Robbing banks, the new-fashioned way

St. Louis bandits were slick, but not as slick as the Wall St. gang

Monday’s big story in the Midwest: “Masked gunmen steal huge stash of cash in predawn heist at St. Louis ATM servicing business.”

So who’s bolder, the four armed robbers, or the honchos at Goldman Sachs and American International Group Inc. who effectively used the banking system to steal billions from taxpayers? Let’s compare the heists.

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger

The four gunmen, dressed head to toe in black, arrived at the ATM servicing center before dawn. They overpowered a guard as he reported for work, and then another. They apparently knew in advance that “it took two workers to separately punch in access codes to open the vault.” They got away with about $11 million and are still on the loose.

Lloyd Blankfein and his cronies at Goldman Sachs didn’t wear masks or carry guns. Neither did Robert Liddy and his crew at AIG, which was the country’s biggest insurance company. They gambled billions on the housing bubble, using mortgage-linked investments called collateralized debt obligations and insurance instruments called credit-default swaps, because they knew they had friends in government who’d help them steal back their billions if the gambles didn’t pay off.

The housing bubble burst, the banks failed and government bailed out AIG to the tune of $182.3 billion in taxpayer money. AIG used much of the bailout money to pay off obligations to Goldman and other banks that had been incurred through complicated insurance arrangements.

The St. Louis crooks obviously had insider knowledge regarding the ATM center. They deserve the John Dillinger Prize – I just invented it – for being ballsy throwbacks in an age of cell phones and surveillance cameras. They have a good work ethic, and one might even say they got their money the old-fashioned way. As John Houseman used to say in an old TV commercial, “They earned it.”

The Wall Street crooks had insider knowledge far beyond that of conventional robbers. They took no physical risks and escaped with a bundle of loot that makes the St. Louis robbers’ take look like small change. AIG and Goldman are even stronger than they were before the worldwide economic collapse – a collapse they helped trigger with their reckless investment and insurance policies.

The Wall Street gang wouldn’t dream of robbing banks the old-fashioned way, even if they had the guts. They’re smarter than that. They knew their power would remain undiminished even if their mortgages racket collapsed because their friends are named Paulson and Geithner. They knew, as conservative apostate David Stockman recently wrote, that their monster companies are “wards of the state, extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives.”

The St. Louis crooks will get killed or go to jail. Blankfein and his colleagues will remain rich and free unless the federal government is radically reformed. As the Duke said several times in The Searchers, “That’ll be the day.”

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