Madoff and the Mets

I loved the title (involving my Mets) and the fun way it makes a great point about an even bigger Ponzi scheme.

From Holman Jenkins last month in Madoff and The Mets:

Madoff paid out very large sums to a very few participants, who became marquee investors to attract others. The Wilpons and Katzes were not the largest payout beneficiary. The largest recipient was Jeffry Picower, whose fictitious profits numbered in the billions. Like the cripple at the medicine show who drinks the elixir and throws away his crutches, unwittingly or witlessly, the Wilpons, Picower and a few others lent crucial credibility to Madoff’s come-on. As sociologist Lionel Lewis aptly describes the method that allowed the fraud to last as long as it did, Madoff “took from the comfortable (the almost rich and nearly rich) and very comfortable, [and] he gave to the extremely wealthy.

…echo more broadly today in light of Ponzi scheme more disturbing than Madoff’s. A perfect example are recent comments of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and a group called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength agitating for higher taxes to sustain the federal government, even though the federal fisc is saddled with commitments doomed to outrun any plausible scenario for future revenues.

Not that these agitators propose to make up the shortfall out of their own pockets even if it were possible (which it’s not). They know the real money lies with the middle class—the comfortable and very comfortable, the almost rich and nearly rich. The patriotic plutocrats seem to think the rest of us should be inspired by their example to dig deep and keep the game going a while longer. They are the Wilpons of the welfare state.

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