Who Goes To Jail When “The Crooks Are Higher Up”?

Who Goes To Jail When “The
Crooks Are Higher Up”?


Leonard Zwelling

         Today (May 27) I got an early cell phone call from a close
friend. This friend wanted me to read three separate articles from three
different newspapers that had gotten under his skin. So I did and they all got
under mine, too, but I’m the one of us with a blog.


         The first of these (from The
Wall Street Journal
; url above) was about proton therapy and how, for the
majority of patients, it really is no better than conventional radiotherapy.
There are striking examples of its benefits in some pediatric cancers or base
of the brain malignancies, but for primary prostate cancer, some insurers are
no longer paying for proton beam treatments.

         If proton beam had been an FDA-approvable drug, it is
doubtful that one of its label indications would be for primary prostate
cancer, yet thousands of men and millions of dollars have been employed to
fatten the wallets of the builders of these facilities. Normally such crookery
would be unconscionable. But if the separation of patients and insurers from
their money is at a sufficiently high enough administrative level, or was worth
enough money such as it was with proton therapy, no one goes to jail.


         The next piece I was guided to was from the NY Times and was about who really is
paying for research and development, industry as is claimed by, for example,
big pharma, or you, the tax payer. The Bayh-Dole Amendment of 1980 began the
trend toward academic “entrepreneurship” which is nothing of the sort. That
faculty members use NIH grant money or venture capital money to develop their
own companies while still on the public payroll (e.g., at UT) and then reap the
benefits personally in the form of money usable for boat payments, is a total
perversion of the idea of public funds generating private wealth. The tax payers
wind up with no share of any profits that are gained by the commercialization
of the intellectual property associated with discoveries made by investments of
public monies like those from the likes of the NIH. Is that right? Isn’t
someone cheating?


         Finally, the Houston
editorial on May 26 decried the fact that when banks are caught
in illegal misdeeds they get financially penalized for what others go to jail
for. The banks plead guilty and pay a fine and move on. Paying fines for
illegal criminal activity has become the cost of doing business in the banking
industry. No one goes to jail. As in the prior two cases, it is the regular
American tax payer who bears the cost of this malfeasance with higher insurance rates,
higher drug costs and higher banking fees.

         Now with all of this bad behavior going on, it is a major
challenge for a parent to illustrate to his or her children how good behavior
is actually rewarded when the evidence seems to indicate the opposite.

         I now go back to my favorite line in all of literature. It
is from Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short
and it is a quote from the mouth of Vinny Daniel, one of a group of very
smart men who realized the mortgage market in 2007-2008 was a sham, a scam and a
good old Ponzi scheme. These men sold the mortgage market short making $20
billion betting the bottom would fall out. Before making their “big short,”
these men met some of the leaders in the mortgage business in Las Vegas. Vinny
returned from Vegas and reported to his partners:

         “There were more morons than crooks, but the crooks were
higher up.”

         This is American health care. This is American academic
medicine. This is the banking industry. This is the federal government’s
inability and unwillingness to punish those so in need of jail time and by
doing so not really protecting the American people from these predators in
expensive suits and white coats.

         It’s a sad state of affairs.

         Well, at least they got some of the soccer crooks.

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