“There really is no shame. The Wall Street leaders whose recklessness and illegal behavior caused this terrible recession are now lecturing the American people on the need for courage to deal with the nation’s finances and deficit crisis. Before telling us why we should cut Social Security, Medicare and other vitally important programs, these CEOs might want to take a hard look at their responsibility for causing the deficit and this terrible recession.
Our Wall Street friends might also want to show some courage of their own by suggesting that the wealthiest people in this country, like them, start paying their fair share of taxes. They might work to end the outrageous corporate loopholes, tax havens and outsourcing provisions that their lobbyists have littered throughout the tax code – contributing greatly to our deficit.
Many of the CEO’s who signed the deficit-reduction letter run corporations that evaded at least $34.5 billion in taxes by setting up more than 600 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens since 2008. As a result, at least a dozen of the companies avoided paying any federal income taxes in recent years, and even received more than $6.4 billion in tax refunds from the IRS since 2008.
Several of the companies received a total taxpayer bailout of more than $2.5 trillion from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.
Many of the companies also have outsourced hundreds of thousands of American jobs to China and other low wage countries, forcing their workers to receive unemployment insurance and other federal benefits. In other words, these are some of the same people who have significantly caused the deficit to explode over the last four years.”
You want to listen to him, reject his campaign as, “Oh, no, that’s way too radical,” and move on.
It would be far easier to throw all of your support behind Hillary Clinton knowing that there is no real alternative.
But then you watch him speak. You watch him speak about the suffering of the middle class, about the corruption of banks and special interests, about the collusion of Corporate America to use our political system as their own personal special interest group, and you can’t dismiss him.
You watch him repudiate irrelevant and click-baity questions from tabloid reporters to talk about the issues, watch him refuse to cater his message to whatever caucus he happens to be speaking to, and you think, “Wait. That’s me. That’s not radical at all. That’s what I stand for.”
And you realize that you’ve been holding him to the wrong standard. The positions that are political anathema in Washington are actually pretty popular with Americans. And in politics, nothing turns an unpopular position into a popular one faster than realizing your constituents no longer agree with you.
So you hedge your bets. You support both candidates. Hillary, the stateswoman, sticky with ambition and the mire of politics that clings to every Clinton, coyly pretending as though she believes she is anything other than the president-elect. The smart choice. And Bernie, the socialist, a grumpy old manwith a halo of unkempt white hair and the soul of an activist. The heart’s choice.
You’ll probably vote for whoever ends up being the nominee. Rationally, you know it will probably be Mrs. Clinton, that Progressive America’s love affair with Senator Sanders is short-lived.
Butch Hancock, one of Austin’s finest singer-songwriters, grew up in the Texas Panhandle, out among dry-land farmers and strict fundamentalist Christians. Butch once told me that he felt he’d been permanently scarred in his vulnerable teen years by the local culture’s puritanical preaching on sexual propriety: “They told us that sex is filthy, obscene, wicked, and beastly — and that we should save it for someone we love.”
Today, America’s higher education complex approaches students with the same sort of convoluted logic that guided Butch’s sex education: “A college degree is the key to prosperity for both you and your country, so it’s essential,” lectures the hierarchy to the neophytes. “But we’ll make it hard to get and often not worth the getting.” Touted as a necessity, but priced like a luxury, many degree programs are mediocre or worse — predatory loan scams that hustle aspiring students into deep debt and poverty.
Washington has been rocked by the
scandal of J. Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican speaker in the
history of the U.S. House, indicted on charges of violating banking laws by paying $1.7 million (as part of a $3.5 million agreement) to conceal prior misconduct, allegedly child
That scandal contains another one that’s received less attention: the fact that Hastert, who
never made much money as a teacher or a congressman, could manage such payments because after retiring from Congress he became a high-paid
This second scandal is perfectly legal but it’s a
In the 1970s, only 3 percent of
retiring members of Congress went on to become Washington lobbyists. Now, half
of all retiring senators and 42 percent of retiring representatives become
This isn’t because more recent retirees
have had fewer qualms. It’s because the financial rewards from lobbying have
mushroomed, as big corporations and giant Wall Street banks have sunk fortunes
into rigging the game to their advantage.
In every election cycle since 2008,
more money has gone into lobbying at the federal level than into political
campaigns. And an increasing portion of that lobbying money has gone into the pockets of former members of Congress.
In viewing campaign contributions
as the major source of corruption we overlook the more insidious flow of
direct, personal payments – much of which might be called “anticipatory
bribery” because they enable office holders to cash in big after they’ve left
For years, former Republican House
majority leader Eric Cantor was one of Wall Street’s strongest advocates –
fighting for the bailout of the Street, to retain the Street’s tax advantages and subsidies, and to water down the
Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.
Just two weeks after resigning
from the House, Cantor joined the Wall Street investment bank of Moelis &
Co., as vice chairman and managing director, starting with a $400,000 base
salary, $400,000 initial cash bonus, and $1 million in stock.
As Cantor explained, “I have
known Ken [the bank’s CEO] for some time and … followed the growth and success
of his firm.”
Exactly. They had been doing business together so long that Cantor must have anticipated the bribe.
bribery undermines trust in government almost as much as direct bribery. At a
minimum, it can create the appearance of corruption, and raise questions in the
public’s mind about the motives of public officials.
the Obama White House so easy on big Wall Street banks – never putting tough conditions on them for getting bailout money
or prosecuting a single top Wall Street executive – because Tim Geithner, Barack
Obama’s treasury secretary, and Peter Orszag, his director of the Office of
Management and Budget, anticipated lucrative jobs on the Street? (Geithner
became president of the private-equity firm Warburg Pincus when
he left the administration; Orszag became Citigroup’s vice chairman for global banking.)
Another form of anticipatory
bribery occurs when the payment comes in anticipation of a person holding office,
and then delivering the favors.
According to the New York Times, as
Marco Rubio ascended the ranks of Republican politics, billionaire Norman Braman
not only bankrolled his campaigns but subsidized Rubio’s personal finances.
A case of anticipatory bribery? Certainly looks like it. In the
Florida legislature, Rubio steered taxpayer funds to Braman’s favored causes, including
an $80 million state grant to finance a genomics center at a private university and $5 million for cancer research at a
Miami institute. “When Norman Braman brings [a proposal] to you,” Rubio said,
“you take it seriously.”
Hillary and Bill Clinton have made more than
$25 million for 104 speeches since the start of last year, according
to disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission in
mid May – of which she delivered 51, earning more than $11 million of the
Now that she’s running for president, she’s stopped
giving paid speeches. But her husband says he intends to continue. “I gotta pay
our bills,” he told NBC News.
Anticipatory bribery? Asked about his paid
speeches, some of which pay $500,000 or more, Bill Clinton said, “People like
to hear me speak.”
That may be the reason for the hefty fees, but is it possible that some portion comes in anticipation his having the intimate ear of the next president?
We need some rules here.
First, former government
officials, including members of Congress, shouldn’t be able to lobby or take jobs in industries over which they
had some oversight, for at least three years after leaving office.
Second, anyone who runs for office should bear the
burden of showing that whatever personal payments they received up to three
years before were based on their economic worth, not anticipated political
Finally, once they declare, even their spouses
should desist from collecting big bucks that could look like anticipatory bribes.