March 12, 2009
Forgive Bernie Madoff? Please
KNX-AM Radio showed up at my home at 5:41 am to interview me about Bernie Madoff. Yes, they had given me a warning phone call, and even promised I only had to stumble out in my pajamas. I put on pants.
At the end of the interview, the incredibly awake reporter thrust a mike closer to my face—in the morning darkness, dogs barking, street deserted—and asked if I had anything else to add. My mind drew a perfect, decaffeinated blank. Now, three cups of yerba mate later, the answer arrives:
I have two things to add. One, people need to understand that this man Madoff, as heinous as he is, didn’t cause the economic meltdown. His scheme simply fell apart because the economy collapsed. It’s unfair and unwise to make this crook the poster boy for a recession or depression that so many people—from our political leaders to our regulators to our speculators and over-borrowers—had a hand in.
Second, his sentencing must in no way deter prosecutors from finding out who else among his family and friends was involved, and making certain they pay for their crimes as well.
Finally, no, I do not forgive Bernie Madoff. I know that will be the inevitable question now that he expressed remorse to a judge in Federal court. He’s welcome to ask God for forgiveness, but good luck with that, too.
For the complete Bernie Madoff update, read this excellent New York Times summary of the morning’s breaking news.