Curmudgeonalia
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July 7, 2008

Fleeced

(about government, media, corporations, lobbyists and others scamming us)
Dick Morris – ISBN – 9780061547751

Close on the heels of Outrage comes a new offering, which is vaguely Naderesque, except that Morris--unlike Ralph Nader--is not a loose cannon with “tweaked” information and vendetta in mind.

The authors outline endemic corruption, elaborating upon the related issues and possible solutions. These are thoroughly researched, carefully thought thru, simply presented and on the mark. You may not agree with their corrective suggestions, but the expose is damning. As is common recently, he takes a few well deserved shots at the Clintons, which he painstakingly documents.

In the introduction, he reinforces that in our democracy one cannot make all people equal, but government should strain mightily to eliminate artificial inequalities. They explain by whom, and why, it is not being done.

Hedge fund managers are some of the wealthiest amongst us. They manipulate the system to pay only capital gains taxes on their labors (as opposed to their investments), while the rest of us pay ordinary income taxes on such earnings. Congress refuses to close this loophole because these folks donate huge sums of money to campaigns, especially to Democrats. The top 25 fund director’s incomes totaled $14 billion dollars last year, upon which they paid 15% taxes. Had they been properly taxed they would have paid more than twice that amount--for the mathematically challenged, that amounts to almost $300 million in tax savings for just 25 people!

He documents that Senator Schumer (D-N.Y.) raised $2 million from such executives in 2007. In turn, legislation to change the rules was sabotaged . . . by Schumer and associates.

Lobbying firms are multiplying like rats, influencing the legislature mightily, directing multi-billion dollar contracts to their clients and altering legislation in their favor. He names many and elaborates on their activities.

Recently, a $40-100 billion contract went to Airbus—a European company—instead of Boeing, thus sending jobs overseas along with our money. Since the contract is for refueling tankers for our military aircraft, we are outsourcing national security as well. Boeing was previously caught amidst corrupt practices, but the guilty have been punished and they’ve cleaned up their act. Need they suffer more? And why do we have to forgo jobs, send tax money to Europe, and risk national security? Because a few sanctimonious senators and a handful of lobbyists says so.

Numerous American companies work for/with Iran—declared a terrorist nation by our government—yet congress will do nothing to reproach these companies. (Morris recommends that all American investors divest themselves of stock, which will severely impact their stock prices. This was done with South Africa to force the end of apartheid, and it worked. Why not now?) Further, the World Bank, funded heavily by the U.S., continues to lend Iran enormous sums with no strings . . . our tax money going to a terrorist nation some feel we will attack soon, but nothing is done to pressure the bank to cease; at the U.N. it’s no different.

Foreign nationals and governments routinely employ “retired” high level U.S. government officials to plead their cases for special treatment from our government. Why do we permit lobbyists to represent foreign interests? Why do we allow former insiders to represent them in the halls of the bureaucracy with which they are so familiar? This revolving door policy has been discussed for decades, but nothing is ever done, because it involves people who feather their nests after their elected service is over. No one in Washington is going to interfere because it is their retirement plan as well . . . it’s something financially rewarding to do, to screw the public after their careers in government . . . screwing the public.

Being the cynic that I am, I’d suggest that many run for office primarily to get their pension on their way to becoming lobbyists. While President Truman retired to his rocker on a modest pension, Clinton has “earned” over $100 million he has acknowledged. But he has myriad irons in the fire around the globe, some of which activities Morris explores in depth, and a lot of it is sleazy and/or corrupt. Who’s surprised?

Colombia, Morris notes, employs Clinton-linked lobbyists, no doubt picked randomly from the yellow pages.?! After his recent visit to Taiwan they changed lobbyists . . . from Dole-linked to Clinton-linked. Happy accident, that? Note that both linkages relate to former high government officials. The incest is wide-spread, bipartisan, damaging, malicious and rampant.

Customer pillage by credit card companies comes in for special derision from Morris, who notes that despite verbiage to the contrary, nothing is ever done because of huge contributions to our legislators from these banks. Members of the House Financial Services Committee, alone, receive over $12 million annually. Of course there is no quid pro quo! They deny it, and why would you suggest such a thing?

Government subsidized flood insurance repeatedly pays out huge amounts for shorefront losses from predictable hurricanes, and in places with recurring floods. Those who benefit are frequently wealthy, since average folk rarely live in the high-rent districts. Why do middling taxpayers subsidize trophy house replacements on barrier islands and in flood plains? Because the government permits it. Then again, remember that many in government own these McMansions—most of them second homes--and they don’t want to pay the full freight to insure their properties. Better that we do it. It’s another benefit of making the rules.

Government is supposed to reward whistle-blowers who point out corrupt practices and wasteful spending . . . Right? Instead it demotes, hounds, replaces, and even prosecutes them. Why? And why are cinema and T.V.—even child oriented, G. and P.G. genre shows--presenting smokers again, after years in which smoking in film was discouraged? He explains.

These and many more areas are dissected, and I can assure you will be royally p-ss-d off as you read. But devour it; you should! It’s time for changes, and only public indignation will produce it.

Posted by respeto at July 7, 2008 11:20 AM