Anyone who knows anything about baseball will tell you; Pete Rose would have been made a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, were it not for his being banned from baseball for life because he gambled on baseball games, even thought Rose was never accused of betting on a game in which his team was playing. Nor did Rose make money by his illegal gambling. In fact he lost quit a lot because he was as bad at gambling as he was great at baseball. Pete Rose should have gone into the banking business.
Had Rose gone into investment banking with any of the big banks in this country, he could have gambled to his heart’s content. He could have even been as bad at gambling as …well he was. And if and when he got caught breaking the rules of the game; there would have been no death penalty like being banned for life from banking. In fact there would have been no consequences, serious or otherwise at all. He could have kept his job, increased his pay and been elected to the Banker’s Hall of Fame. All the while he would have been making the kind of money that makes even top athletes salaries look like pocket change.
And in the difference between the games of baseball and life (which is not a game for most of us) lies the problem in a nutshell.
Rose’s gambling didn’t cost a single person other than himself a single penny. Compare that to the tens of millions of hard working Americans who lost a huge chunk of their life savings, their chance for a comfortable retirement, and for some, most everything else they had worked a lifetime for. When Rose was banned from baseball he did get to plead his case with the Commissioner; however he didn’t get to advise the people who make up the rules how to rewrite and change them to his advantage, as Wall Street heavy weights do.
Most people find it odd that Rose who as a player and manager earned the nickname “Johnny Hustle” for his ethic of hard work and was a credit to his sport, is sentenced to “death”; while the hustlers on Wall Street not only get to keep their jobs and huge salaries, but got bonuses into the hundreds of millions for running their company’s stock into the ground, costing their own shareholders billions of dollars. It is even odder that in all the mid and high level employees involved in the uncountable bad deals they made; not a single person has been called to the bar of justice, yet alone been convicted and sentenced to jail time.
After the Savings and Loan scams and scandals of the late 1980’s, there were over a thousand convictions of bankers and other sharpies for the grand theft they committed. Almost immediately, starting in the mid 1990’s and accelerating after the 2004 election, the financial industry used their enormous economic clout to get the U.S. Congress to relax the rules governing the separation of commercial and investment banking and what sort of unregulated instruments these conglomerate financial houses could produce and peddle. The results was the worst financial disaster since the great depression.
Even the few fines that have been handed out to banks and brokerage house conglomerates for rules they broken are far less than the huge profits they made by breaking the rules. In every other walk of life there are serious consequences for lying, cheating and stealing. But in the world of big time fraudulent finance the only penalty seems to be; you still make a bundle of bucks, just not quite as much as you would have if you hadn’t gotten caught. Had baseball had the same kind of attitude towards gambling that Wall Street and their friends in Congress do; Rose’s penalty would been being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but perhaps without a unanimous vote.
The 2008 change in administration in Washington has done almost nothing to improve, upgrade or re-instate the protections Americans had for almost 75 years, which prevented commercial banks whose deposits are insured by the Federal government from gambling in the sorts of bad loans, which were then bundled into ungoverned securities, which were at the heart of the 2008 meltdown. No matter how mild the proposed regulations have been since; the Wall Street crooks lobby the Congress in person and with boatloads of contributions to stall, water down or completely prevent any significant regulations from once again becoming law. It’s kind of like Rose being allowed to run an on-line gambling site while has was still an active player-manager.
We take Pete Rose’s infraction of the rules of our national pastime much too seriously. Pro basketball turned a blind eye away from allegations of Michael Jordan’s gambling and the world of basketball and Mike (who we still like) continued to entertain and prosper as if nothing had happened. Had Rose been scolded and swore to not gamble anymore; he could enjoy his rightful place in Cooperstown and Mr. Doubleday’s game would still be just as popular.
But compared to the high angst about Rose’s gambling; we treat the wholesale corruption of our entire system of banking, financial products trading and the collusion of our elected officials in these swindles as it were nothing more than uncontrollable annoyances. But we know it’s much more than that. The corruption goes right the core of what a democracy is all about. When a handful insatiably greedy individuals can control our entire national political system to provide them with the means and opportunity to do real financial harm to 99+% of the American people; it is a crisis of the highest magnitude. If the Washington can’t guarantee the honesty of the banking system we as taxpayers underwrite, the very economic foundation of everyone and everything in this country is in peril.
In 1929 Wall Street’s greedy speculation literally brought America to the brink of chaos. Do we really want to, or should we have to, wait for there to be bread lines in the streets and millions of homeless Americans roaming from cities to farms looking for something to eat? How close to the edge to do how many Americans have to be before our national leadership steps up and in a honest, strong and believable way actually puts laws to protect Americans on the books and puts the miscreants in jail? The criminals of Wall Street aren’t like Pete Rose; guys we really like who, just have a bad habit. They are uber-greedy, selfish, uncaring enemies of the people of this country. They are not a Rose by another name.