Articles

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Government Money

Time and time again, the liberal defenders of government power have attacked any call for reform as a plot by the wealthy. Even now New York Times editorialists pound their keys about the "Concentration of Wealth", invoking presidents from Andrew Jackson to Theodore Roosevelt. But in our America, the "Concentration of Wealth" is not found in the hands of a few billionaires. It is found in the hands of the government.

The editorialists talk about the income gap and how much wealth is held by the top 1 percent of the country, but they are leaving something out. Their statistics deal with individuals, not institutions. And it is institutions which threaten our liberties, not individuals.

The top 10 wealthiest men and women in America barely have 250 billion dollars between them. That sounds like a lot of money, until you look at annual Federal budgets which run into the trillions of dollars, and the country's national debt which approaches 15 trillion dollars. And that's not taking into account state budgets. Even Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union, with a population of barely a million, has a multi-billion dollar budget.

As the 10th richest man in America, Michael Bloomberg wields a personal fortune of a mere 18 billion dollars, but as the Mayor of the City of New York, he disposes of an annual budget of 63 billion dollars. In a single year, he disposes of three times his own net worth. A sum that would wipe out the net worth of any billionaire in America. That is the difference between the wealth wielded by the 10th wealthiest man in America, and the mayor of a single city. And that is the real concentration of wealth. Not in the hands of individuals, but at every level of government, from the municipal to the state houses to the White House.

While liberal pundits pop on their stovepipe hats, fix their diamond stickpins and cravats, and trade in 19th century rhetoric about the dangers of trusts and monopolies-- the power in 20th century America lies not in the hands of a few industrialists, but with massive monopolistic trust of government, and its network of unions, non-profits, lobbyists and PAC's. The railroads are broken up, offshore drilling is banned, coal mining is in trouble and Ma Bell has a thousand quarreling stepchildren-- now government is the real big business. How big?

The 2008 presidential campaign cost 5.3 billion dollars. Another 1.5 billion for the House and the Senate. And that's not counting another half a billion from the 527's and even shadier fundraising by shadowy political organizations. But that's a small investment when you realize that they were spending billions of dollars to get their hands on trillions of dollars.

Do you know of any company in America where for a mere few billion, you could become the CEO of a company whose shareholders would be forced to sit back and watch for four years while you run up trillion dollar deficits and parcel out billions to your friends? Without going to jail or being marched out in handcuffs. A company that will allow you to indulge yourself, travel anywhere at company expense, live the good life, and only work when you feel like it. That will legally indemnify you against all shareholder lawsuits, while allowing you to dispose not only of their investments, but of their personal property in any way you see fit.

There is only one such company. It's called the United States Government.

It wasn't always this way. There used to be limitations on executive and legislative power. But those limitations are gone along with the top hat and the diamond stickpin. Under an ideological cloak of darkness, politicians act as if they can do anything they want. Public outrage is met with alarmist news stories about the dangers of violence, as if this were the reign of the Bourbon kings,  not a democratic republic whose right of protest is as sacrosanct as its flag and its seal. Instead the republic is dominated by political trusts, party machines, media cartels, public sector unions and a million vermin who have sucked the cow dry and are starting in on its tender meat.

Consider that in 2008, Obama pulled in 20 million from the health care industry. (McCain only 7 million). Afterward, he conspired to pass a law which mandated that every American be forced to buy health insurance from the industry. There is no definite figure for how much money the industry will make from this, but it will be a whole lot more than the mere 20 million they invested in him. During the days of the robber barons, the government never mandated that everyone must buy a product from them. Private companies might have contrived such control over the marketplace, but the IRS was never enlisted to collect their bills for them.

Every New York Times columnist who summons up the ghost of T.R. to mewl about the "concentration of wealth" should hang his head in shame. If Theodore Roosevelt were to come to life and behold such a connivance between the government and the industries it created, at the expense of the people, whether it is HMO's or the mortgage market, is there any real doubt that he would seize his big stick and bust some trusts.

How much money has flowed from the Obama Administration to its friends in the private sector in just the last year alone? And how much of that money was used to secure jobs for its allied unions, money which is then kicked back to liberal politicians running for office? Entire states are going bankrupt because of political trusts formed by politicians and public sector unions which pass money back and forth to each other in the plain sight of God and the American taxpayer.

This is not the mere concentration of wealth, but the ruthless concentration of power. The real money isn't coming from that top 1 percent, it's coming from unions, lobbies and companies which use political power to extract public money. And that money goes to the party which is so determined to keep on extracting that money no matter what it takes.

The big government left keeps playing the class warfare card, but for all their murmuring, it is not the top 1 percent that robs the middle-class blind and then sends them the bill. Even the worst company in the world isn't as larcenously extortionate as the politicians who spend and kick back, and then cry poverty and raise taxes. They shout that we need to raise taxes on the rich, and supposing that we do, where will that money go? Even if we strip that 1 percent of all their wealth and dress them up in barrels, is there anyone who does not believe that those in power will still contrive to spend it all and run up huge deficits anyway?

And still some of the most greediest and most abusive companies, were invariably either created by the government or operate in close partnership with it. HMO's were created by the government. Banks fed off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's subsidized mortgages like vultures. Do we really need to discuss insurance companies, defense contractors or Sallie Mae. AT&T is considered one of the worst companies in America, and it's also one of the biggest political donors. Is there a connection there? Only that companies close to the government don't need to worry as much about what the public thinks of them. Hate the airlines? They've both been overregulated and subsidized into incompetence. Airlines have been bailed out and protected from competition too many ways to count, because of the unions riding on their coattails. And those unions are destroying airline after airline, while the non-union airlines prosper.

It's easy enough to go down the list, but why bother. Suffice it to say that American business is looking a lot like Soviet business did, full of companies with contempt for their customers, and an unctuous smile for the government. They know where the money is coming from. And in an era of cut throat price competition, and high labor and regulation costs, it's just easier for them to extract the public's money by going over their heads to the politicians. It's no longer a free market in which individuals make economic choices, but a collective economy with governments fixing prices and then turning around and taking more of your money to pay back the companies.

Forget the old trusts and the cartoons of moneybags sitting on his gold. The new trusts operate out of Washington D.C. for the benefit of the public.  The money goes back and forth, lobbyists, unions, politicians, consultants, contractors, activists and lunatics huddling together and passing bills that no one has read. And still the defenders of big government treat any calls for reform as a conspiracy of the rich. Yet the two richest men in America, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, were holding fundraisers for Obama. And the tenth richest man in America runs one of the biggest bastions of liberalism. And number 14 on the list, George Soros, is the left's sugar daddy.

But this isn't a battle of billionaires. Mere money no longer means what it once did. The billionaire is a dinosaur. The wealthiest men in America can't wait to get rid of their holdings. In the free market, money made you king. But under socialism, money just buys you access and leverage. The leverage to force every man, woman and child to buy your product. The real concentration of wealth is no longer among men, but among institutions. Like electricity passing along copper wire, it jumps among unions, political machines, companies, non-profits and back again. Its function is to provide the motive power for the great beast of government to grind on. And the American taxpayer is left lying flat in the street.  

24 comments:

IgorR said...

Well whose fault is it? The idiot voters who love Obama and who re-elected George Bush because of Medicare Part D. But don't worry, Japan will disintegrate because it's further down along the Krugman Highway, so maybe everybody will look and learn not to do that. So in the end it all comes down to how educable the idiots are. If that doesn't make you feel safe nothing will.

Edward Cline said...

One of Daniel's best essays on the looters' economy, and how it won't work for those with no "pull," "connections," or "input." If you can't grasp his points here, you ought to be sent to a teachers' college, which notoriously, given the caliber of teachers such colleges turn out, is a kind of "finishing school" for the obtuse and the thick-headed. My hat is off to the author. I think he ought to have adopted the title instead of "The Road to Serfdom, and How to Get There."

Tabitha Taylor said...

IgorR;
Are you really suggesting the 'progressive' John Kerry would have done a better job with the economy? Comeon! LOL
The GOP seriously needs to start putting up conservative candidates though.. Bush was a big gov't operator & not typical of the GOP base. That's been the problem with every candidate in the GOP's recent past. They'd actually win with a true fiscal conservative!

mindRider said...

and Yes Daniel, you may be on the spot with this filleting analysis, but what? Do you think that even if the conservatives ever manage to get back in office against the tide of immigrant/entitlement voters of the left they could shrink this water-headed government/bunch-o'-crooks more than marginally? A non-/or bloody revolution with lobbed of heads and hundreds of thousand of death? Even after such a cleansing, in the day and age of speedy everything the system would be back to near bloat within a decade look at Russia where the names of the thieves hardly changed and only a veneer of liberty has been applied. You are great at pointing out the hurts of today's America even world, but due to our being a mass we have reached Titanic like inertia of motion, once sailing almost impossible to steer into an other direction.

Marcel said...

"We have met the enemy... and he is us".

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece, Daniel. I'm going to dare to share it with people who aren't among the choir to whom we all preach. I hope it gets some thick noggins thinking.

Side note: I hope you'll forgive me for pointing this out, but I'm a proofreader and this sentence bothers me: "Even the worst company in the world isn't as larcenously extortionate as the politicians who spend and kick back, and then raise cry poverty and raise taxes." (It looks to me like an extra "raise" was left in when editing; am I wrong?) :-)

~arasina~

AG said...

Even before OKKKupy Wall St movement where the Left started to glob onto this clarion call of Wealth disparity and redistributionist ideals, they claimed that wealthy outsiders have bought and paid for the politicians. Logically this makes little sense to me. How could wealthy people buy wealthy people? It's like the "what do you buy the guy with everything" thing.

Look at our politicians, they have plenty of money. The only thing they ever need or want is more power. And this pitting Americans against wealthy people grants them more power. It is the greatest bait and switch ever pulled off. It is a bigger illusion than David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear.

Then you realize, if politicians seeing this popular sentiment really wanted to get more power, they could easily with the stroke of a pen, legislate a wealthy person into the poor house. DC holds all the power. And they have ne need for more wealth. Big Oil makes a 2% profit per gallon of gas; this would put any company under. But Government currently with State and Fed combined make a 48% per gallon profit. And gas is now almost $4 a gallon. And the Government's profits were meant to go to maintenance of infrastructure. But now they need Trillions in stimulus to do that.

Wealth establishments don't own politicians, the politicians own them. The donations are simply to be allowed to continue playing. The bigger the contribution, the more favorability they get. And when you read the New Leviathan, you'll see that this is the only reason Microsoft ever did so well. Gates knew this from day one.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

arasina, yes you're right

Anonymous said...

As a readers living in Europe, I can tell you this article is spot on. The cost of government in the EU has become massive, with the MEPs being essentially unanswerable to an electorate for long periods of time, but the appointed bureaucrats of the EU not answerable at all. The regulations spew out like a flood, costing societies ever more money while diminishing freedom. The press is largely at fault in the moment, for a new movement such as Alternativen für Deutschland is ridiculed, when all it proposes is taking back fiscal sovereignty. Socialism is dying because no amount of funding can satisfy it, and its politicians are both voracious and now angry that the game begins to come to its end. Limiting government, and probably severely, is an answer, but the slow and consistent building down as is happening in Sweden is another, while Iceland's recovery is another. All the gloom and doom of the socialists are lies, and all the elite want is more -- both power and money, from all else who should have less of both. It becomes a time ripe for revolution, but not of the Marxist sort. Rather the inverse. Thank you for a fine article which I will pass on in translation to interested parties.

Dennis Latham said...

A great article. I just wish everyone in America could read and understand it. Maybe then people would finally be able to do something before the whole country self-destructs.

IgorR said...

Tabitha, no I was not suggesting that Kerry would have been better, although he would have been better than Obama, and without Bush's profligacy we would not get Obama, so think about the implications of that. What I was suggesting was that Karl Rove essentially admitted that he had made a calculation that to win reelection he needed the seniors' votes, and Medicare Part D was a deliberate attempt to buy them. The seniors responded, and George Bush was reelected. The fact that the American electorate is so easily bought off by expenditures that are not paid for and cannot be reasonably paid for indicates that something is fundamentally wrong about it, and explains how the worst President in history, namely Obama, can win reelection after fully demonstrating what he is all about. You can call them idiots, you can call them selfish, but whatever it is they are not thinking correctly or at all about the interest the country.

Edward Cline said...

IgorR: If you want a dramatization of how the looters' economy works – or doesn't work, because all such a system can guarantee is collapse – read Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." AG: If you want a dramatization of how a looters' government works internally – complete with extortion, blackmail, arm-twisting, fraud, log-rolling, compromise, media-bias, posturing, corporate lobbying, and even murder – watch Netflix's "House of Cards," particularly the Kevin Spacey version, in which all the villains are popularly-elected Democrats. MindReader: An electorate bent on looting the rich would vote for naught if there were a Constitutional amendment that prohibited Congress and the Executive from restricting, regulating or controlling trade – which in effect would put an end to the lobbying business in Washington D.C. and all moneyed interests.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

A Kerry victory in 2004 would have, in retrospect, served our interests better, especially if the economic crisis would have made Kerry a one term president.

Obama could still have run in 2012 and President Romney or McCain in 2008 wouldn't have been that great a prize, but it would have been better than what we have now.

frugalfrigate said...

I agree with Edward Cline: "A Constitutional amendment that prohibited Congress and the Executive from restricting, regulating or controlling trade – which in effect would put an end to the lobbying business in Washington D.C. and all moneyed interests."

I would add that repealing the 16th Amendment would prevent the government from getting so bloated and it would limit its scope to its proper and only role: protection of individual freedom and property.

IgorR said...

Daniel, yes, not only Kerry in 2004 but perhaps (and of course we'll never know) Gore would have served our interests better in 2000. Look at it this way: a self-imposed Global Warming Tax (although not a treaty to that effect) can be fairly easily reversed, but an Amnesty cannot be at all, and Obamacare is proving to be not easily reversible.

Regardless of any possible scenarios, everyone had to realize that Obama is a response to Bush. Of course Bush was in any meaningful sense more patriotic than Obama, but he spent like a drunken sailor and had a VP who had once famously claimed that deficits don't matter, he could not articulate conservatism if his life depended on it, he could not explain the financial crisis or his response to it, he did not deal with the "weapons of mass destruction" issue in a way that inspired confidence, he did not fight in Afghanistan to win and was totally confused about what it meant to spread democracy, he did do Medicare Part D that will wind up costing trillions, he advocated for Amnesty. Were it not for the Democrats becoming outright Communists, who in their right mind would want someone like Bush? An uncommunicative fake conservative Globalist with his love of the family values south of the Rio Grande and for various Saudi sheiks? A man whose whole career was orchestrated by the evil Karl Rove who skillfully and effectively fights true conservatism from the inside? Bush's family is like poison, the reaction of most conservatives to Jeb Bush and the possibility of him running for President is one of revulsion and dread.

Bush poisoned the brand, confused the electorate, and is directly responsible for Obama and the resultant state of the country. Until the bulk of the Republican Party can easily articulate what was good and more importantly what was bad about him, this will indicate a lack of clarity, a lack of introspection and the inability to win elections.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Unfortunately there hasn't been anyone who was good for the brand since Reagan. The thinking in some circles that one term of O would lead to such an emergence backfired badly. The GOP is trying to tilt even further left in response.

IgorR said...

There are probably tens of thousands of people in the country who could articulate conservatism better than any high-stature elected official. The reason none of them gets elected seems to be partially that it's in to many currently powerful people's interest to preserve the status quo, so the access to money needed to get elected isn't good for the good articulators, and partially that if you just come out with an unabashed articulation you are likely to get defeated in most places. Ted Cruz and Scott Walker are reasonably good, so regardless of their flaws I wish them well.

Edward Cline said...

FrugalFrigate: Thanks for the seconding. Of course, a Constitutional amendment that would prohibit Congress from interfering with trade would need to be upheld by a Supreme Court not of its present composition, except perhaps for Clarence Thomas, who is a strict constitutionalist, and not an "interpretative one." Everyone else now on the bench would need to go, including the "wise Latina lady" and the other female of dubious gender and especially the one who said Arab countries should model their constitutions on the South African model, Ginsburg. I remarked in private correspondence that Obama is a nihilist who even destroys golf, and he has gone after the Supreme Court, as well, to reduce it to a robed marionette that does his bidding and sanctions his destruction. The idiotic dithering over whether or not ObamaCare represented a tax or "trade regulation" is a case in point. Lobbyists would never go away, even with such an amendment; they just wouldn't be able to make any headway in Congress if congressmen and senators knew they could be upbraided by the Court and actually punished if they tried to pull a fast one on the country.

NotClauswitz said...

And just imagine how many more trillions the Thug Governments believe they can scam using the scientisty Climate Trick - one of oldest long-cons in the playbook.

Dick Stanley said...

If there's an honest person left in the Congress s/he'll introduce a bill tomorrow making that Cyprus theft thing criminal here. Ah, but is there an honest person left in the Congress? Is there really? You have to wonder.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

And Obama will still be able to override it.

The larger problem is we're all out the law abiding thing.

The Government-Media Complex can no longer be stopped with laws or bills.

If it could, it would be stopped by the Constitution.

Michael J Kubat said...

But, but, but it's all for the children!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Greenfield,
You are entirely right about the Govt. and their cronies, the insider deals, the influence pedlars and their clients. It is near to impossible for the electorate to modify federal Govt. behavior through appeals to their Congressional Representatives, which is why it is essential that power be devolved back to the states.
However if you go up a level, to the UN and it's attendant bureaucracy and cronies, you will see a cesspool of corruption, nepotism, cronyism and decadence that make our Fed . Govt. seem like Pollyanna.
regards
roger in florida

jp said...

I am a voracious reader of economics, government and law--of all that I've read, this article is the most timely and important of them all. Everyone needs to read this.

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