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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

THROW THEM ALL OUT

A quote I saw that credited former Senator Dan Moynihan - “The quality of our leadership is so low because we expect so little”

I am reading a book that truly depresses me. Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer claims to be a revealing look at the United States Congress and why we should use the power of our vote to encourage these Senators and Representatives to choose another career path. I myself have not verified the accusations but note the documented cases given. I also note the 60 Minutes episode [here] that asks questions about the situations in the book.

If you believe what you read, you might agree.

The original observation that started this project was, “How do politicians enter office with relatively modest means, leave rich?”

What makes it depressing? The sheer volume of supposedly documented cases show an alarming behavior by those in the ruling class – using their power, influence, and information gained from their position to profit personally. Not just hundreds of dollars. Not just thousands of dollars. MILLIONS. And more than once. A lot actually.

How do they do it? They use inside information to make money in the stock market, buying or selling, depending on the situation. It doesn't matter which direction the market goes, they can profit if they know what will happen to a particular industry or company.

They get special shares of an IPO that is not available to the regular investor.

They also can buy land that they know will be purchased by the government.

They also can have roads or bridges built using government funding (YOUR MONEY!) to access land they already own, that will double or even triple the value.

Do you think it stops once someone is comfortably well off? Course not. Enough is never enough! It doesn't matter if they have hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, they want more.

And they bring their friends to the party. Friends that donate hundreds of thousands to a campaign and get BILLIONS back in the form of government loans or grants.

You don't want to contribute to a campaign? Well..... you ever hear of a “juicer bill” or a “milker bill”? This is a threat to impose taxes or legislation on an industry that doesn't donate (yet). They label it because it happens! The example given is in hedge funds. After 2007, the amount of money given in political contributions increased almost 700%! Coincidence? If you ignore the threat of increasing taxes on hedge funds, then no. After the “donations” started rolling in, the threat went away.

It paints a very bleak picture of those in charge.

It doesn't matter if the Congressman is Republican or Democrat, both seem to act the same way. If there is an opportunity to make money, they take it. Kickbacks are not needed any more. Annual Federal outlays are over three TRILLION dollars. Who is going to notice a few billion going to friends?

Does this all SEEM illegal? Of course it is – for everyone else! The local elected officials, CEO's of corporations, hedge fund managers, and judges all have laws against using information for personal gain. Not Congress. They are doing nothing against the law because they MAKE the laws. They are above it all.

How do we change it? Does anyone WANT to change it? Apathy is the new revolution. If it doesn't touch YOU, why be involved? In case you didn't notice, it HAS. The last decade is the first on record to have no increase in average income in the US. A whole decade. Did the rich get richer? Do you even have to ask?

From the book -

“Over the past 40 years, we have been governed by the best-educated political class in history. Today, debts mount, the financial markets are in turmoil, the economy is in terrible shape – and the Washington games continue. The problem is not a lack of smart people in Washington. There is no “smart gap”. There is a “character gap”. Like the financial crisis on Wall Street, the root of the problem is not ignorance but arrogance”

We can't ask for the cure to come from the sharks in bloody water.

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