Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Lobby - 21st Century Tribal Looting

As you read the lists of pork spending of late, do not dream that this is an anomaly of government malfeasance.  No this is but the continued natural history of false ideology in practice, unhindered by coherent dissent for well over fifty years.  The poisonous ideas, which we as a country have been sipping in diluted form with the teaching of a mixed economy and justifications of capitalism with socialist principles, we are now preparing to drink unmixed.   The evil ideas are that human rights originate from need,  that individual rights are granted BY society and incur an obligation to society, and that the interests of the 'group,' the 'nation,' the 'world,' or 'the society,' outweigh the rights of individual men and women.   

The idea that rights originate with need has led to the absurdity that a person's created wealth (through free trade of the products of his thought and effort) is always at the mercy of the governments legalized gun, but the looted money from the coal miner's, or small business owner's, or doctor's paycheck via income tax - this is the welfare recipient's, or medicare recipient's, or "earned income tax credit" recipient's, or earmark benificiary's property BY RIGHT.   We have swallowed more and more of this poison with each passing year.  We are about to guzzle the bottle.   

This idea is closely tied to the liberal distortion that an individual is granted his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by society as a whole, and thus the individual is obligated to society.    So creating wealth by thought and effort does not warrant one's right to the product, but rather someone's 'need' serves as the moral justification of rights to OTHERS' production, and the government is in the position of judging which 'needs' are most aligned with 'what is good for society.'    Once the idea that 'the good of society' is allowed to be used as a justification for government action, outweighing the rights of the individual, it is a fight to the death within the tribe to position this group or that group as "society."   I'm sorry.  I meant to say "within Washington" to position this interest or that interest, foreign or domestic, as the interest "of society."   You should realize that our battle of pressure groups in Washinton is just the 21st century equivalent of savage tribal feuding, and based on the same immoral ethic.  For that matter, our present day sacrifice of the producers to "society" is just the modern day moral equivalent of savages repeatedly sacrificing virgins for the 'good' of the tribe.   I give you the obscene spectacle of the lobby industry to (formerly) our American government over the past 70+ years.

Here is a letter regarding the process of purchasing, three times your investment in other people's production. In other words this is how, for a 30% investment, one secures the “legal” robbery of one's neighbors. This is only one small example of the processes involved in our recent splurge of earmarks (all the worse because it is smuggled in during a time of economic distress – distress, not surprisingly caused by the same fundamentally evil ideas.)

(from http://omnibusting.heritage.org/2007/12/17/11402-earmarks-and-counting/) 

outragedtaxpayer // June 7, 2008 at 7:12 am
Some months ago I was treated to the spectacle of a K Streetlobbyist explaining how one goes about legally bribing Congressmen and Senators to get them to deliver a million dollar earmark. The lobbyist was too well trained to use words like “bribe” or “graft,” but the message was clear. I’d like to share it because I’ve been told that sunlight is the best disinfectant.I pride myself on my cynicism. I haven’t voted in years, have never voted for a Republican, and the last Democrat I voted for was Jimmy Carter (the first time). Yet despite my resignation to the institutionalized corruption in Washington, the matter-of-fact nature of this sales pitch offended me so deeply I feel compelled to speak out.  I was introduced to this lobbyist by a prospective angel investor in a privately-held company on whose board I sit. This investor, who I admire, is a wealthy self made man, the kind of smart, hard-working immigrant this country could use more of. Although he is still learning the ways of his adopted land, he appears to be a quick study. His advice to our fledgling startup: Congress is giving away buckets of money and we would be foolish not to get some.  The lobbyist, employed by a prestigious law firm, hails from a tradition of service. His resume shouts duty-honor-country.  You would never expect to see him pop up in a Boss Tweed cartoon.  I signed no non-disclosure agreements prior to our call, nor was I sworn to secrecy, nor did anyone reveal the secret handshake.  The lobbyist didn’t know me from Adam. I could have been a front for Woodward and Bernstein. I can only assume I’m not the only one who heard his pitch that week.So, how does one buy a million dollar earmark? The lobbyist costs $6,500 per month plus a 7.5% kick-back, more genteelly called a “commission.” The lobbyist makes sure that your application is properly constructed and gets into the overflowing earmark inbox of your particular Congressman by the specified date. More importantly, he makes sure that your Congressman, the two members of your Senate delegation, and the chairman of the targeted appropriations subcommittee (an apparently central player in this process named Peter Visclosky) all understand the importance of your request. Failure to line up all four of these supporters results in proportional discounting of your earmark.I inquired how we go about convincing these keepers of the public trust of the merits of our project. “By holding fund raisers,” explained the lobbyist.“Is there a price list?” Nothing is written down but the lobbyist assured me that the going rate is $10,000 per Congressman and $20,000 per Senator. Wow, these guys work cheap, I thought. We can’t even get simple audits done for that price, much les buy a million dollar earmark. This must be some volume operation.“Can our company write $60,000 worth of checks and be done with it?” I asked. Oh no, I was told. That would be illegal “Donations” must come from employees, directors, and their families in individual checks that do not exceed hard-money limits. I noted that our company is still quite small, which means that to collect $60,000 everyone connected with the company would have to write checks, not all of whom could afford that level of “generosity.” Never mind whether they even support the political positions of the target legislators. (What are their names, again?) The lobbyist patiently explained that it was perfectly legal for a company to give bonuses to employees provided these are not directly tied in timing and amounts to political donations in such an obvious way that they could be construed as illegal reimbursements. Not being accustomed to this way of doing business, I asked how we could be sure that “donations” made before the earmark was delivered would be honored. “Let me put it this way,” assured the lobbyist, “they’ve never let us down. There was a little more to it than that, but not much. The lobbyist explained that the money, or  “plus-up” as they call it, had to be routed through a funding agency, and not every federal agency is willing to be a party to this process. “But,” he advised, “agencies under budget stress are usually willing to cooperate.” In return for passing along the money, the conduit agenc keeps a handling fee of anywhere from 5% to 15%. I didn’t ask what that negotiation involved.So here’s the math.  A year’s worth of lobbyist fees comes to $78,000. The company’s compensation committee doles out $60,000 worth of bonuses on the understanding that directors and executives must be comfortable swearing under oath that these bonuses are not intended to reimburse political donations, even though they are. Figure a 7.5% commission for the lobbying firm and a 10% commission for the funding agency adds another $175,000 to the bill. For a total investment of $313,000, then, the company gets $1,000,000 in taxpayer money with no strings attached. This is better than a threefold return in less than a year. I wish all my investments did that well.The phone call ended cordially and I had a sleepless night.  Everyone else is doing it. No one could ever prove that we’d broken the law. Our competitors are getting earmarks, which they proudly announce in press releases. Our promising young company is just as deserving of support, and certainly more so than a lot of earmark recipients we’ve all read about in the papers. And as one of the 1% of the taxpayers who carry nearly 40% of our country’s income tax burden, it’s my own money they’re giving away, damn it. Would it be so wrong to try to see some of it put to good use?Perhaps out of romantic nostalgia, I keep a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution on my desk. When I woke up the next morning one look at the cover answered my question. Instead of holding a “fund raiser”  I offer you this testimony. I wish I had the courage to put my name on it but I fear exposing our portfolio companies to retribution by our esteemed elected officials, whose unbounded power over our economic affairs is only enabled by our willingness to keep paying for it.  Outraged Taxpayer

This country will fail if the natural expansion of these ideas is not stopped. The answer is that government is rightfully engaged in the protection of individual liberties and VERY little else. The robbing of some for the interests of whichever group has sufficiently bribed the legislators to be considered “society” is not only immoral, but is one expression of the fundamental poison destroying our country – the first and last (originally) moral politico-economic system. All of the other so called “free” societies simply traded slavery of the masses to the king or the dictator for slavery to the state. We were the first and the last to trade slavery for true politico-economic freedom where each man's individual rights outweighed the claims of “society.” The last vestiges of this first moral system are being destroyed. And the evil, as always, is winning by default.