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Judge Judy encourages Americans, slams Madoff

  • Story Highlights
  • Judge Judy tells Larry King that Americans can buckle down, get through crisis
  • Obama shouldn't vilify the rich, but appeal to their sense of social duty, she says
  • Judge Judy on Bernie Madoff: "I think he has the ego the size of Noah's ark"
  • If civil servants have to take furloughs, AIG execs can give up bonuses, she says
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(CNN) -- Viewers have learned that television's no-nonsense Judge Judy cuts through the bull and gets to the heart of the matter.

Judge Judy says Americans have the fortitude to get through this economic crisis.

Judge Judy says Americans have the fortitude to get through this economic crisis.

On Monday night's "Larry King Live," Judge Judy turned her sharp legal mind to matters of the economy, sharing why she thinks Americans have what it takes to navigate the hard months ahead. And she also has some advice for President Obama and sharp-worded assessments of Bernie Madoff and AIG bonuses.

The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity:

Larry King, host: The polls show the public worried about the economy. You had Warren Buffett on, and we had him on. And he called it an economic Pearl Harbor. When you look around, what's your take?

Judge Judy Sheindlin: A lot of people are scared. A lot of people who had money don't have money anymore. A lot of people who didn't have a lot of money have a lot less. And I think everybody is frightened because for the first time -- at least in my memory -- people like Warren Buffett are saying that this is not a good thing.

However, I do believe that this is a great country. And I do believe that. I think the fundamentals of America are strong.

This country has a wonderful spirit. And I think that, in the end, the spirit will take it through. It may take a couple of years. I wish I were younger so that I would have more years to enjoy it. But I think we'll be fine. Video Watch Judge Judy's entire interview with Larry King »

King: Do you think the president is setting the right tone?

Judge Judy: I resent it when any part of the government refers to people who have money in the pejorative. When states and cities and our country say we're going to tax the rich -- and that word rich or wealthy doesn't sound like it comes from success of hard work, but from something negative -- I resent it. ...

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I don't mind paying more taxes. It's not going to impact on my lifestyle. I would say we respect those people who realized, through their hard work, the American dream. And what we're asking them for is a little more of a sacrifice, because the people at the low end can't give anymore.

That would make me at least feel as if I was giving more, but it was appreciated.

King: So don't seem like it's a slam at being rich.

Judge Judy: Right.

King: The top-named villain of the piece, when the history of this era is written, will be Bernie Madoff. What do you make of that whole story?

Judge Judy: I think he has -- or had -- the ego the size of Noah's ark and very little conscience.

King: Why do you think he confessed to all this? He could have gotten on a plane and gone to Brazil, where we don't have an extradition treaty. ... And so he [gets] life in prison

Judge Judy: Maybe he never thought it would happen. I don't know. I think that the book hasn't yet been written on Bernie Madoff.

King: Anyway, we've got a King Cam question relating to the Madoff case. Let's watch and then we'll get Judge Judy's answer.

Randy: Hi, Judge Judy. My name is Randy. And I just wondered what kind of sentence would you give Bernie Madoff if you were giving him a sentence?

Judge Judy: Well, Bernie Madoff is 70 years old. And I think if he's sentenced to 30 years in prison, that's an appropriate period of time. And if he lives to be 100 and he is eligible for parole and makes parole, so be it. ... I was surprised he didn't kill himself, quite frankly, weren't you?

King: Yes, I was. ...

We took King Cam to the streets to see what all of you are talking about. Most people wanted Judy to answer one thing in particular.

Debbie: I was just wondering what you think about the AIG bailout and giving over $160 million in bonuses?

Judge Judy: We now own, you and I, 80 percent of AIG. And the excuse given for paying out these bonuses were that they were contracts and you can't void those contracts without consequences. And I think it's sort of interesting that you can't void contracts because these people were engaged in actions that were irresponsible, reckless and caused substantial damage.

How can they void the contracts of police officers and firemen and other civil servants who they're forcing to take furlough days despite the fact they have contracts? They're forcing them to take furlough days to make up budgets.

King: Are we going to get it [AIG bailout money] back?

Judge Judy: I don't think you'll ever see it back. I think that these people know that money is never coming back. But it seems to me if a company isn't working, there comes a point where you have to say that's what Chapter 11 is for.

King: Your parents were shaped by the Great Depression, right? How did they handle money?

Judge Judy: My parents were generous. My mother always said it's nice to give with a warm hand. So I think that that shapes the way I deal with my children and money. ...

I think that maybe we'll get back to more basics. Maybe people will understand that they have to have something in the bank because in hard times, you never know when they're going to turn around. Never.

And I also think that while banks and financial institutions have to bear a great deal of the blame for where we are, I don't pass over the individual and individual responsibility. If you're earning $50,000 a year, you have no business buying a million dollar house. ...

King: Proposition 8, it bans marriage of two [people of the] same gender. The high court of the state of California heard the appeal of the vote of the people. What do you think?

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Judge Judy: We've got a lot of trouble in this country. We've got a lot of trouble in the world. Why the state should be interested in proscribing the word marriage from two people who love each other, who are responsible, tax-paying, productive people, who have created a family ... why the state would have an interest in proscribing that kind of conduct, I don't understand.

I understand the anger about poverty. I understand the anger about AIG. I understand the problem about the banks. I understand the problem about Afghanistan and the Taliban and everything else. But I don't understand the preoccupation with gays being permitted to marry.

All About Bernie MadoffAmerican International Group Inc.U.S. National EconomySame-Sex Marriage

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