Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Clintons, the Ex-Im Bank, and the aristocracy of pull

The news today had its uplifting moments. Vox choked out a spectacular story about the arresting wealth gathered in by Bill and Hillary Clinton since 2007, and graced it with a headline so snarky that Donald Trump might have written it: "Hillary Clinton has paid more in taxes than Jeb Bush has ever earned." The short version is that the Clintons have "earned" -- more about the use of that word in a moment -- $141 million since 2007. I don't care who you are, that's some decent coin.

The second best part about the Vox story is the searchable list of all the organizations, mostly large business corporations, that have paid the Clintons enormous sums to hear their talking points in person. Scroll down and make your list of boycott targets (I was sad to see my old law firm Latham & Watkins in that corrupt crowd, by the way).

Also this morning, the frequently confused NYT columnist Joe Nocera inveighed against anybody who might oppose the Ex-Im Bank as either "[m]ind-bogglingly idiotic" (channeling Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic Senator from dark-red North Dakota) or "ideological" and "extreme right."

Nocera does note that conservatives oppose the Ex-Im Bank because they see it as an example of "crony capitalism." Nocera's evidence that it is not is a knee-slapper from Fred Hochburg, president of the Ex-Im Bank:

The argument by opponents that “most drives me crazy is that we’re a form of crony capitalism. We’re the opposite of that,” he said. “Companies come to us when they can’t get a deal done any other way...."
Uh, Joe, if you cannot get export financing in the private sector, when your lenders are motivated by balancing risk and the opportunity for profit, and you can only get it done with an explicit or implicit subsidy from taxpayers, that is the farookin' essence of crony capitalism. One rarely sees evidence offered against a proposition so useful in sustaining it.

Regardless, Nocera's passion for state corporatism blinds him to the point that would animate progressive opposition if a Republican sat in the White House. The Ex-Im Bank is a transfer of wealth from taxpayers, who consist of the average guy, to people wealthy enough to own businesses that export stuff. In short, it makes inequality worse. What, suddenly inequality isn't the defining problem of our age? Nocera's failure even to mention that point reveals him as either intellectually dishonest -- that would be my bet -- or "mindbogglingly idiotic."

The ugly truth is that the Ex-Im Bank is nothing but a taxpayer subsidy for America's largest corporations. Doubt me? Check out this handy series of graphs. I liked this one in particular, but look at them all:


We note that "various small businesses" accounted for approximately 1/60th of the loan guarantees made by the Ex-Im Bank in 2013. The rest went to huge corporations. Oh. And go to Open Secrets and search for Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric. You will see that all of them rank highly as political contributors and procurers of lobbying. No doubt to keep those Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees flowing. This is, again, the essence of crony capitalism. It puts the government in the business of picking winners and losers among competitors, sucks money from ordinary taxpayers to benefit the owners of a small number of big corporations and their vendors, and no doubt makes inequality worse, like so many other government interventions. If opposing the Ex-Im Bank is idiotic, sign me up.

Back to the Clintons. Is there a single person alive who believes that corporations, trade associations, NGOs, unions, and the like pay the Clintons enormous sums for speeches because they believe their members actually want to hear the Clintons say the same tedious talking points they have been spewing for years? If that were the only value received no profit-minded enterprise would pay the Clintons these vast fees because they would earn, well, a shitty rate of return.

No, the Clintons are not paid to speak. Businesses and other interest groups pay them for the favor of access at a crucial moment or a thumb on the scale in the future, perhaps when it is time to renew the Ex-Im Bank or at a thousand other occasions when a nod might divert millions of dollars from average people in to the pockets of the crony capitalists. The speaking is just a ragged fig leaf, mostly to allow their allies in the media to say they "earned" the money for "speaking," which is, after all, hard work.

We have such people as the Clintons (and the tens of thousands of smaller bore looters who have turned the counties around Washington, D.C. in to the richest in the country) because they and their ilk in both parties have transformed the federal government of the United States in to a vast favors factory, an invidious place that not only picks winners and losers and decides the economic fates of millions of people, but which has persuaded itself that this is all quite noble. Instead, the opposite is true: This entire class of people, of which the Clintons are a most ugly apotheosis, are destroying the country while claiming it is all in the "public service." It is disgusting. We need to say that, at least, out loud.

Of course, all of this was prefigured years ago in a novel some of you will know.

aristocracy of pull

Tear down the aristocracy of pull. This may be our last chance.

Addendum: Just when you thought it could not get worse.


The Conservative Wahoo said...

The Em-Im president's quote is breathtaking.

"The Hammer" said...

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”
― Benito Mussolini

Anonymous said...

ABB, I think, is not even an American company.

Mkelley said...

Speaking of "pull", one of the two reasons we are buying "green energy" is that it can be the sweetest deal ever for connected cronies like Warren Buffett:

--After a complicated struggle to extract enough data out of the obfuscated reporting of Berkshire Hathaway 2013 Annual Report, we can project data that is a probable or estimated summary of how Berkshire, Warren Buffett, and its other shareholders could make an enormous amount of money on green wind energy, $1,574,000,000 tax-free.
MidAmerican appropriately makes post-tax profits of $1,574,000,000 for producing just 11% of the electricity that Ameren produces. And Ameren's net income after an assumed tax rate of 37% is just $255,000,000. So, in the end: 1 kilowatt of windmill electricity produces 57x the profit of 1 kilowatt of hydrocarbon fuel electricity.

The extraordinary and outsized economics of green energy are consistent with an arcane scheme. It is originated by government mandates forcing all electric customers to pay for nothing except for the transfer of wealth to the "chosen winners" of the high priests of Green Energy Ideology. Getting chosen to own a windmill is an economic gift of unprecedented proportions. And it will last as long as the "wind blows"! The Green Energy elites are profiting at the expense of all electricity users. They must do everything possible to prevent "we the people" from ever discovering how they make all their money.

And here is one of the most disingenuous comments that has ever been made:

When our current projects are completed, MidAmerican's renewables portfolio will have cost $15 billion. We relish making such commitments as long as they promise reasonable returns. And on that front, we put a large amount of trust in future regulation.

This is the so-called sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett. He clearly believes in getting his share of the redistribution of wealth from working people to the wealthiest of elites.

One last note, at a cost of $15 billion, the total probable investment tax credit would be (30% x $15 billion) = $5 billion. The $10 billion of cost most likely could be "borrowed money." Remember, Warren said:

MidAmerican's earnings base has further broadened. This particular strength, supplemented by Berkshire's ownerships, has enabled MidAmerican and its utility subsidiaries to significantly lower their cost of debt.

If they borrowed the $10 billion they would have no equity in the project-which would result in tax free income of $1.574 billion, an infinite return on investment.--

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