like Skilling, but outright swindlers like Berni Madoff, who blithely cheat individuals out of their life savings.