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Obama googles crony capitalism, gets Google

From Erik Telford at The Blaze:

Nestled among the lofty rhetoric of “hope and change,” Barack Obama made a core promise during the 2008 campaign that he would put an end to the corporate cronyism that has long pervaded the political system. “The days of sweetheart deals for Halliburton will be over when I’m in the White House,” he proclaimed. What President Obama left out however, was that the days of sweetheart deals for his cronies had only just begun–with his chief corporate advocate, Google, quickly emerging as the Halliburton of his administration.

The phrase “regulatory capture” comes to mind.

The President talks the talk, but he fails to walk the walk and the traditional media is curled up at his feet, asleep, so don’t expect them to call him on it. The media would, however, like to have their pictures of Mr. Obama with Tiger Woods, Ben Affleck, Beyoncé, et al. Priorities.

Crony capitalism for me and denounced for thee seems to be Dear Reader’s rule of thumb.

Most transparent Administration ever.

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Cheating, crony capitalism, and public servants

Does it pay to lie, cheat, and steal? Well, we could ask Lance Armstrong. After all, he misrepresented himself on the way to acquiring a nine-figure estate.

Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff is in jail for… misrepresenting himself on the way to acquiring a nine-figure estate.

Concurrently, our “public servants” come up with innovative public financing plans (in this example, regarding a baseball park for MLB’s Miami Marlins) which benefit crony capitalists and must be repaid by the public at an order-of-magnitude plus (as explained by Doug Hanks at the Miami Herald):

 

welcome to miami

The lesson? This is what happens when our “public servants” are playing with house money.

That and they write rules which benefit their favored interest groups. Where does it end?

Although the Fineswine gun-grab is political theater (to try and establish a gun control ‘baseline’ of sorts), not only are the people of Miami forced to suffer under the ineptness of their so-called public servants but as it turns out, so are all Americans. Has there ever been a time that more cried out for 1) a competency test for public service, and/or 2) term limits?

Will this end well? Not based on the trend lines…

Another lefty writer made ill by Democrat’s hypocrisy

I’m shocked, shocked!

Now that the election is safely behind them, the left feels it is safe to bravely critique the President and his fellow travelers. Not on anything as substantive as the Benghazi debacle or Fast and Furious, but on other more tangential items like crony politics and the Democrat’s ever revolving government-industry door.

Before the election the lefty writers were all-in for Barry and anything associated with a parenthetical D. But now that Mitt Romney has been vanquished, some libs are starting to see that Obamaworld ain’t all it’s cracked up to be (or maybe they’re just exercising some sort of pent up frustration/concern that Dear Reader’s leadership may be poisoning the well for 2014 and 2016, when it’ll finally be Hillary’s turn).

From The Guardian:

It’s difficult to find someone who embodies the sleazy, anti-democratic, corporatist revolving door that greases Washington as shamelessly and purely as Liz Fowler.

Who is Liz Fowler?

When the legislation that became known as “Obamacare” was first drafted, the key legislator was the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, whose committee took the lead in drafting the legislation. As Baucus himself repeatedly boasted, the architect of that legislation was Elizabeth Folwer, his chief health policy counsel; indeed, as Marcy Wheeler discovered, it was Fowler who actually drafted it. As Politico put it at the time: “If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer.”

What was most amazing about all of that was that, before joining Baucus’ office as the point person for the health care bill, Fowler was the Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs (i.e. informal lobbying) at WellPoint, the nation’s largest health insurance provider (before going to WellPoint, as well as after, Folwer had worked as Baucus’ top health care aide). And when that health care bill was drafted, the person whom Fowler replaced as chief health counsel in Baucus’ office, Michelle Easton, was lobbying for WellPoint as a principal at Tarplin, Downs, and Young.

I live in Montana where the phrase is something like this: “That’s Max (D, MT) being Max.” And having participated in the sausage being made, I’d be surprised if WellPoint didn’t draft Obamacare on behalf of the Finance Committee and provide it to Fowler, gratis. Then Fowler sticks a cover sheet on it with Baucus’ name prominently on the cover and bam, you got your draft legislation.

The Administration’s well-practiced crony capitalism is just as unsustainable as the debt-bomb it’s building and refuses to help dismantle. Things that can’t continue forever won’t.

Shooting fish in a barrel

Finding media bias that favors President Obama is so old hat and so easy as to almost make the entire exercise pointless. Man remains the only creature capable of deceiving himself and media man is not only capable of deceiving himself, but others. Something about how misery loves company, I suppose.

None-the-less, here are a couple of observations just so I stay in practice.

On one hand you have Paul Gregory at Forbes who lays out a brilliant case against Obama-speak (“I saved GM from bankruptcy”) and Clinton-speak (‘He saved the entire U.S. auto industry’) while also making the point our imperial president chose to patronize his political allies, practice crony capitalism, and ignore the law and past practice with the Administration’s political solution to GM and Chrysler’s non-competitiveness. The efficacy of the political solution at GM, at least, is crumbling, while Chrysler—at least Fiat now owns most of it—had no where to go but up (although their 2011 sales were below their 2008 mark).

And as far as the crumbling goes, even GM is chaffing at the Administration’s foolishness. In fact, GM now wants to take repurchase stock from the taxpayer funded rescue. The problem is the government won’t let them do it:

At GM’s Friday [14 September 2012] share price of $24.14, the U.S. would lose about $15 billion on the GM bailout if it sold its entire stake. While GM stock would need to reach $53 a share for the U.S. to break even, Treasury officials would consider selling at a price in the $30s, people familiar with the government’s thinking have said.

There is also a political calculus. A deal at this time could be fraught for the Obama administration, which has maintained that the bailout saved hundreds of thousands of jobs at a critical time for the U.S. economy and was a win-win for business and taxpayers alike. Huge losses on taxpayer investment in the auto maker’s stock could tarnish the administration’s overall record in recovering crisis-era bailout money.

On the other hand you have a pro-Obama/anti-Romney article steeped in regurgitative media bias, A Desperate, Deceptive Gambit for Romney in Ohio, which appears in the New Republic (I’m shocked, shocked!).

It’s fair to say that they [‘thousands and thousands’ of Ohioans] owe their jobs to President Obama, who in 2009 rescued Chrysler and General Motors from likely liquidation.

Liquidation, as the author fails to notice, is the normal process of an asset being sold to settle an obligation. He additionally fails to understand the sold assets are then used by another entity.

The NR author is so in the tank for Obama (if you couldn’t tell from the headline), he later  feels compelled to add in some faux-objectiveness:

Did Romney intend to mislead Ohio voters [regarding Chrysler building a Jeep plant in China, the “desperate, deceptive gambit”]? I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Presidential campaigns are chaotic, particularly in their final weeks. 

Of course he isn’t prepared to give Mitt Romney the benefit of the doubt; it’s just a set-up and giving Romney such benefit would confuse his readers, his instincts, and his storyline.

Instead, the definitive New Republic assertion is Mitt Romney is desperate and deceptive while Dear Reader saved jobs. Lots and lots of jobs. Hundreds of thousands of jobs:

…as Chrysler and GM were on the brink of true collapse, the Obama Administration stepped in with federal loans and a managed bankruptcy. Almost immediately, the automobile manufacturing sector started growing again. Since July, 2009, the workforce has risen by about 150,000 jobs and that’s purely in vehicle manufacturing. If you include parts and other related jobs, it’s 250,000.

A managed bankruptcy is a nice way of saying a politically managed bankruptcy. Then the author uses a graph featuring a super-shallow “V” of automotive jobs as evidence of the Obama automotive “recovery.” But moreover, as Mr. Gregory points out, the entire effort is but another example of Clinton-speak:

Bill Clinton’s Charlotte boast of “250,000 more people working in the auto industry” refers to new automotive jobs at Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Ford, and assorted trailer, camper, and jeep operations in America – not at the “new” GM.

And meanwhile back in Ohio (emphasis in the Gregory original)?

In March of 2008, GM employed 12,300 Ohioans. Today, GM employs 9,533, for a loss of 2,767 jobs — equal the average GM job loss in U.S. operations. A structured bankruptcy would have yielded a similar jobs result, but a competitive GM. There would be about 10,000 GM jobs in Ohio today with or without Obama “Saving GM.”

While it’s useful to re-confirm that the left lives in denial land, things that can’t continue forever—like a Soviet-style command-directed economy—won’t.

bias

Re-examining Robert Rubin

Rubinomics?

After he stepped away from Treasury in 1999, Rubin moved to Citigroup (C), and until 2009 he served as chairman of the executive committee and, briefly, chairman of the board of directors. On his watch, the federal government was forced to inject $45 billion of taxpayer money into the company and guarantee some $300 billion of illiquid assets. Taxpayers ended up with a 27 percent stake in Citigroup, which was sold in 2010 at a cumulative profit of $12 billion. Rubin gave up a portion of his contracted compensation—and was still paid around $126 million in cash and stock during a tenure in which his serenity has come to look a lot more like paralysis. “Nobody on this planet represents more vividly the scam of the banking industry,” says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan. “He made $120 million from Citibank, which was technically insolvent. And now we, the taxpayers, are paying for it.”

For most American’s, the above sounds more like rube-enomics, or more accurately, crony capitalism.

Washington DC: the parasite that killed the American host

Take me down to parasite city where the money’s green and staffers committee…

Yes, life is good in and around the District. Pay? Great. Layoffs? Not observed. Home prices? What’s this ‘bubble’ thing people keep talking about?

However (and sadly for those in the District), the truth is that what they do there fails to add value to the U.S. economy and Gene Healy’s column observes the same with a number of great lines:

True, if you venture outside the Death Star’s orbit to visit the colonies for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you’ll see a lot of boarded-up storefronts. You might even feel a twinge of shame when Matt Drudge feeds you headlines like “D.C. Leads List of Most Shopaholic Cities in America.”

Whatever: Guilt is for losers! The main lesson the rest of the country should take from the capital’s prosperity is, per [New York Times D.C. bureau chief David] Leonhardt, that “education matters.”

D.C.’s “high-skill” economy boasts more college degrees than any other major metropolitan area in America. “If you wanted to imagine what the economy might look like if the country were much better educated,” Leonhardt writes, “you can look at Washington.”

Hey, you people out there in flyover country: We’re eating your lunch because we’re “smarter” than you! Hit the books, rubes: We built this!

Even so, I found it a bit unsettling last fall to read that “Beltway Earnings Make U.S. Capital Richer Than Silicon Valley,” as the Bloomberg News headline put it. After all, Silicon Valley “creates” wealth, while we — smart as we are — mostly shuffle it around.

The We built this! line is fantastically ironic as the real truth is They took this!

We built this! is reminiscent of the high school band that thought the football game was staged in order to allow them to perform at half-time.

I’m sure of one thing: the nation’s capital region is overrepresented in bureaucracy, in law degrees, and even in security clearances. Has it always been this bad or is a Jimmy Carter-like crisis of confidence setting in?

Democracy’s goals have changed. Government is played as a game, not as a fiduciary responsibility to get things done. Running the country is not what political leaders mainly think about.

As Warren Buffett knows, the future—until it all falls down—is not in plastics, but rather, in rent-seeking, crony capitalism, and regulatory capture.

Yes, the parasite’s gonna bring you to your knees

Obama and GM

The idea that Barry Obama rode in on a white horse and saved GM and Chrysler is nothing more than an Administration press release; a way for the government to pick winners and losers. Mainly losers.

Chrysler, less Titanic-like than GM, is experiencing some sales success (but given their earlier circumstance, how could they not?). But GM, no matter what the government says, is failing, at least in relation to their contemporaries.

What to do? How about some deceptive reporting?

And how did this whole market interference/cronyistic auto-drill workout? Poorly. It wasn’t a bailout. It was a handout; throwing good money at bad.

And the bondholders? Their rights were trampled for Obama’s political expediency.

Obama: watch what he does and not what he says

While Barry Oh! and his tribe of venture socialists blame Mitt Romney and Bain Capital for the ills of mankind (and a war on womankind), Marc Theissen at IBD rips the lips off the President for being a world-class practitioner of crony capitalism.

The upside: the President has found something he’s good at. The downside: what he’s good at hurts Americans.

No wonder the President trots out Warren Buffett when it suits his agenda:

Obama has declared that all of the [taxpayer financed] projects received funding “based solely on their merits.” But as Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer reported in his book “Throw Them All Out,” 71% of the Obama Energy Department’s grants and loans went to “individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.”

Collectively, these Obama cronies raised $457,834 for his campaign, and they were in turn approved for grants or loans of nearly $11.35 billion. Obama said this week that it’s not the president’s job “to make a lot of money for investors.” Well, he sure seems to have made a lot of (taxpayer) money for investors in his political machine.

The cronyism and corruption are catching up with the administration. According to Politico, “The Energy Department’s inspector general has launched more than 100 criminal investigations” related to the department’s green-energy programs.

Pay as I say and not as I pay and Do as I say and not as I do again come to mind. Sadly.

Given the crushing failures (social, economic, and foreign policy) created by this Administration which normal Americans will have to somehow pay down, Barry’s performance should warrant a crushing defeat in November.

How do billionaires become millionaires?

How do billionaires become millionaires?

By pursuing idiotic ideas.

Like mining asteroids.

The idea is so far from being ready for prime time—we still need that breakthrough in propulsion/space access we’ve been talking about for the last 50 years—that it can only be viably pursued by having the government (taxpayer) shoulder the real financial risk.

Imagine that.

Newspapers, the next government bailout?

Potemkin capitalist Warren Buffet is set to purchase 63 newspapers from Media General. Why would Buffett do such a thing when flagship papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post-It are losing money hand over fist and the industry is in free fall?

Maybe because Buffett, a willing (if ineffective) stage prop for the President, is working on deals which will provide failing old-economy industries with bailout bucks, government subsidies, tax breaks, or other forms of rent seeking for stated the purpose of preserving good American jobs or the likes.

And because the 63 papers may well be scattered near and far, that is, in many states and Congressional districts, such a Buffett-led endeavor could gain legislative traction.

How does Buffett defend the buy? By making a statement as phony as a three dollar bill:

“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” said Buffett, a former paper boy who owns Omaha World Tribune and other publications.

I’d offer there are plenty of institutions are more important than the local paper, and the failures of these newspapers is itself evidence of their unimportance.

But why would Buffett buy into a dying industry?

Buffett’s statement seems to run counter to statements that he made on May 5, at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder gathering in Omaha. At that event, Buffett referred to the newspaper industry as a “declining” industry with “problems.”

When a member of the audience asked him how to deal with a declining industry, Buffett replied, “Generally it pays to stay away from declining businesses. [The] newspaper business is a declining business and we will pay a price to be in that. That is not where we will make real money at Berkshire.”

Clearly something has changed in Grandpa Warren’s mind since earlier this month. The man isn’t a do-gooder and the business model for newspapers is broke hard, so what’s his real idea for turning a known loser into a useful winner?

Calling Dr. Freud: Guilt as a Motivator?

I don’t think it’s guilt that motivates crony capitalist Warren Buffett’s call for more taxes on millionaires and billionaires. I think it’s part of Buffett’s disinformation campaign and is attached to his deal with the Administration to wring ever more cash out of the populace in the form of rent-seeking and legislative capture in exchange for serving as a useful idiot.

But I’m not so sure about author Steven King. King has also rallied to the Raise my taxes! cry and his sense of guilt, to me, is a plausible motivator for his behavior. Of course, both Buffett and King (and every other increase-my-taxes tool, including the President) fail to execute an obvious and easy solution: just write the Treasury Department a check.

While I’ve found most of King’s books tedious, formulaic claptrap, he surprised me with his work in On Writing.

The book, largely autobiographical but also intended as a how-I –got-here and here’s-how-it-works tale, tells of King’s very modest upbringing and his similar early adult life. I think it’s a very real possibility that King feels guilty about earning so much money, especially given that his much-loved mother could only barely manage to hang-on financially despite her hard work and long hours.

The conclusion King has likely drawn and internalized (maybe at some repressed level, maybe not) is that he is ill-deserving of the riches and fame that have come his way; that his paycheck is far out of line with his contributions to society. And it’s a fair assessment.

Hence his guilt, hence his Raise my taxes! cry.

Most of those who should feel the same way that King might—imposters, posers, and frauds(and I’m largely talking to you, Hollywood)—wash their feelings away with drugs, alcohol, hedonistic behavior, denial, and in a few cases, self-congratulatory behavior.

Crony Capitalism in Space?

pigs in spaceYou may have heard of Pigs in Space, but what about crony capitalism in space?

Crony capitalism is just what it will take to make chicken salad out of the not-doable idea of mining near-earth asteroids.

That’s why it takes a group called Planetary Resources with connected front men like:

Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, and Eric Schmidt, the company’s executive chairman; Mr. [James] Cameron, whose film “Avatar” depicted a corporate venture to extract natural resources from another planet; former Microsoft Corp. executive Charles Simonyi, who has made two trips to space and funded other related activity; Ram Shriram, a Google director and venture capitalist; and Ross Perot Jr., son of the Texas technology entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Ross Perot.

Former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki is listed in the press release as president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources, with Messrs. [Peter] Diamandis [Ansari X-Prize competition guy] and [former NASA guy Eric] Anderson as co-chairmen.

The problem, of course, is one of propulsion—getting things to space is really expensive—and recovery—getting things back to earth is problematic. But it’s also a problem of funding. If Boeing or Lockheed had proposed such an idea, they’d be laughed out of the building, but these people—of course—are different. They’re far-thinking futurists.

And that’s where the government comes in.

Because the idea of mining asteroids is inherently impractical, government (via its hyper-connected friends of government) could front the money for the endeavor, all in the name of technology, science and math, U.S. leadership in space, man’s desire to explore, etc., thus allowing the individuals in the block quote above to avoid risk and make money. Simple!

We’ll see a whole lot of return from mining and exploiting the sea-beds before we ever see anything of value from mining near-earth asteroids.

The tragic intersection of Donald Trump, Queen, and Team America

My eyes! They burn!

Donald Trump: one of the most distasteful self-promoters of all time.

Warren Buffett want to pay more taxes. Not.

show me the moneyChances are you’ve heard that one of Warren Buffett’s endeavors, NetJets, is behind in its taxes by $366 million in back taxes and penalties.

If not, here’s the link.

Let me see if I have this straight: Warren Buffett thinks he needs to pay more taxes. When it comes time to pay more taxes, he doesn’t.

The lesson: watch what they do and not what they say.

The Orifice of Omaha, Part Deux

Hey, it isn’t just me that sees Warren Buffett is a crony capitalist with a set of skills that somehow allows him to avoid real scrutiny.

America’s greatest and most Teflon-coated venture socialist?

Penned by Jon Friedman at Market Watch, we have an open kimono parody of Buffett addressing a classroom of media manipulation strivers (George Soros and Media Matters for America have already figured much of the trailing snippet and are among the leading practitioners):

“The first thing to remember is that journalists are like children, and you must treat them as such. They are endlessly curious about rather mundane matters. And they are impatient. And they are often lazy. If you do the thinking for them, they’ll be secretly grateful.”

He pauses and wags his forefinger at the audience. “And,” he says solemnly, “they will reward you.”

Although the column does not connect the dots, the same applies for government bureaucrats (and perhaps for many beyond that categorization).

So now you perhaps better understand how the government and journalists are alike—sock that away for your LSATs, or better, for your life experiences.

Why The Left Now Embraces Crony Capitalism

Hypocrisy, thy name is progressive.

The reason some on the left now embrace crony capitalism is simple: their man, the emperor of market interference and its main practitioner, President Barack Obama, is at political risk.

So rather than attack crony capitalism as you might initially expect, Michael Kazin at the New Republic becomes its apologist. Think the left (that is, the Administration) and anything green (Solyndra, et al), the automotive industry (Chrysler and GM), and finance (TARP, AIG, et al) as recent examples.

Conservatives now object to “crony capitalism,” but for much of U.S. history, businessmen have been hungry for it. Since the early nineteenth century, the government has helped fuel economic growth and corporate profit-making, and savvy businessmen and, recently, businesswomen have lobbied hard to keep those benefits coming.

Kazin’s ironclad logic—that businesses want don’t want equal treatment from the government but instead favor preferential treatment, so therefore it is OK—fails at every level. His argument is intellectual junk food: gooey hypocrisy and pure idiocy on the inside and wrapped in a coating of absurdity.

The reality is this: crony capitalism offends America’s sense of fairness; crony capitalism hurts consumers; crony capitalism dampens innovation. Crony capitalism benefits from anti-competitive regulations as even Kazin points this out (while failing to acknowledge the benefits to the consumer of competition).

…the largest meatpacking corporations also welcomed the FDA, knowing it would signal that their products were safe to eat while raising the costs of production just enough to drive smaller firms out of business.

When you follow crony capitalism to its conclusion, you have a centrally planned and approved government economy, would likely really wind Kazin’s watch.Thus the problem is reduced to a very simple one: government is not powerful enough to properly reward favored industries, practices, and approaches.

How powerful does it need to be? Ooh they only answer more.

Crony capitalism makes fortunate sons

Challenging the Self-Made Myth

(If you must, read the original here.)

Kristine van Grovel on March 2, 2012 – 12:53 PM ET

Over the last eighty years, Americans have developed the government dependency skills needed to survive in today’s tough global welfare state. These skills stand in stark contrast to anti-government arguments put forward by conservatives who are pushing the sad notion that lower taxes, less regulation, small government (except for defense), less debt, and more freedom are important to America’s future.

These conservative ideas are BS. As Congressman Barney Frank has said, “I’ve never seen a tax cut that I favored. I’ve never seen a tax cut build a bridge to nowhere. And I never had sex with that woman.”

Americans benefit every day from the benevolent government leviathan—from the presence of vending machines at schools with healthy snack choices for the children to the pro-green Keystone XL pipeline decision, which helps move fuel prices where they need to be to important national-level investments in the Chevy Volt and Berkshire-Hathaway. Even people who claim to be against a “huge and dominating government presence” sometimes benefit from the safety net, a safety net that we have wisely borrowed for when there are still over fourteen unemployed economists for each good government job and nearly half of all Americans don’t make enough money to pay any federal income taxes.

Republican presidential candidates are tripping all over one another trying to prove who will take the biggest axe to government the quickest and just the other day, Ron Paul fell on his way to a speaking engagement. Mitt Romney labels regulations “the hardly invisible jackboot of government to bring us all down” and argues that “we need to get the federal government out of education.” Rick Santorum fishmongers about “the narcotic of government dependency,” and if Newt Gingrich discusses the food stamp recovery, he’s a racist.

Washington Post-It columnist Courtcase Milloy is spot on in writing of Republican presidential plans to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and FEMA, “So what happens when disaster strikes? Who comes to the rescue—the local church, the Rotary Club? The National Guard? One’s friends and neighbors? Who would exist to slow-roll all these initiatives to increase American production of oil and natural gas?”

Understanding it is really government who gives and takes away should be the fundamental issue in the 2012 election. But the problem isn’t big government, it’s big conservative money. Yes, that’s correct: actual voters don’t matter at all and even if they did, they’re all sheep and are under the thumb of that vast right wing Super PAC, lobbyist, and Washington-Wall Street insider conspiracy (while the Administration does have some former Super PAC-men, lobbyists, and Washington-Wall Street insiders on their team, that’s different). Because the people need a leader, we will decide for them.

No one wants to reset the narrative on big government more than Elizabeth Warren who laid out an argument in a video clip her sponsors paid to go viral:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. We got you rich. We, the government, your leaders. You built a factory? You only think you built a factory because we approved the paperwork. You only moved your goods to market on the roads we signed off on; you hired workers we paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because we didn’t sent our police or fire forces to destroy your business. The idea that any human need could be met without the government or that such needs could be met more effectively without us is a joke. You are totally dependent on us and you should know it. Now look, maybe that factory, our factory, was turned into something terrific, like a solar panel factory? Well, God bless and maybe we’ll let you keep a hunk of your profits. But part of the underlying social contract is that we’ll take what we need and borrow the rest because that’s what me, and others like me, think is right.”

President Obama, too, picked up on this theme in his State of the Union address when he said:

“No one built this country on their own. The leaders of government built it, often by drafting their own legislation and sometimes even by collecting their own taxes. And even though our nation is not as great as we’d like, as great, for example, as Western Europe, our leaders did their parts. We worked as a team: we think and provide the direction, and you and future generations support our initiatives and pay.”

These ideas are reflected in a book—You Didn’t Do Anything Yourself, by Unified for a Really Fair Economy’s Brian Miller-Tyme and Mike Lapdog. Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich III says, “This book challenges today’s flawed pro-freedom agenda: that an individual’s success is the result of gumption and hard work. Miller-Tyme and Lapdog demonstrate that personal success is more closely tied to self-esteem. Must reading for all who want to get our nation back on track, not that this Administration has gotten it off track or kept it that way.”

A central thesis of the book is that the greater an individual’s success, the less his or her dependence on gumption, hard work, or innovation, and the more dependent one is on regulatory capture, handouts, and crony capitalism. The two most noted business leaders referenced in the book, Warren Buffett and Jeffrey Immelt, cite these as essential to their own accomplishments.

Indeed, the profiles of other business people who recognize the important role government favoritism plays in their success are one of the great contributions of You Didn’t Do Anything Yourself. Kim Dot Com, CEO of New Brussels Brewing, talks about the government handouts that were needed to make Flat, Tired Beer. Christopher Lloyd of Fresh City Foods and Ben Dover of Ben & Barney’s ice cream discuss the confidence provided by food safety regulations and the benefits of those regulations in forming barriers for keeping potential competitors out of their businesses. Thelma-Louise-Jason Kidd, co-founder of TLJ Kidd Booksellers in Detroit, cites the importance of a Small Business Administration ruling to deed “condemned” property to her at no cost, a favor which helped her break through the glass ceiling and into the hole in the ozone. The book also debunks the tiresome claims by the likes of Donald Trump, Ross Perot and the Koch Brothers that “self-made” means getting a handout or favorable government contract “on your own, without even a lobbyist.”

The 1 percenters profiled in this book are really heroes if they are willing to let our leaders take the credit for their government provided success. Co-author Lapdog is founder of Government Makes Wealth, a network of over 700 crony capitalists and insiders that advocate for more taxation of others. There are also thousands of “high-road” businesses and medical marijuana dispensaries represented by the Stoned American Business Council, devoted to a vibrant, just and sustainable marijuana-based economy. More than five local chambers of commerce in towns like Boulder, Berkley and Ann Arbor have denounced or canceled memberships in the US Chamber because its hyper-corporatized ways fail to represent the values of small businesses and entrepreneurs who are connected and committed to their communities. What all of this means is there’s now a real and growing potential for new alliances between government leaders and the new breed of businesspeople beholden for their success.

Chevy Volt Production Line To Be Idled

The Chevy Volt production line will be idled in response to the non-response to the Chevy Volt.

The government tells us the Chevy Volt is good for us. So are steamed vegetables and colonoscopies, I suppose.

When the American people ask the Volt “Whose your daddy?” it replies “Uncle Sam.”

The Volt still fails to sell despite massive subsidies:

The White House intends to boost government subsidies for wealthy buyers of the Chevy Volt and other new-technology vehicles — to $10,000 per buyer.

The flip side is that the Volt isn’t ready for prime time:

“When the market is ready … it won’t have to be subsidized,” [Rep. Mike] Kelly [R-Pa.] said.

How low are Volt sales? Really low.

The car company had hoped to sell 45,000 Chevy Volts in America this year, according to the Detrot [sic] News, but has only sold about 1,626 over the first two months of 2012.

In a speech to the United Auto Workers this week, President said he would buy a Volt “…when I’m not president anymore.”

I’m not sure if they’ll be making them eleven months from now, Barry.

The Volt: a Chevy Vega for a new millennium

Oracle of Omaha? No, Orifice of Omaha

Vincent Carroll at the Denver Post accurately deconstructs the folksy legend of Warren Buffett, who is referred to at site as the Orifice of Omaha.

You’d never know the avuncular Buffett, lionized by so many commentators for his support of higher taxes on the rich, may actually be the most deft political operator of all — and that he was, in the words of a Sacramento Bee investigation three years ago, “one of the top beneficiaries of the banking bailout” even as he promoted it to Congress and the public as an undeniable necessity.

Through a nakedly political and self-aware self-promotion campaign to form himself into the Yoda of value investing, Buffett has avoided comparisons with the bad guys of Wall Street, the rent seekers, crony capitalists, and regulatory capture crowd. These comparisons, as it turns out, are quite unfair to the rent seekers, crony capitalists, and regulatory capture types.

As the Bee noted in a now neglected report, Berkshire’s holdings in companies bailed out by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) constituted “30 percent of its publicly disclosed stock portfolio, and that proportion reflects at least twice as much dependence on bailed-out banks as any other large investor.”

And as the line goes, ‘When the legend eclipses reality, print the legend.’ The legend, of course, is that Buffett is a white-hat, a hard working, patient value investor. Hardly; he was knee-deep in the financial meltdown:

Not only was Buffett invested in companies threatened by the meltdown, he also added to such holdings in the teeth of the crisis, beginning with a $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs in September 2008 that The New York Times portrayed as a “sign of confidence.”

It was a sign of confidence on Buffett’s part — confidence that Congress would heed his advice to pass TARP. And in the coming days he did his utmost to ensure it happened, reportedly even participating in a conference call with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats.

So… do you ever get the feeling the fix is in? That the game is rigged? There’s a reason you feel that way: it’s true!

The same was true of Buffett’s big investment at the time in GE, at terms unavailable to the “poor saps who ponied up $12 billion for GE via the ordinary share offering,” according to Summers. “But then, Buffett goes on CNBC — a GE subsidiary — to discuss how great an investment GE is!”

Peter Schweizer, author of “Throw Them all Out,” asks the obvious question that such scheming raises about Buffett: “Why do so many people continue to heed his policy advice without considering his enormous self-interest?” After all, Schweizer wrote recently in Reason magazine, “the success of some of his biggest bets and the profitability of some of his largest investments rely on government largesse and ‘coddling’ with taxpayer money.”

Buffett could, it seems, also be referred to as the Orifice of Obama based on what looks like his quid pro quo support of the President. Why support the Administration? To paraphrase John Dillinger, that’s where the money is.

One Hand Washes the Other: the LightSquared Saga

From the annals of crony capitalism, rent-seeking, and regulatory capture it is revealed that LightSquared, a world-class GPS signal-killer, has been in bed with the Administration.

Before Barack Obama became president, he was personally an investor in SkyTerra [the company that would become LightSquared]. [Philip] Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners [LightSquared’s financial backers] donated $50,000 to Obama’s inaugural committee on Jan. 20, 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At the time, Falcone was still looking for the FCC’s sign-off on his hedge fund’s desire to purchase a majority stake in SkyTerra . The George W. Bush administration had failed to green-light the deal.

According to White House visitor logs, Obama’s new FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, a classmate of the president’s from Harvard Law School, met with White House Personnel Director Don Gips on Feb. 18, 2009. Gips’ personal financial disclosure forms show he had between $250,000 and $500,000 of his personal finances invested in SkyTerra via stock options. Gips bundled at least $500,000 in donations to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, and served on the advisory board of Obama’s White House transition team.

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On the same day Goldberg [Henry Goldberg of Harbinger’s law firm, Goldberg, Godles, Weiner & Wright] sent that email to [FCC International Bureau Chief Howard] Griboff — July 24, 2009 — SkyTerra asked the FCC to allow it to delay the launch of a new satellite because there was a “potential delay in [its] delivery.” The FCC approved the request, but later denied a near-identical one for SkyTerra competitor GlobalStar based on “extenuating circumstances” in 2010. This appeared to be one in a long line of instances in which the FCC favored SkyTerra, the future LightSquared, over GlobalStar.

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…later, Falcone and his wife each donated the maximum legally allowed — $30,400 each — to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Of course, largely ignored is the effect of the LightSqaured network on GPS. To quote myself, should LightSquared be looking for a new logo, something like “The first full-fail 4G network” or “SkyJam”?

And this coming from the most transparent Administration ever. I’m shocked, shocked!