Taibbi’s core hypothesis is that, just like the widening wealth-gap, America has a terrible problem with a widening justice gap. Since the Clinton years, the American state has treated poverty as a crime, turning the receipt of state aid into a basis for the most invasive intrusions into your personal life, for a never-ending round of barked accusations and cruel threats to your freedom, your family, and your future. Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s “Collateral Consequences” doctrine — conceived under Clinton, revised under GWB, and perfected under Obama — tells federal prosecutors to punish big companies carefully, even for the worst crimes imaginable, in order to protect the innocents who work for those companies and rely on them.
The net effect is a society where HSBC can be found guilty of laundering billions for brutal Mexican drug-cartels who torture and murder with impunity, pay a fine equal to a few weeks’ profit, and partially defer bonuses for a few of its executives. But on the same day, across America, poor and mostly brown people are locked into inhumane prisons for selling a joint or two of the weed those cartels control.