The tragedy of politics continues its long descent into farce before our feeds. The cracks become painfully apparent after just a few months of casually observing the dying capital’s peeling façade. Forget r and g for a bit. This is one vignette.
If carefully-branded clientelism and naked deception can be the stuff of comedy, then the Export-Import Bank is one of the biggest jokes in town. A twisted honor, considering the ample competition that oozes about the Demonpit of Columbia, but an accomplishment all the same. If all goes well with the upcoming reauthorization vote this September, the Bank will enjoy five more years of servicing the American public with a smile. What better time than their annual special interest soirée to reflect on some of their greatest hits?
Most people have not heard about the federal government’s export credit corporation. And why should they? It is only one of many of boutique federal programs that continue unabated in five-to-ten year increments quietly, with only perfunctory note. As a budget item, it is tiny. In recent years, to great fanfare, it noisily returned surpluses to the Treasury—a rare miracle for a federal program. Its pamphlets and boosters beam about “supporting U.S. exports,” “strengthening small business,” “creating U.S. jobs,” and “investing in green technology.” At a glance, the Bank appears to be the kind of benign, if not wholly necessary, federal program to which educated people reasonably give a pass. There are simply more pressing matters, the thinking goes.
Truth is, the Bank is little more than a publicly-subsidized piggy bank for large corporations. Through its menu of loan guarantees, direct loans, and insurance credits, the Bank marginally tilts the international playing field in its desired directions. Far from a bedrock of our economy, the Bank doles assistance to roughly 2 percent of all U.S. exports. Total reported exposure for its roughly 4,000 deals reached almost $120 billion in FY 2013. A disproportionate share of this assistance is funneled to well-connected U.S. and foreign corporations. General Electric, Caterpillar, Bechtel, and John Deere are big winners—as are most members of the aerospace-military-industrial complex.
Stop Welfare At The Top: Fortune 100 Got $1.2 Trillion of Crony Capitalist Subsidies -
It is crony capitalism, as opposed to free markets, that has led to the gross inequality in American society we have today. Cronyism for the super wealthy starts at the very top with the Federal Reserve System, which consists of topdown economic central planners who manipulate the money supply and hence interest rates for the benefit of the financial oligarch class. It then trickles down through lobbyist money into the halls of Washington D.C.,and ultimately filters down to local governments and then the average person on the street gaming welfare or disability.
As such, we now live in a culture of corruption and theft that is pervasive throughout society. One thing that bothers me to no end is when … Republicans focus their criticism on struggling people who need welfare or food stamps to survive. They have this absurd notion that the whole welfare system doesn’t start with the multinational corporations and Central Banks at the top. In reality, it is at the top where the cancer starts, and that’s where we should focus in order to achieve real change.
That’s where a new report from Open the Books on corporate welfare comes in. In a preview of the publication, the organization notes:
If Republicans are going to get truly serious about cutting government spending, they are going to have to snip the umbilical cord from the Treasury to corporate America. You can’t reform welfare programs for the poor until you’ve gotten Daddy Warbucks off the dole. Voters will insist on that — as well they should.
So why hasn’t it happened? Why hasn’t the GOP pledged to end corporate welfare as we know it?
Part of the explanation is that too many have gotten confused about the difference between free-market capitalism and crony capitalism.
And part of the problem is corporate welfare that is so well hidden from public view in the budget that no one has really measured how big this mountain of giveaway cash to the Fortune 500 really is. Finding out is like trying to break into the CIA.
Until now. Open the Books, an Illinois-based watchdog group, has been scrupulously monitoring all federal grants, loans, direct payments and insurance subsidies flowing to individuals and companies.
It’s an attempt to force federal agencies to release information on where the $4 trillion budget is really spent — and Open the Books will release a new report on corporate welfare payments to the Fortune 100 companies from 2000 to 2012.
Over that period, the 100 received $1.2 trillion in payments from the federal government.
That number does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars in housing, bank and auto company bailouts in 2008 and 2009, because those payments and where they went are kept mostly invisible in the federal agency books.
As suspected, the biggest welfare queens in the U.S. are the super wealthy themselves, but they’d rather you focus on some single mother on welfare simply trying to survive.
[B]ig-business groups had become, as early as the turn of the twentieth century, “corporatists” or “corporate liberals,” anxious to replace quasi-laissez-faire capitalism by a cartelized corporatist system, directed or even planned by Big Government in intimate partnership with Big Business, and creating Big Unions to participate as junior partners in this new “mixed” economy. The push for the new corporate state was generated by an alliance between corporatist big-business groups and technocratic intellectuals, eager to help run and to apologize for the new system, which promised them a far plusher niche than did a freely competitive economy. — Murray Rothbard, The Business-Government alliance (via conza)
Oldie but goodie.
We, like those in all emergent totalitarian states, have been mentally damaged by a carefully orchestrated historical amnesia, a state-induced stupidity. We increasingly do not remember what it means to be free. And because we do not remember, we do not react with appropriate ferocity when it is revealed that our freedom has been taken from us. The structures of the corporate state must be torn down. Its security apparatus must be destroyed. And those who defend corporate totalitarianism, including the leaders of the two major political parties, fatuous academics, pundits and a bankrupt press, must be driven from the temples of power. Mass street protests and prolonged civil disobedience are our only hope. A failure to rise up—which is what the corporate state is counting upon—will see us enslaved. — Chris Hedges (via azspot)
Lights Out For America’s Favorite Light Bulb -
The ban is crony capitalism in its most seductive form—when it’s disguised as green.
Major light bulb manufacturers supported the ban from the outset. The profit margin on old-style bulbs was pitifully low, and consumers just weren’t buying the higher-margin efficiency bulbs. New standards were needed, a lobbyist for the National Electrical Manufacturing Association told Congress in 2007, “in order to further educate consumers on the benefits of energy-efficient products.”
So Philips Electronics and other manufacturers joined with environmental groups to push for tighter lighting standards. As the New York Times Magazine explained in 2011, “Philips told its environmental allies it was well positioned to capitalize on the transition to new technologies and wanted to get ahead of an efficiency movement that was gaining momentum abroad and in states like California.” After much negotiation, a classic “bootleggers-and-Baptists” coalition was born. Industry and environmental groups agreed to endorse legislation to [attempt to] increase lighting efficiency by 25 to 30 percent.
Incandescent light bulbs, we’re told, are vastly inferior to the newfangled alternatives available today. The compact fluorescents lamps (CFLs), LEDs, and halogen bulbs are an apparent no-brainer: They last longer and convert much more of their energy into light rather than heat, all while cutting back on your energy bill. (So, of course, the government must stop you from ever making the mistake of choosing the traditional bulbs.)
Except many consumers aren’t buying it. The EPA estimates that, of the four billion light-bulb sockets in United States, more than three billion still hold incandescent bulbs. “By 2014, the traditional incandescent light bulbs… will be virtually obsolete,” claimed a 2007 press release from former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the ban’s original sponsor. But according to the latest industry data, incandescents still make up nearly 65 percent of all U.S. light-bulb shipments.
Many consumers are turned off by the higher upfront costs of the alternatives. A single 40-watt LED bulb costs $7.50 or more, while a traditional incandescent bulb goes for around 40 cents. Some are finding that the CFLs don’t last nearly as long as their supporters claim—especially if they are switched on and off frequently, or if they are attached to a dimmer switch.
The list of complaints about the “efficient” bulbs goes on: They are often slow to respond, sensitive to high temperatures, and can cast a harsh and unattractive tone. CFLs also contain a small amount of mercury, which requires extensive and careful cleanup when a bulb breaks.
And they may not be saving us much energy after all. The typical U.S. home uses no less energy per capita than it did in the 1970s, despite an onslaught of efficiency standards for everything from refrigerators and televisions to the amount of power consumed when appliances are in “standby mode.” The money saved in the long run by using these appliances is often spent on even more power-sucking gadgets. And if light bulbs cost less to use, why not just leave the lights on longer?
The light-bulb ban is an example of how political coalitions are formed to force regulations on the general public that benefit a few large producers. A recent survey found that six out of every ten Americans are still in the dark about the latest bulb ban. Meanwhile, the dimwitted light-bulb policy just became the law of the land. The lesson here is straightforward: When industry and environmental groups claim that a regulation will solve all problems, consumers beware. It’s probably green cronyism in disguise.