If it worked for Bernie, why not U.S.?
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KAI RYSSDAL: Not too long ago Bernie Madoff was a superstar money manager. Today he’s under house arrest in New York, which explains why he wasn’t sitting in front of the Senate Banking Committee today. Top federal regulators were summoned to explain why they missed the red flags as Madoff pulled off one of the biggest investor frauds in history — $50 billion.
The Marketplace Players wonder if perhaps the Senate is interested in more than just fixing the holes in financial regulation.
SENATOR 1: Mr. Regulator, let me get this straight: Bernie Madoff allegedly set up what is called a “Ponzi scheme.”
REGULATOR: That’s correct.
SENATOR 1: In which he allegedly earned billions out of basically nothing.
REGULATOR: Yes, sir.
SENATOR 1: Hmm. Could you explain to this committee the concept of a Ponzi scheme? ‘Cause it sounds kind of . . . awesome.
(SENATORS: Yeah! . . . I hear that!)
REGULATOR: Excuse me?
SENATOR 2: The government is also currently in possession of a whole lotta nothing, Mr. Regulator.
SENATOR 1: Yes, and it would be very helpful to know how to make a few billion off it.
REGULATOR: OK. Uh, it’s like a pyramid scheme?
SENATOR 1: Oh, pyramids, they’re pretty.
REGULATOR: No. It’s a scheme where you pay off one investor with money you get from other investors.
SENATOR 2: But how do they get paid?
REGULATOR: With money you get from more investors.
SENATOR 1: So, sorta like what we’ve been doing with China!
REGULATOR: Kind of! . . . But, wait, the U.S. Government can’t do a Ponzi scheme!
SENATOR 1: Why not? They say Madoff did it! They say he did it for years!
REGULATOR: Look, if he did, it’s only because we weren’t paying enough attention to stop him!
SENATOR 2: Well, why don’t we just continue not paying attention?!
SENATOR 1: Oh, that’s a good idea. And then we could just take a piece of his action! Just a teeny piece. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.
REGULATOR: It’s against the law!
SENATORS: Ohhhhhh. . . .
SENATOR 1: Well, what if we blackmailed some cash outta Bill Gates? Is that illegal?
SENATOR 1: Aw, man! Session adjourned.
RYSSDAL: Rico Gagliano wrote that piece and performed it with Brendan Newnam and Michelle Phillippe.
Rico and Brendan have a podcast called “The Dinner Party Download.” It’s at DinnerPartyDownload.com.
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