Wells Fargo is one of the top five largest banks in America, a fact that on its own is damning enough, basic human decency not exactly being conducive to success in the financial industry. Despite, or rather because of, its role as one of the leading sub-prime mortgage lenders prior to the 2008 crash in the housing market, the bank was handed $37 billion from the U.S. government, a transfer of wealth from the foreclosed upon have-nots to the haves doing the foreclosing – people like chairman and CEO John Stumpf, whose compensation actually rose after his company’s de facto bankruptcy to a cool $18 million last year.
As Wells Fargo has grown over the years, using its bailout funds to gobble up rival Wachovia and expand to the East Coast, so has the U.S. prison population. By 2008, one in 100 American adults were either in jail or in prison – and one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34, many simply for non-violent offenses, justice not so much blind as bigoted. Overall, more than 2.3 million people are currently behind bars, up 50 percent in the last 15 years, the land of the free now accounting for a full quarter of the world’s prisoners.
These developments are not unrelated.