Tag Archives: Lobbying

The Corporatocracy, by Robert Gore

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The interests of Washington and large corporations have merged so completely they are now inseparable.

America’s large corporations and its government have merged. Or was it an acquisition? If the latter, who acquired whom? Unfortunately, the labels affixed to purely corporate combinations lose their analytical usefulness here. While the two retain their own distinct legal structures and managements, so to speak, such a close community of interest has evolved that it’s no longer possible to separate them or delineate their individual contours. Political labels are no help; the ones most often used have become hopelessly imprecise. The Wikipedia definition of “fascism” is over 8,000 words, with 43 notes and 16 references.

However, the conjoined blob is so big, rapacious, and intrusive that akin to Justice Potter Stewart’s famous non-definition of obscenity, everybody knows it when they see or otherwise come into contact with it. This article will use the term “corporatocracy.” It’s less letters, dashes, and words to type than “the corporate-government-combination.” No serviceable understanding of either US history or current events is possible without close study of the corporatocracy. Unfortunately, such study, like entomology or cleaning septic tanks, requires a stout constitution. But take heart, entomologists grow to love their creepy crawly things, and septic tank cleaners say that after a few minutes you don’t even notice the smell.

A cherished delusion of naive liberals holds that big government is a counterweight, not a partner, to big business. Such a rationale is touted when the righteous demand new regulation, the public and media endorse it, the legislators pass it, and the president signs it into law. However, there are always unpaved stretches on the road to hell—once regulation is law, the righteous, public, media, legislators, and president, and their ostensibly good intentions, are on to the next cause.

In the quiet obscurity they relish, regulators and regulated get down to doing what they do best: bending the law to their joint benefit. Business, whose P&L’s can be powerfully affected by regulations, hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers in a never ending effort to tilt the playing field in their direction, and improve bottom lines, stock prices, and executive bonuses. The return on such investment is far higher than on old fashioned expenditures like research and development, plant and equipment, and job-creating expansion.

PRIME DECEIT TORCHES THE SWAMP!

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Not-so-naive liberals, professed conservatives, and apolitical opportunists work both sides of the street. The revolving door ensures that all concerned do well. Playing this game isn’t cheap, which serves as a barrier to entry to scrappy competitors who compete those old fashioned ways: innovation, hustle, and better products and services at lower prices. Regulation cartelizes industries; look, for instance, at banking and medicine. No surprise that regulatory barriers are one of Warren Buffett’s favorite “moats”: deep and hard-to-cross waterways that protect durable commercial advantages.

Washington doesn’t just fortify favored corporations’ business plans. A $4-plus-trillion-a-year enterprise, the government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services. Procuring those contracts employs more armies of lobbyists and lawyers, and has a powerful effect on policy. The shoddy premises supporting the welfare and warfare states, and their epic waste, are obvious to many of the taxpayers forced to underwrite them. They’ve decried them for decades, and voted for candidates promising to cut welfare, waste, war, and taxes. However, beyond voting, taxpayers can devote little time to stopping or slowing the gravy train. Their resources are infinitesimal compared to the resources its passengers expend to keep it running.

The modus operandi for Washington and big business have converged. Debt, its issuance and marketing, is the pillar of the financial nexus and revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. The government and its central bank artificially pump up the economy and hide its deterioration with debt and machinations: ultra low interest rates, quantitative easing, and debt monetization. Big businesses lever their balance sheets to pump up their stock prices or make acquisitions, machinations that do nothing to improve core businesses but often hide ongoing deterioration.

The history of any long-running government program is a catalogue of failures and expanding budgets. Washington cherishes failure, the fountainhead of larger appropriations and more power. Success would put bureaucrats out of work and give politicians less influence to peddle. Likewise in business, failure has become much more acceptable than it was during those bad old days of cutthroat capitalism. Marissa Mayer’s undistinguished five-year tenure at Yahoo, while perhaps not a complete failure, certainly can’t be termed a success. Nevertheless, she’s walking away from the company with at least $186 million for her middling endeavors. Given all that discrimination out there against women, one can only imagine what she would have made if she were a man.

Silicon Valley puts billions into companies like Uber, AirBnb, Snapchat, and Lyft that lose those billions and will continue to do so for the foreseeable—and probably the unforeseeable—future. Private equity shops load up companies with debt that gets paid out as special dividends to the private equity shops, leaving the indebted and enfeebled companies unable to compete and the rest of us wondering how such rape is legal in our rape-conscious age. This recipe for inevitable failure is now playing out in the beleaguered retail sector, which would be nowhere near as beleaguered if it wasn’t so beset with debt.

Tesla, a stock market darling and the quintessence of companies in which failure is the business plan, milks Wall Street for financing and Washington (and a bunch of state and local jurisdictions) for subsidies. It has lost billions during its ten years of existence, but its many admirers sing the praises of CEO Elon Musk, always using the term “consummate salesman”—perhaps it’s on his business card. Musk and fan club dream of “the next big thing” and engage in mutual masturbatory fantasies of transforming the world…and Mars. All this is harmless enough as fodder for dazzling audiovisual presentations and slick speeches, but downright dangerous when real billions, private and public, gets sucked in.

Meanwhile, the corporatocracy crucifies an old-line, profitable corporation, Volkswagen, that cheated on one of its hundreds of thousands of regulations. It undoubtedly wasn’t the cheating that got VW in trouble. Regulations are made to be cheated—it’s impossible to run a business without doing so—but the proper offerings must be made to the corporatocracy. If that were not the case, there would be Wall Street, Pharma, and Defense Contractor wings at federal penitentiaries. VW didn’t kowtow low enough or pay high enough to the bureaucrats and politicians, who retaliated, probably “nudged” by a VW competitor.

As a successful businessman, President Trump knows many of the corporatocracy’s skims, scams, and schemes. Perhaps that will enable him to keep his pledge and drain the swamp. However, it’s extensive, fetid, and teems with loathsome creatures, so a bet he’ll succeed involves exceedingly long odds. You’re probably better off buying Tesla stock.

A BLESSED TIME WHEN THERE WAS NO SWAMP

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“Getting Things Done” – The Brother of Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chair is a Major Lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, by Michael Krieger

Want to know how one of the world’s most repressive and duplicitous regimes has its way with Washington? Money, lots of money, spread liberally in just the right places. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Although scores of us in the alternative media world have been discussing the obvious links between Saudi Arabia and the attacks of 9/11 for many years, this reality has only now started to enter the mainstream consciousness due to a recent report on 60 Minutes.

But that’s not the only reason Saudi Arabia has been in the news as of late. In an extraordinary act of blackmail, Saudi officials have warned the U.S. government that it could be forced to sell $750 billion in U.S. assets if a specific piece of legislation currently circulating in Congress becomes law.

The New York Times covered the threat on Friday:

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, according to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties, and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.

Read that last part again. U.S. officials have warned of “diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.” So what sort of economic fallout do they envision? Part of the concern is no doubt related to the impact on global financial markets from a Saudi fire sale, but there’s a potentially even bigger concern at play.

Specifically, Saudi Arabia pays Washington insiders an exorbitant amount of money to put the monarchy’s interests ahead of what’s best for the American people. It does this via an elaborate propaganda network, which we first learned about in last year’s post, A Look Inside Saudi Arabia’s Elaborate U.S. Propaganda Machine. Here are a few excerpts:

Elements of the charm offensive include the launch of a pro-Saudi Arabia media portal operated by high-profile Republican campaign consultants; a special English-language website devoted to putting a positive spin on the latest developments in the Yemen war; glitzy dinners with American political and business elites; and a non-stop push to sway reporters and policymakers.

That has been accompanied by a spending spree on American lobbyists with ties to the Washington establishment. The Saudi Arabian Embassy, as we’ve reported, now retains the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, the leader of one of the largest Republican Super PACs in the country, and a law firm with deep ties to the Obama administration. One of Jeb Bush’s top fundraisers, Ignacio Sanchez, is also lobbying for the Saudi Kingdom.

In September, the Kingdom helped sponsor opulent galas for Washington’s business elite at the Ritz Carlton and the Andrew Mellon Auditorium. The events were attended by King Salman, along with the chief executives of General Electric and Lockheed Martin, the chairman of Marriott International, and prominent think tank officials.

To continue reading: “Getting Things Done” – The Brother of Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chair is a Major Lobbyist for Saudi Arabia

The Best “Democracy” Money Can Buy: For Every Dollar Spent Influencing US Politics, Corporations Get $760 Back, from Zero Hedge

Corporations have found the most profitable use of their money. From the Sunlight Foundation, via zero hedge.com:

The first time we read the recent analysis by the Sunlight Foundation in which it combed through 14 million corporate records, including data on campaign contributions, lobbying expenditures, federal budget allocations and spending, in order to determine the “rate of return” on lobbying and spending to buy political goodwill, we were left speechless.

To be sure, we had previously shown that when it comes to the rate of return on lobbying, the rates were simply staggering, and ranged anywhere between 5,900% for oil subsidies, to 22,000% for multinational tax breaks and even higher for America’s legal drug dealers.

But nothing could prepare us for this.

According to the foundation’s analysis, between 2007 and 2012, 200 of America’s most politically active corporations spent a combined $5.8 billion (with a B) on federal lobbying and campaign contributions. What they gave pales compared to what those same corporations got: $4.4 trillion (with a T) in federal business and support.

Putting that in context, the $4.4 trillion total represents two-thirds of the $6.5 trillion that individual taxpayers paid into the federal treasury. Said otherwise, by “spending: a paltry $6 billion to bribe the US government, or just a little more than what GM will spend on stock buybacks alone, US corporations are getting the direct benefit of two-thirds of US taxpayers’ labor!

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-16/words-greatest-investment-every-dollar-spent-influencing-us-politics-corporations-ge

To continue Reading: The Best “Democracy” Money Can Buy