Earning Impunity

Goldman Sachs had revenues of $13.4 billion last year not including the $10 billion in bailout money. Without admitting wrong doing for helping former Treasury Secretary now hedge-fund billionaire Hank Paulson bilk investors by packaging and selling toxic mortgages designed to fail, Goldman has agreed to settle civil fraud charges for an amount equal to about two week’s revenue, $550 million, plus $1.3 million for lobbying and politicians. Were Goldman Sachs the first and last name of a person, they would be in jail and pennyless. As a corporation, their stock went up over $3 billion after the announcement.

BP takes in $240 billion a year. It might spend a month’s revenue to hire Ogilvy PR, cap, clean up, and pay lawyers to settle the lawsuits related to 11 wrongful deaths, hundreds of thousands of toxic exposures, destroyed business and ruined lives. BP will get most of their fix, clean up and settlement money back in US tax breaks and subsidies – payback for spending $3.5 million lobbying and bribing US politicians. Were BP a person instead of a corporation, the business would be shuttered and they would be in jail on an oil and water diet awaiting trial.

GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia drug makes them a lot of money – $3 billion in 2006, but down to just $1.6 billion since everyone learned what GSK always knew, but wouldn’t say – that Avandia treats diabetes by causing heart attacks and killing people. Of course, Avandia is just a drop in the $100 billion GSK annual revenue bucket. Potential total liability for payouts to those GSK killed or maimed: $1.1 billion. Annual bribes to politicians to keep being able to sell this deadly crap: $7 million. Were GSK a person instead of a corporation they would be awaiting death by lethal injection of one of their products.

Toyota makes automobiles which work so well, some just wouldn’t stop. The company knew it, didn’t fix it, resulting in the death of at least 37 people. Toyota, which has annual revenues of over $200 billion, finally got caught. It will cost Toyota shareholders a few billion for the recalls and to settle the lawsuits. Annual lobby and political bribe budget: about $5 million. Were he not hidden behind corporate immunity, Mr. Toyota would have fallen on his sword. Instead, sales went up 48%.

Bayer has revenues of over $49 billion and makes a heart surgery drug called Trasylol. Trasylol has caused the kidney failure and agonizing death of an estimated 22,000 people since 2007. So far, Bayer has spent about $97 million to settle, plus $1.4 million purchasing political protection from our elected leaders. Corporate or not, Bayer’s history of human experiments dating back to those it conducted at Auschwitz, suggests it will not be held accountable.

Massey Energy mines and sells coal for $2.2 billion a year. Since 2005, they have been cited for safety violations over 1,300 times, culminating in April with the death of 29 miners in West Virginia. The law suits are expected to cost them almost half their income, plus less than $20,000 to make sure they don’t have to actually operate safe mines or pay fines. Were Massey owned by Don Blankenship rather than run by him, he’d be buried in coal by now.

Whether your company is making pesticides in Bhopal, an insurance company denying claims, an airline wishing to cut maintenance costs, bilking the Pentagon out of billions during wartime, or just the world’s largest bank wishing to screw us all, you are special. Just buy a politician and say, “jobs.”

It is legal in our society for a corporation to kill thousands of people. If a country did it, the leader would be called before the Hague. If a person did it, they’d be called a terrorist and killed by a drone. It is better to be a CEO.

Is it just me, or do we sell our politicians too cheaply? Of course, keeping the price of our politicians down is good for corporations. Just not people.

To see who is buying whom, at what price, go to OpenSecrets.org

32 thoughts on “Earning Impunity

  1. Melinda Ennis

    Lee. Excellent piece, probably my favorite you’ve written. You have summed up the insanity beautifully. The United States of Corporate America is now in total control, aided and abetted by our Supreme Court (thanks to Roberts rules). How did we get here? Certainly when Ronald Regan (who would have been perfectly cast as the CEO of General Motors), became our leader we should have known. He showered us with empty, but comforting aphorisms that could have come straight from the latest business bible. The power of his “positive thinking” was a tonic after that dour, downer Jimmy Carter, who was constantly scolding us to start rationing our gas and energy supplies—- and stop acting like children in an endlessly supplied candy store. It was also then we began worshiping the CEO gods, prasing them with the accolades usually reserved for returning war heroes. When Donald Trump got his own TV show, we should have known.

  2. Francois Lipton

    So do we trust the government? The one that caused the current recession by creating a massive liquid secondary mortgage market and lied about the underlying credit quality. About a government that adopts a massive healthcare entitlement when it’s current medical and retirement entitlements are grossly underfunded. A government that undermines private property through condemnation to benefit commercial interests. A government that invades countries and won’t allow its soldiers sensible rules of engagement to kill the enemy. A government run by two completely corrupt, incompetent parties.

    1. Monica Smith

      Money is a lubricant. It is only important when there is not enough to keep trade and exchange running smoothly — which is exactly what the gnomes of Wall Street have been trying to do. They hid the money to demonstrate how powerful they are. It was all a pretense. When Washington sent more money, they quickly found what they had all along.

      That said, public and private corporations are organized for the express purpose of distributing risk and shielding individuals from personal responsibility. Where we have gone wrong is in letting private corporations act as if they were natural persons, with the same rights and no obligation but not to cause injury to someone else, failing to appreciate that an artificial corporate person can cause much more damage than an individual ever can.
      What we should have done was impose strict limits on private corporations, as we do on public ones and, because they don’t serve a public purpose, simply dissolve them, if they don’t perform as specified. Of course, for the federal government to provide such supervision, private corporations need to be federally chartered — as seems appropriate for any group that operates inter-state or internationally.

      You want to be covered by U.S. law, get yourself a U.S. charter. None of this hiding behind the skirts of South Dakota or the Bahamas.

  3. Billy Howard

    Exactly Francois, We need to change the basic rules of how corporations control our government so we can trust it again. We need reasonable taxation on the upper earners and corporations in the country and a reasonable reduction of our spending on defense so we can fund needed social service programs and health benefits needed by tens of millions of hard working Americans. When the ratio of earning from executives to workers has skyrocketed in our lifetime from 20 to 1 to 500 to 1 the inherent redistribution of wealth to the haves from the have nots has decimated the middle class and put the lower class into a position that should be embarrassing for what is supposedly a great nation. The activist supreme court position granting individual rights to corporations has only heightened this injustice. Thanks for pointing that out.

  4. Melinda Ennis

    Not to gang up on you Francois, but let’s not forget the biggest difference—WE are the governement. It reflects our votes, our neglect and (to quote Mr. Carter again) our malaise. The last time I checked, my voice does not count at any of the corporations mentioned in Lee’s article. If a CEO is robbing us blind or raping our natural resources, the best I can do is not buy his product (which is much worse punishment for the thousands of innocent workers in his or her employ who could be laid off because of sales declines). Whether creating a public disgrace (such as those sited above) or running a company into the ground, today’s CEO walks off with millions or billions. In what other world do you see this? Certainly there are corrupt politicians—--have been since the beginning of time. But at the end of the day, all is usually revealed and we can kick the bums out with our votes.

  5. Marilyn Suriani

    “…we can kick the bums out with our votes” does not really work very well any more. It’s pretty much “new boss same as the old boss” to quote the Who. ” At the end of the day, all is usually revealed..” make take years. And even when corrupt politicians are kicked or voted out, like Bush, they are also walking away without being brought to justice, and some times with millions. At the end of the day, money and the corporations are controlling “our” government. Just look at stats on lobbyists expenses on any issue inside the Capital.

  6. Lee Leslie Post author

    Money and power have been Siamese twins since America’s founding. Money and business has influenced every US election and each act of our legislatures. It would be naive to suggest otherwise. However, there was a time in which corporations were rare and charters required the act of our state legislatures. They were closely regulated and only allowed to act in what was expressly part of their charter.

    It was only a matter of time until business went state and influence shopping. It has always been cheap. New Jersey and Delaware were among the first to take the bribes and promises of jobs and prosperity in return for de-regulation and what we now call “corporate law” -- an oxymoron or just a bad joke? For the last hundred years, it has been a state race to the bottom. Once established, the interstate commerce protection brings us under the lowest common denominator.

    Once the corporations own enough politicians and judges, they can grow like unabated cancer to sizes larger than most countries (Walmart would be the 22nd largest country based on GNP in the world; BP 34th). These country-sized corporations have CEO’s who are appointed/recruited/hired by a board of directors who are “elected” by a vote based on stock ownership -- generally, they vote for themselves or those who they control -- many are owned by governments -- the individual investor’s vote is by proxy. There is little transparency. Less oversight. And almost no regulation. BTW, corporations are getting bigger. Unions are getting smaller. And I seem to remember hearing that all of our politicians are running on smaller government -- wonder why?

    Yeah, we have anti-trust laws. Pretty good ones if you can get the politics out of the prosecutor’s office and out of the judges chambers. But real action takes a long time and is rare -- for example: AT&T; Standard Oil; Alcoa. The corporations have more attorneys than the justice department, more political influence and own the networks. They often just run out the clock or settle only to repeat the process. Corporations, you see, live forever. People and their governments don’t.

    Sorry to go on so long and sound so teachy-preachy, but it is out-of-whack and getting worse. Thank for the thoughtful comments (you know who you are). Power to the people.

    1. Monica Smith

      Criminal penalties for civil infractions are not effective. Even criminal penalties, at best, only restrain the behavior of a particular malefactor. It’s a nice idea that anti-social individuals are going to be deterred by the negative experiences of other, but it simply doesn’t work. George W. Bush got out of his bunker alive because he stayed there most of the time and pretended not to know anything about the slaughters committed in his name. So, he did learn something from the experience of other tyrants.

  7. Francois Lipton

    These ramblings make no sense. So you want to eliminate currency as a means of exchange and return to a barter system? You want to remove elected governments because citizens can rightfully hire advocates to constitutionally represent them to legislatures? Barack Hussein Obama engages in far more dictatorial activity than W: he’s attempting to take over the health care system; he’s taken over auto companies; and he passed financial overhaul that gives unprecedented power to regulators while addressing none of the government’s failures in creating the 2008 financial crisis.

    It’s clear the left advocates contradictions and crises to foment an emotive political appeal for a messiah to “cut through all the red tape” and “redeem” the country. Everywhere competence results in productive behavior — you seek to destroy it. You make political enemies of the very people required to bring about employment, opportunity and prosperity. In the left’s view, the holders of capital aren’t rightfully entitled to it because of your arbitrary excuses based on grievances or irrelevant historical factors. You seek any pretense to bog down the usefully creative process. Clear title and ownership facilitate exchange and accurate valuation. The left seeks to undermine any effort to discover real value — in markets, education and politics — to establish a political climate of fear and paranoia to bring about a dictator with unlimited confiscatory powers. See Cuba, Soviet Union and Venezuela.

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      If it made no sense to you, either read it again more slowly, find someone to read it to you and explain it or just move on. Nowhere does it draw the conclusions you mention. The story simply suggests a pattern indicating that if you have corporate protection, earn enough to afford political protection, you can kill and maim without significant consequence.
      Kindly control yourself to make comments relevant to stories or other comments.

    2. Monica Smith

      Ownership and title imply the consent of the rest of society to respect those claims.

      That said, the basic confusion seems to be about the locus of government. Under our system, it is the people who govern (rule) and elections are, in effect, a hiring process. Our agents of government (elected or appointed) are tasked as stewards or public servants. They are not figures of authority acting in loco parentis.

      Currency facilitates transactions. That’s true. But currency is, like the written word, symbolic. It’s not a necessary component of exchange and trade. A handshake and memory suffice, when neither time nor distance are significant.

  8. Francois Lipton

    These absurd reductions are tiresome: “Ownership and title imply the consent of the rest of society to respect those claims.”

    Go back and re-read your Chomsky. All human knowledge and communication is contingent upon one’s ability to somehow convey that knowledge to another person. Generally, there is some mutual consent involved. To point out that the rest of society must agree to respect claims to knowledge or property is a slippery epistemic slope. If you just go around insisting that value is impossible to discover by any means other than some form of political coersion, then you tread the useless path of saying that discovering any real knowledge is a waste of time.

    Economic value may be subordinate to sense and reference (per Bertrand Russell, W V Quine, et. al.). In a philosophical sense, value conveys “meaning.” The idea is much the same as the linguist’s notion of acquisition and conveyance of knowledge. We must agree with our fellow man that a tree is a tree. We may well fashion that tree into a plank for a house or consider it a useful implement for capturing carbon. Ultimately we will assign it a value with respect to our array of needs, and so be willing to exchange it for other useful items. The mass of bidders and sellers comprises a market.

    Sure, there are difficult considerations as to who might attempt to make a market for a particular commodity or product. Just as sure that government bailouts and other destructive interventions will have wildly adverse impacts on market-clearing prices. But to question the need or legitmacy of a means of exchange (money) or an owner’s clear title (private property) fundementally is asking the wrong question. No one who’s serious about addressing any society’s economic problems or who wishes their opinions to be taken seriously would write such nonsense. Such arguments are a substitute for useful familiarity of economics and finance — moreover, mathematics and science — to make the person seem smart by questioning fundemental, basic assumptions. When you question the individual’s ability to know anything, you can’t get anywhere. You must accept that there are some necessary assumptions and then move on to inference (again, W V Quine). Mastering the assumptions and inferences demonstrate real knowledge. Uselessly questioning the obvious demonstrates ignorance.

    A typical leftist, Monica goes on questioning the individual’s ability to know anything. In this way, she denies freedom of the individual. This is the ulimate relativistic line of argument. Again, this is a typical leftist ploy and gateway to socialism.

    1. Monica Smith

      True. I am a socialist. I am committed to the principle of social obligation. After all, society comes first, or, at least the association of two people does, and the individual is born into it. So, there’s a social obligation to provide for the individual’s well-being. “Every man for himself” just doesn’t work for humans. Even some species of fish (bluegills) only thrive if the progenitor protects the eggs until they hatch.
      Sending me back to Chomsky is a non-starter. I discarded Chomsky when I studied his writings in a course on linguistics back in 1962.
      And “freedom” is a tricky concept in that it implies a state of having been freed from something, but doesn’t tell us what. As a woman who has birthed three children, let me suggest that first man has to be freed from the womb and everything good follows from that--if he survives the transit. That’s not only the big “if,” but the possible source of much insecurity because of the near-drowning sensation many a man experiences in the process (it’s called perinatal asphyxia), marking him for life. Indeed, our increasing ability to “rescue” neonates from distress in the birth canal may have the unanticipated consequence of letting individuals whose brains have been irreparably harmed survive. Whereas, in the past, the brain-damaged simply didn’t live. Now they live scared, largely because their brains can’t tell them where they’re at.
      Congenital insecurity is likely not genetic, but it may be irresolvable. If so, there’s no point in arguing.

  9. Billy Howard

    Thank you again Mr. Lipton, for hitting the nail on the head. You only got the direction of the nail wrong and were hammering from the bottom of the plank: “The left seeks to undermine any effort to discover real value — in markets, education and politics — ” It is actually the right, which has used it’s power in using money to elect officials which then bend rules in their favor, which has created a system where all value is skewed to those at the top of the economic pile, falsely elevating them by giving them ever increasing percentages of the pie while turning the middle class into worker drones who toil more and more to support the lifestyles, as they say, of the rich and greedy.
    The differential between executive pay and the pay of people in the middle has become so excessive that the only hope…well there is no hope, because the right is undermining value by falsely assuming value goes totally to the top. There used to be talk of some kind of trickle down, voodoo economy but I think the jury has come back with the answer to that hoo-ha.
    There is no socialist leftist ploy here, the ploy is the right wing agenda of taking all the money, claiming it is deserved and ignoring the labor of the vast majority of Americans who are not being compensated for the work they do. The rich are unwilling to contribute a fair share to taxes and that, along with their insistence of taking more money out of their companies for their compensation than they deserve at the expense of workers down the line, is what the problem is. I think you recognize that, but you keep placing the blame on the wrong parties. Your socialism rap is about as convincing as McCarthyism was. I think your tea bag has been brewed too many times, maybe you should try some Earl Grey.

    1. Monica Smith

      Let me just note that the problem with the drones is that they are quite content to produce and prefer their consumption to be of the “conspicuous” kind --i.e. they enjoy watching the consumption of what they produce. That’s where Veblen went wrong, by the way. He didn’t understand that the spectators and consumers were different actors and got their satisfactions differently.

  10. Billy Howard

    On another note, and just out of curiosity, how many tea bags are writing under the name Francois Lipton? The quality of writing veers from Sarah Palin to Mitch McConnell. Neither really say anything, but one sounds more intelligent doing it. If you are indeed just one person, then I’m worried about you.

  11. Francois Lipton

    Another example of the impenetrable ignorance that informs leftist, progressive thinking. Investigate the membership of the S&P 500 and Dow Jones indices over the past 10, 20, 30 or 50 years. If you open your eyes and your mind, you will find a dynamic representation of companies, leaders and industries – fundamentally: competing ideas – that have risen and fallen in the space of one human lifetime. Every decade looks different from the last. Between generations very few incumbents pass successfully from one period to the next. What people like you fail to understand, Billy, is that market capitalism is a dynamic process that seeks greater efficiency and productivity in each successive generation. The old methods are ruthlessly cast aside to make way for new innovators. The system is designed to accommodate success and failure but unfortunately requires that each generation grow increasingly intellectually competent and sophisticated.

    The left tirelessly politicizes free market outcomes to instead dictate politically satisfactory winners and losers. This is because the left espouses dependence, incompetence and victimhood. The progressive method is to subvert accomplishment while favoring the arbitrary and emotional. The “progressive” winners favor the politically-correct groups, recite the politically-correct grievances and articulate themselves in emotional terms, rather than rational. Pretty much exactly as you have done here, Billy.

    You look at the dynamic process of free market capitalism and all you see is: “a system where all value is skewed to those at the top of the economic pile, falsely elevating them by giving them ever increasing percentages of the pie while turning the middle class into worker drones who toil more and more to support the lifestyles, as they say, of the rich and greedy.” I’m guessing you have little to offer “the system” other than your dispensable, worker-drone skills and your list of grievances. Since others surpass you in competence and sophistication, you emote your grievances to a friendly political constituency. You urge them to do what you lack the guts for: stealing the rich peoples’ stuff. You resent their accomplishment so you seek to destroy them.

    Sadly your ill-conceived little plan will backfire. The officials you elect to steal the rich folks’ stuff will eventually get all there is. Your leftist heroes will sap the sophisticated and competent workers’ incentive to perform. Then they will go after the middle class drones like you. So they will stop performing. You will no longer have the benefit of their abilities and your lifestyle will be much diminished.

  12. Billy Howard

    If you think it is emotional to want working people to earn their fair share of what they work for, then perhaps I am emotional. If you think it is rational to believe that the top one percent in income earners should not pay their fair share in taxes, then perhaps you are rational. I actually run my own business and am quite happy so you’re off base with your attack on me. As for stealing the rich folks stuff: I notice that you have been asked before to actually read what someone has said before making comments and obviously you did not. I am for creative and savvy people to make all they can, I just ask that it be done fairly and the current system, bought and paid for by lobbyists and corporations, is not fair. Finally, I’m glad you enjoy using my name, because it is my real name and I’m proud of it, Francois.

  13. Francois Lipton

    Forty-seven percent of Americans pay NO TAXES AT ALL. The top five percent of income earners pay nearly half the taxes and the richest decile of income earners pay MORE THAN HALF of all taxes. Is that fair? Is it fair to the most successful, most productive and wealthiest citizens support 47 percent of the freeloading U.S. population? Shouldn’t those people pay their “fair share.” Or do you think 47 percent of the American public are helpless bums needing charity?

    Wah-wah… “You’re attacking me! I’m a victim! I’m helpless.” Pathetic.

  14. Lee Leslie Post author

    This is just not true. Everyone pays taxes: sales taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, etc.
    I presume you meant to qualify your statement as “American households” (not individuals) for “2008” (Republican president) and applies to “federal income tax” and that it is net number, as in, they had federal income taxes withheld, but because of deductions, losses and credits (remember the Bush rebate), received money back.
    Your number is also made more inflammatory by failing to mention it many of the households are retired and that the number went up (from 38% in 2007) because so many lost their jobs or packaged all the credit card debt into deductible financing on their homes which they probably lost in 2009-10.

    1. Melinda Ennis

      I’ve got to get back in this because I spewed my coffee when I read Francois’s claim that the most “productive” members of our society are also the wealthiest and most successful. That in a nutshell is the problem. It used to be that the great American experiment was deemed a success because of its strong middle class—which was indeed, the most productive force driving our nation’s engine. Workers knew that if they worked hard, they would share fairly, and the C-level exec made a mere 40 times what the mid-level worker made. Today, it’s almost 270 times what the average worker makes.
      Meanwhile, these geniuses have corrupted our financial institutions, driven our auto industry into oblivion (by ignoring progress in the name of profit—-see “Who Killed the Electric Car”) and took a wrecking ball to our housing market by abusing the uneducated & working-poor in the name of hubris and greed.

      We are beginning to resemble a third world nation in terms of the haves and the have-nots. The middle-class is shrinking and could soon disappear thanks to financial companies and corporations that, for instance, think a hedge fund is a productive tool and that a company’s first order of production is to squeeze enough from the bottom line to provide multi-million dollar bonuses to the C-Level execs. What is the productive value of a hedge fund, or why should those at the tippy top be rewarded like Olympian gods for f-ing up a company (see Delta, Home Depot, etc). Just one of many, many abusive examples besides the groteque Bob Nardelli—
      GM laid off 3,600 workers last year but GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner pulled down a salary of $2.2 million, in addition to other CEO perks. And the year before, Wagoner’s total compensation was $14.4 million. That works out to $39,452.05 per day, including weekends. BTW, in 2007, GM lost a staggering $38.7 billion, .

      1. Monica Smith

        In his vocabulary “production” is a coercive force — i.e. it prompts others to “put out.” It’s a definition which presumes humans to be lazy, inactive clods which have to be prodded to perform. Ergo, the prodder or stimulator is the productive agent. You know, like turning the key to start the car or diddling …….
        The intent or idea is what counts. When the intent is present, the deed is as good as done. It’s how the U.S. won in Iraq. It’s how males achieve paternity. Maternity requires actual work, but there’s no evidence in the product. In fact, the norm is for the neonate to be the spittin’ image of dad. The spouse explains that’s because recognizing the resemblance to himself makes it less likely the male will kill the child. Note that the Holy Trinity leaves the mother out. You’ve got the father and the son and the idea (spirit).

  15. Francois Lipton

    Liberal progressives cannot understand the need to pay back borrowed money. Even dumber still is the liberal progressive’s notion that a banker lending money to a borrower is somehow victimizing that borrower. Because, clearly, to the liberal progressive the borrower’s stupidity and irresponsibility in agreeing to a loan he could not possibly pay back is in no way the borrower’s fault. And still more dumb yet is the liberal’s favorite: the government can keep borrowing money endlessly to cure politically manufactured grievances and make everyone healthy, rich and happy – all while the taxpayers lose their jobs resulting from government incompetence. The progressive liberal even ignores the obvious role the government plays in the housing and subsequent credit crisis. A banker wouldn’t provide a borrower a loan with a monthly payment many times that person’s salary. Unless, of course, the government demanded politically correct lending and bought most all these lousy mortgages to sell as safe-as-Treasury securities to pension funds.

    The yawning economic chasm of destruction wrought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac eclipses the growing gap in CEO vs. worker pay. And, as Melinda mentions, when a CEO’s company hits the skids – they end up receiving less compensation. Sometimes they get fired and their golden parachutes deploy. Still, those parachutes don’t amount to a gnat’s nipple in comparison the U.S. federal government’s unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and everything else. Further, much of their compensation arrives in the form of stock, hence plummeting stock prices result in lower CEO pay. Now when was the last time we see federal government entitlements declining in light of difficult economic times? Is government spending decreasing now? Nope: Barack Hussein Obama is TRIPLING W’s heinous deficits.

    Ah, and of course electric cars. The liberal progressive often suffers from crippling ignorance in technical matters. Let us evaluate which is more efficient:

    1) Combusting coal in an out-of-state plant to push energy along over-trafficked transmission lines – with most of the energy going to overcome the resistance within the wires – to operate a car that travels at low speeds for 200 miles before refueling. Of course, in order to push the electrical load of transportation onto the transmission grid, the taxpayers would have put up untold billions in improvements.
    2) Combusting gasoline in the car itself that can travel at high speeds for 400 miles before refueling.

  16. Melinda Ennis

    I guess that makes W. a liberal progressive since he’s the one who pushed us into the debt, spending like a drunken sailor as soon as he came in (despite having inherited a balanced budget)—a FACT you fiscally responsible conservatives seem to have totally forgotten. I guess by your rules and to quote you “the government can keep borrowing money endlessly to cure politically manufactured grievances,” as long as the politically manufactured grievance is a war.

    In the current situation, I’m not sure what “politically manufactured” grievances you are referring to. Could it be the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, with unemployment in double digits and upside down mortgages on every block? Could it be our financial institutions admitting avaricious crimes committed (see original story above) & walking away with a rap on the hand. Or maybe its the oil companies protecting their bottom line with “self-regulation” that has resulted in deaths and a destruction that will last lifetimes. Or perhaps it’s the millions of sick, middle-class people who literally risk their lives because they can’t get insurance and can’t afford to go to a doctor (something I have personally witnessed with dear friends many times).

    These I suppose are manufactured grievances.

    Please don’t misquote me. I never said CEOs receive less compensation when they drive a company into the ground. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They still walk away with millions, after first laying off thousands of workers while still keeping C-Level pay in the stratosphere. Are these people evil? No, they are like you and me, motivated by self. We invented law to protect society against our baser instincts (by the way, we all have them in varying degrees).
    But our society no longer has an ethical business code of conduct, or a social conscience.

    Can you explain to me why CEOs now make over 275 times what a worker does when it was a mere 40 times in the 60’s? I can tell you. It is a symptom of the sickness that has infiltrated America. When Michael Douglas said “greed is good” back in the 80’s it was supposed to be a joke. But, it is now our mantra.

    But I am weary Francois. Go dunk your teabag. This is a pointless debate for both of us.

  17. Francois Lipton

    Unfunded liabilities brought Clinton’s real budgets into the red. We should account for unfunded liabilities on a net present value basis in our annual budget. Years of Clinton’s presidency featured CURRENT account budget surpluses and he deserves praise. Today, those same policies would have him chased out of the party.

    Progressive liberals only understand financial matters in political terms because they lack the requisite numeracy to understand budget deficits, current account imbalances and net present value of unfunded liabilities. (Also, politics provides useful cover for liberal progressives to invoke confiscatory power arbitrarily). The Clinton surpluses were a direct result of that gifted politician’s ability to convince ignorant liberal progressives that the conservative Republican economic principles he adopted were actually his. The 1994 Congressional elections forced him to turn 180 degrees politically. Again, good for him. I don’t make apologies for W’s irresponsibility and mismanagement. If fact, I think the worst legacy of W’s presidency was that the electorate became so disenchanted with his incompetence that they voted for a completely unvetted, inexperienced, untested, malignantly narcissistic pseudo-college professor who substitutes his own vacant platitudes for knowledge and leadership. (Of course: the mainstream newspapers’ shameless shilling for Barack Hussein Obama and dereliction of journalistic duty to demand non-controversial documents like tax returns and academic records… well, I digress, the newspapers now suffer for their bias and failure).

    As for politically manufactured grievances, the progressive liberal symphony – rather cacophony, rather still, just phony – plays but two monotonous notes over and over and over: Class and Race. Every time a progressive liberal makes a claim on property she does not own, the pretense inevitably involves class and/or race. The liberal progressive shouts, “racist!” and expects compliance without cause. Mercifully, in the age of Obama, liberal progressives have so wantonly overused this tactic that the opposition scarcely notices it anymore. So this is a welcome development of Barack Hussein Obama’s, err, leadership.

    Coming down to cases, liberal progressives unfailingly mention their two most popular grievance-based programs, but never recognize them for what they are: housing and medical welfare. Fannie and Freddie began with a simple enough mandate to offer limited incentives to expand home ownership. Today they control a portfolio of nearly $1 trillion in underwater mortgages that for decades have been toxically spread throughout low-risk asset portfolios around the world. These public government institutions compounded their failures by paying HUGE fees to investment banks to lie to the conservatively-allocated investing public about their credit quality. The political grievance Fannie and Freddie were mandated to cure originally was class based. That is, wealthy people have nice houses and fat mortgages so why shouldn’t we all? To a limited extent, OK. Responsible saving requires a level of financial discipline possessed by few progressive liberals. Later the federal government forced banks to make loans – against sound lending practice – in districts gerrymandered to ensure (entirely Democrat) politically-favored officeholders. Manufactured political grievances over housing naturally took on a racial component so that denying a mortgage to a favored political constituency became a criminal act.

    On to Obamacare. If you remain willfully ignorant of destructive government intervention in the BUSINESS of healthcare, then there’s not much hope of my rescuing you from your heavily bombarded progressive-liberal redoubt. The fake emotive grievance here is class based: money provides access to better care but race also can be invoked to suit. Suffice to say, nearly all medical transactions exist to allocate scarce, expensive medical resources that involve huge financial risks (not least of which are legal exposures to [Democrat-sponsored] torts). Improvement of medical outcomes also requires large, risky investments. Naturally these risks are tied to expected huge financial returns. Unfortunately, liberal progressives don’t understand elementary risk management that could minimize potential losses. Instead, the liberal progressive manufactures another class-based grievance against the insurance industry and we’re all left off with substandard, more expensive healthcare. The reality is ObamaCare will DECREASE access to healthcare by limiting the economic incentives to provide it.

    On CEO compensation, I suspect that the “sickness” you see results from normally functioning labor markets for scarce leadership talent. Granted: interlocking director boards comprised of CEO’s voting each other raises do create incentives for boosting pay above market levels. Still, this is a matter for shareholders. Rather than effectively organizing company ownership, you’d rather call them Gordon Gekko or the devil (or “racist!”) to beg the question of whether their wealth was properly “earned” under your arbitrary political definitions. When you mentioned Wagoner’s salary, I presumed you were aware that it had fluctuated along with the company’s financial performance. I apologize for implying you were informed. I should have known better. It’s the weekend, so the only brown liquid I will enjoy will be Irish whiskey on the rocks but I assume you’re making a juvenile reference to a sexual act. Bravo! Billy: if you are incapable of understand an argument so you ought not analyze them.

    1. Monica Smith

      Is a person’s body her own property? Can she claim it? Will its integrity be respected? The conservative answer is ‘no.’ Conservatives prefer to define property as some external material asset that’s available for anyone to claim and defend as his own. Inherent properties tend to be ignored, perhaps because conservatives are people lacking in the requisite perceptive capabilities. They can only see what’s on the surface; not what’s inside.

      Sorry to be so late to respond. But Lipton’s arguments are not unique and, IMHO, require a response. It’s not good to give error a pass.

  18. Billy Howard

    Who is it shouting about race? Have you listened to Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh lately? Did you notice what happened to Shirley Sherrod? Have you noticed how decimated lower income African Americans have become in the recent economy? Paid attention lately to the disparity between African Americans and caucasians in prison for similar crimes where caucasians account for the majority of perpetrators and African Americans the majority of prisoners? I thought not. Racism is alive and well and your attempts to make is sound like something made up by the left is like incontinence. You think you’re finished but you can’t stop dribbling.

    You continue to use my real name while I don’t have the same opportunity. You call me names using my real name. If you are unwilling to use your real name then you should have the decency to keep your comments on the issue, perhaps even having a meaningful dialog instead of constantly bringing the level down to name calling. It shows a weakness in your argument as all bullying does. And yes, I know I have been baited and responded in same, but Francois Lipton is not a real person, so it is a bit like spitting in the wind. Though I cannot claim to have the great intellectual gifts you have, I am not an idiot and have been known, occasionally, to be thoughtful.

  19. Francois Lipton

    Why should I care that blacks are worse off in the current economic climate based solely on their race? Why does that matter? A lot of rednecks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Cherokee and Souix are hurting as well. Do you not concern yourself with their problems? Mercifully, I am not incontinent. I get my fiber. Even in a dire economy.

    1. Monica Smith

      Indeed, it’s as if someone on high decided, “if they want to be equal, let them be equally deprived.” But, I don’t think that’s what happened. What happened is that the elitists, having become convinced that a large quantity of money is a signal of excellence, decided to hoard it and store it or pass it around amongst themselves. And, as a result, the necessary lubricant in our economy having been siphoned off, the wheels of trade and exchange ground to a halt and, much as in the game of Monopoly, that was the end.
      Paper money is worthless, unless you don’t have any. The more you have, the more worthless it is. Why do you think Bill Gates keep giving it away. Currency is only good when it’s moving.

  20. Francois Lipton

    Earth Mother: those responses are hilarious! (Editor’s note: the rest of this comment is sitting in our moderation queue. Will the author contact LikeTheDew.com with a working email address at: [email protected]?)


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