Column Date 2009-01-11

Why I am thinking of becoming a thief

It started with a conversation I had with a friend.

"I worked for Chrysler my whole career," he said. "And now, those jerks running things have just about bankrupted the company.

"My pension? I don't count on it any more. I only know that the guys on top will walk away with millions."

Thieves, of course, have been with us since the beginning of recorded history. (Strict penalties for thievery, including death, are even found in the Code of Hammurabi, 760 B.C.)

Many Americans actually look up to thieves (see Bonnie & Clyde, Martha Stewart, Michael Milken).

Not to mention Bernie Madoff, who will no doubt wind up in the Guinness Book of Records as having hatched the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

And lots of thieves, as we all know, don't get caught. (Even if they're caught, high-class thieves always seem to wind up in minimum security facilities.)

So, to get started in this lucrative profession, I asked myself two questions: Which kind of thievery is most profitable? And which is easiest to get away with?

Wall Street is not the place to go these days, as it is sure to be well-regulated (at least for a while).

The oil business is too risky, what with the world's two most influential oilmen, Bush and Cheney, unemployed as of next week.

And the U.S. Congress, possibly the ultimate petri dish of thievery, seems to be momentarily under control, having lost many of its master teachers (Alaska's ex-Senator Ted Stevens comes to mind).

But thievery as our national sport continues at other levels.

Bank robbery is increasing, in frequency if not sophistication. (Last week, a bank robber near Akron, Ohio waited patiently in a teller's line -- wearing a ski mask. When asked to remove the mask, he refused, then robbed the teller with what turned out be a toy gun. He was arrested minutes later.)

In Florida, cattle rustling is making a come-back. (A man in Ocala stole nine cows and a bull, and then tried to sell them at a local auction. He somehow overlooked the fact that all of them had a "6-R" brand on their hind quarters and marks on their ears.)

Even the folks who run the California Avocado Commission were caught with their hands in the honey pot when they charged the growers $300,000 for items like personal garage renovations, baseball tickets, gym memberships and workout clothes. (The CEO of the Avocado Commission resigned and now works for a ministry at the conservative Saddleback Mega-Church. Their service this weekend is listed as: "You Really Can Change.")

Maybe the smartest thing I can do is join the upcoming generation of thieves and try to get part of the $700,000,000,000 in bail-out money the government is handing out. 

After all, Larry Flynt (of Hustler magazine fame) has already put in a claim for $5 billion to rescue the porn industry.

So why not me? Or you, for that matter?

What are we waiting for?

©2009 Peter Tannen