Thursday, September 13, 2012

Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer

The title says it all: Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer. This book traces the absolute corruption which embroils our elected officials. Whether it is insider trading on stocks, miraculous land deals, access to IPOs, or laws passed to benefit political donors, our congressmen and women engage in some of the most egregious forms of corruption. AND it's all legal! Why? They police themselves. Ever notice how regular middle-class people go to Washington and leave millionaires? That's our money they are taking and our economy they are harming for their own benefit. I couldn't agree more... throw them all out!

Peter Schweizer names names and documents every claim.

He begins with the stock trading that health care laws generate. When our elected officials know what sector will be harmed or helped, they make calls to their brokers, before it becomes public knowledge. John Kerry, with the millions he already had access to, was able to make millions more. Other players, like Jim Webb, had a smaller pot to start with but still ended up ahead due to the insider trading knowledge he had. They also cash in by trading stocks based on crisis’ they know are coming before the public catches wind. 

Many times, politicians will have access to IPO’s the rest of us can only watch. Nancy Pelosi made a killing getting into a VISA IPO and then sitting on legislation that would have harmed her new partner’s interests. Pure corruption! Boxer got rich the same way. 

As the federal government has enormous power when it comes to land valuation, some, like Harry Reid and Dennis Hastert, will find a way to benefit. Sometimes it involves moving a federal project near land they own in order to raise the property value. Harry Reid asked for a bridge to be built over the Colorado River that would then hike the value of a piece of property he owned nearby. How nice.  Or in the case of Pelosi, she made sure a light rail project built a stop conveniently located near an office building she owns, effective sending the value up. 

Crony capitalism, wherein government officials direct loans, subsidies, and projects to their donors, has famously enriched many a politician. Obama’s stimulus in 2009, as well as other programs, funnelled literally billions of our dollars to his political supporters. For example, of the $20.5 billion in loans made by the Dept. of Energy, $16.4 billion went to companies with an Obama connection. Schweizer gives too many examples to list of Obama donors who went on receive very lucrative benefits from the administration. For a man who wants to tax millionaires and billionaires, he certainly is giving them a lot of taxpayer money. Why doesn’t he just keep it in the first place and call it a draw. Oh yeah, how would that help him get elected?

He writes a whole chapter on Warren Buffet. Largely seen as a grandfatherly type, dispensing economic wisdom, Buffet is not beyond lobbying and capitalizing on government largess. He lent a “helping hand” to Goldman Sachs when the financial crisis hit, knowing full well, with insider political knowledge, a bailout was in the offing. Consequently, the stocks he received when investing in Goldman went through the roof! He earned $2.5 billion on that one. Nice work if you can get it. We are giving billionaires like Buffet billions of dollars through government policies he has the ability to influence. Pure corruption!

Many Wall Street organization hire retired politicians sole for the connections they bring. Studies have shown that a hedge fund with a politician on the payroll significantly outperforms those that don’t. Afterall their bought and paid for access to current lawmakers comes in handy when deciding where to invest. 

Conflict-of-interest laws apply in many business and within governmental functions. But they do not apply to members of Congress. In fact, since Congress has the job of policing itself, why would it ever limit its members’ ability to make financially advantageous deals? Members of Congress are routinely exempt from the laws the rest of us must abide by! Where is the outrage? Congress also uses its vast amount of power to engage in what is essentially extortion! Donate to my campaign or I may have to raise your taxes. And it’s LEGAL!! It will not change, because for them, business is good. 

Their arrogance is stupifying. We are supposed to be a nation under the rule of law. They have turned us into a banana republic. This absolute destroys the free market. When special favors must be bought, when only the politically connected can succeed, when rules and regulation are changed or bent in order to benefit a supporter, the economy crashes. Is it any wonder that this recession has dragged on and on. Business simply cannot function in an environment of such pervasive corruption. Since the Obama administration came into office, the corruption has moved from small, bi-partisan, back-room, million-dollar deals, to gigantic policies running into billions and billions of dollars.

Elizabeth Warren stated repeated at the DNC, “If you feel like the system is rigged against you, that’s because it is.” She advocated voting for Obama to change that. But not only is he a major contributor to the rigged system, they all are!


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