ACTION ITEM - Oppose "Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act"

This just in from the Drug Policy Alliance -- another reminder of how corrupt the process is for considering legislation in Congress. Why is it that this bill gets to come up for a vote with only two co-sponsors and no committee hearing, when Ron Paul's bill to audit the Federal Reserve couldn't get a vote despite having dozens of co-sponsors, tens of thousands of citizen calls and letters, and the House Financial Services Committee voting for an audit?

  Let's tell Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues to oppose this expansion of the failed "War on Drugs" and clean up their act!

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Starchild;

  The answer to the first question is: because there are people more powerful than Congress who are actually pulling the wires behind the scenes. Ron Paul's move to audit the FED not only had House support, Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont actually co-sponsored it for a vote in the Senate. But the Banking Cartels shut Paul and Sanders down; while Big Pharma and the Prison-Industrial Complex can get anti-drug laws forced through almost at will.

  More to the point, though, this kind of legislation reflects a disturbing trend. Not long after Obama was inagurated there was talk of legalizing drugs and abolishing the DEA; less than 2 years later, we have bills like this and candidates from the extreme fringes of the Far Right pushing other draconian social-engineering schemes and gaining support doing it. I had a feeling after Obama's election, there would be a right-wing reaction; but never expected anything this fast or this intense and extreme.

Eric,

  My question was mostly rhetorical. I'm not sure to what extent people "behind the scenes" are pulling strings versus to what extent the leaders of Congress are calling the shots on their own because they see those decisions as expedient to maintaining their own power. You might have a somewhat more conspiracy-oriented take on it than I do. But whatever the real division of power may be, I know roughly what to expect from the system as it currently stands, and am hardly surprised at the double standard I mentioned; I simply wanted to call peoples' attention to it.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Starchild,

   Remember the old saying that 'money is power' and Andrew Jackson's statement that 'the power to tax is the power to destroy'. It isn't necessarily conspiratorial to assume that monied interests would form an unholy alliance with the force of government, it certainly has happened before. The Japanese Empire of the 1920s-1945 was that kind of system, and I think that vested interests here are constructing a similar system.

Eric,

  Oh, I think there's plenty of collusion in the U.S. between government officials and monied interests, but I think the officials tend to have more clout than the non-government interests in those relationships. People come to them wanting things, and within parameters dictated by the officials based on political realities and the need not to appear openly corrupt, those favors are often granted, so long as the favor-seekers are willing to make the appropriate donations. Money can buy power, but power can also seize money. As you note, the power to tax is the power to destroy. When you're dealing with someone who has the power to destroy you, you certainly aren't calling all the shots.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Starchild;
   But then again, corporations are pouring millions into these politicians' pockets. They aren't doing that with any concern that government power will be turned against them. They also have such tight media control, coupled with enough potentially scandalous material (which can be manufactured, if need be) on their political tools that the politicians would never dare cross them. There's a good example in my next post; but the TARP Bailout was a good example of the banking cartels simply demanding money and backing it up with a threat of martial law against the government. So was the BP Oil Disaster, when the oil cartels simply commandeered the Coast Guard for its own use.

Eric,

  You note that, "corporations are pouring millions into these politicians' pockets," and assert that "They aren't doing that with any concern that government power will be turned against them." If that's true, then the people responsible for those decisions are naive and acting like fools.

  Politicians would never cross them? Look at General Motors. When the Obama administration took over the company, he forced the CEO out. Do you think that CEO had never approved his company spending any money to lobby government?

    Marge pointed out a year ago on this list that "The problem with giving a politician you like too much power is that he may be voted out and replaced by a politician you don't like and he'll still have the power you gave the politician you liked."

  Similarly, the problem with giving a politician a bunch of money to buy his vote on one issue, is that he (or she) may oppose you on some other issue, but he'll still have your money. A wit once noted that "The trouble with politicians is they don't stay bought." Even if you give Senator Windbag $100,000 today, somebody else with a different agenda -- one of your competitors, perhaps, or the union most of your workers belong to, or an industry whose interests are at odds with those of your industry, may give him $100,000, or $200,000, tomorrow.

  If the corporations had such tight media control, then you'd never hear or read anything negative about them, but obviously that is far from the case. You can easily find all kinds of stories, in all different kinds of publications, discussing examples of corporate wrongdoing and corporate executives behaving badly.

  Your characterization of what happened with the TARP bailouts does not match reality. Banks were *required* to take the money. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch via the Freedom of Information Act confirm this (see http://www.businessinsider.com/uncovered-tarp-docs-reveal-how-paulson-forced-banks-to-take-the-cash-2009-5). Why would a bank *not* want the money? Because besides being bad public relations, taking government money could be sign as the bank admitting it was financially weak and in need of a bailout. The Feds didn't want the public to know which banks were weak, thereby encouraging a run on those banks, so their approach was to force *all* the major banks on their list to take the money, whether they wanted to or not.

  I am also skeptical of your claim that "the oil cartels simply commandeered the Coast Guard for (their) own use" during the BP oil spill cleanup. First of all, the only oil cartel that I'm aware of is OPEC. Do you have evidence that any other oil industry organizations meet the definition of a cartel, or that any of these organizations "commandeered" the Coast Guard? You make it sound like the Coast Guard was involved in some nefarious operation -- what do you think they were doing, other than trying to assist with the oil cleanup?

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Hi Starchild:

   Thanks for the reply. I always enjoy the debate on this forum; on most 'libertarian' forums, speaking out against corporate power usually gets me denounced as a communist and censored.

   The corporations that are bankrolling these political candidates, think-tanks, policy institutes, and lobby-groups are decidedly NOT acting against their own interests. Wall Street today IS the government, albeit a shadow government.

   The confusion on this point arises because many of libertarians grew up reading authors like Rand, Nock, Friedman, &c. who were writing during a historical epoch when the threat of State Socialism was very real and governmental economic takeovers were a serious threat. Today, the multinational corporate cartels are more powerful than the US or any other government, and can---and HAS---removed governments abroad more or less at will and manipulated elections and policy here to the extent that whatever is in Wall Street's interests will be national policy, regardless of the consequences. Libertarians often fail to recognize this; seeing the government and corporate interests as antagonistic; but as Frederic Bastiat, Lysander Spooner, Herbert Spencer, and others wrote years ago; both political AND economic associations seek monopolistic power, hence the interests of BOTH organized political and economic entities is the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few and suppression of liberty for the many.

  The bank and auto bailouts you mentioned were good examples of this: GM's CEO wasn't so much forced out by Obama as much as he got caught pocketing the bailout money for bonuses; IOW, it was more of a PR move. Chrysler was even worse. In that case, an economic cabal known as the Cerebrus Group (headed by former Goldman-Sachs CEO and Junior/Cheney Treasury Kommisar John Snow) bought all Chrysler's bad debts, then they engineered the bailout to pay themselves off. Chrysler went under and is now owned by Fiat.

  The banks weren't so much forced to take the bailout money as much as it was a criminal collusion between Bernancke, Paulsen, Goldman-Sachs & Morgan-Stanley. Before the bailout, Bernancke and Paulsen dissolved several of Goldman-Sachs/Morgan-Stanley's competitors by sheer fiat; other more solvent funds were absorbed by these two concerns. Paulsen, Bernancke and SEC chairman Chris Cox were all toadies of these banking cartels, and the bailout wasn't so much a 'subsidy' as it was an 'indemnification' against all the largesse these gangsters raked in. That's why they were able to 'repay' so quickly.

  BP---yes, another example. Bush Junior created the Minerals Management Administration in 2004 by sheer fiat and staffed it with ex-lobbyists whose only purpose was to approve the energy cartels' interests. When the Gulf of Mexico Disaster occurred (under very suspicious circumstances), BP basically took control of the situation and fed such information to the government as it saw fit. (Note: in other countries, the Navy usually deals with these problems). Obama ordered them to set up a trust fund, BP has yet to make a single payout. And yes, informal cartels exist among these oil companies, corporate executives frequently own stock and assets in each others' enterprises.

  The media---yes, it is totally under corporate control. If it weren't for the internet, access to foreign news services, and a few small, independent outlets on radio, the mass media is virtually closed to anybody else.

Hi Eric,

Hi Starchild:

Thanks for the reply. I always enjoy the debate on this forum; on most 'libertarian' forums, speaking out against corporate power usually gets me denounced as a communist and censored.

  I'm sorry to hear that, but glad you haven't had that experience here. I enjoy the quality of discussion we usually have here as well. Although you come across as strongly partisan toward the left side of the political spectrum (which may be triggering some of the defensive reactions you've gotten on other libertarian lists -- something to consider?), I appreciate that you have been civil and engaging as well.

The corporations that are bankrolling these political candidates, think-tanks, policy institutes, and lobby-groups are decidedly NOT acting against their own interests. Wall Street today IS the government, albeit a shadow government.

  If "Wall Street is the government," how do you explain that the corporate income tax rate in the United States, at 35%, is the second-highest in the world? Sure, many companies manage to get out of paying the full brunt of that rate of confiscation, but I'm sure it costs them a lot of money to do so -- hiring lawyers and accounts, spending money on lobbying, etc. If they're so powerful, why don't they just get that tax rate reduced or eliminated? I think the Chamber of Commerce and others *have* been trying to get it reduced, but simply aren't strong enough to overcome the resistance from the economic statists.

The confusion on this point arises because many of libertarians grew up reading authors like Rand, Nock, Friedman, &c. who were writing during a historical epoch when the threat of State Socialism was very real and governmental economic takeovers were a serious threat.

  I think government takeovers of voluntary sector organizations remain a serious threat today. The U.S. government recently took over General Motors, for heaven's sake! With Obamacare, it apparently just took over the entire student loan industry. At the local level here in San Francisco, there is a strong continuing effort to municipalize PG&E's business and put energy distribution under direct government control.

Today, the multinational corporate cartels are more powerful than the US or any other government, and can---and HAS---removed governments abroad more or less at will and manipulated elections and policy here to the extent that whatever is in Wall Street's interests will be national policy, regardless of the consequences.

  What is your definition of a cartel? I call the Republican and Democrat parties a cartel because they collaborate in specific, concrete ways to suppress competition -- for instance by excluding alternative party candidates from debates and by passing laws that make it more difficult for alternative parties to get on the ballot.

Libertarians often fail to recognize this; seeing the government and corporate interests as antagonistic; but as Frederic Bastiat, Lysander Spooner, Herbert Spencer, and others wrote years ago; both political AND economic associations seek monopolistic power, hence the interests of BOTH organized political and economic entities is the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few and suppression of liberty for the many.

  I agree with you that corporate and government interests are not always antagonistic, and that this is an important point to recognize. Obviously some government officials are very cozy with some corporations. But I don't perceive corporations being as monolithic as you apparently do.

The bank and auto bailouts you mentioned were good examples of this: GM's CEO wasn't so much forced out by Obama as much as he got caught pocketing the bailout money for bonuses; IOW, it was more of a PR move.

  But lots of other companies reportedly used bailouts for bonuses. I hadn't even heard that specifically about GM. Whatever reason or reasons motivated the decision, it seems clear that Obama forced GM's CEO out, and that illustrates where the real power lies.

Chrysler was even worse. In that case, an economic cabal known as the Cerebrus Group (headed by former Goldman-Sachs CEO and Junior/Cheney Treasury Kommisar John Snow) bought all Chrysler's bad debts, then they engineered the bailout to pay themselves off. Chrysler went under and is now owned by Fiat.

  Wow, that sounds like what I read about in "The Whiskey Rebellion" about Alexander Hamilton and his banking cronies buying bad debts owed by the U.S. government to Revolutionary War veterans and others, and then engineered a tax increase on whiskey to generate the government revenue to make good on those debts. Do you have a link or source for this story?

The banks weren't so much forced to take the bailout money as much as it was a criminal collusion between Bernancke, Paulsen, Goldman-Sachs & Morgan-Stanley. Before the bailout, Bernancke and Paulsen dissolved several of Goldman-Sachs/Morgan-Stanley's competitors by sheer fiat; other more solvent funds were absorbed by these two concerns. Paulsen, Bernancke and SEC chairman Chris Cox were all toadies of these banking cartels, and the bailout wasn't so much a 'subsidy' as it was an 'indemnification' against all the largesse these gangsters raked in. That's why they were able to 'repay' so quickly.

    We have hard written evidence that they were forced to take the money. The "criminal collusion" you talk about is more in the realm of speculation, isn't it? Do you have hard evidence that "Paulsen, Bernancke and SEC chairman Chris Cox were all toadies of these banking cartels", and not the other way around? If there's any single company that seems to be getting favored treatment from the U.S. government, I would agree it's Goldman Sachs. But Morgan-Stanley took over Washington Mutual (now Chase), which was reported to be in bad shape. Lots of other banks got bailout money, and the way I understand it, many of them *were* in trouble -- the collapse of all the bad debt hit many of these banks hard. I'm not sure I understand your argument about indemnification.

BP---yes, another example. Bush Junior created the Minerals Management Administration in 2004 by sheer fiat and staffed it with ex-lobbyists whose only purpose was to approve the energy cartels' interests.

  But if corporations have the power, then why can't they just do whatever they want without getting government approval?

When the Gulf of Mexico Disaster occurred (under very suspicious circumstances), BP basically took control of the situation and fed such information to the government as it saw fit.

  When you say "took control of the situation", what do you mean? It was their drilling operation -- they already had control of it before the accident happened. They didn't have to "take control" from anyone.

(Note: in other countries, the Navy usually deals with these problems).

  Oh? Any examples? And if the BP oil spill had been handled by the U.S. Navy, would this indicate less corporate power? Wouldn't those who wanted to argue that corporations hold all the power simply say that BP was taking advantage of the Navy by making them handle the cleanup and take all the public flack for being associated with that, as well as assuming costs that should have been paid by the company? You previously said that the Coast Guard was "commandeered" by "oil cartels" for their own use.

Obama ordered them to set up a trust fund, BP has yet to make a single payout.

  Again, look at who is giving orders and who is taking orders. Another indication of where the real power lies. Also, I'm not sure where you heard that not a single payout has been made, but according to a recent (Sept. 20) report (see http://www.straitstimes.com:80/BreakingNews/Money/Story/STIStory_580860.html), 19,000 claims totaling more then $240 million have already been paid.

  What's more, it sounds like the company may not even have much control over the payouts: "The (Gulf Coast Claims Facility trust fund) is run by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, formerly the Obama Administration's executive pay Czar." Sounds like the Obama administration got their own guy into that lucrative patronage politics role of deciding who gets the loot.

And yes, informal cartels exist among these oil companies, corporate executives frequently own stock and assets in each others' enterprises.

The media---yes, it is totally under corporate control. If it weren't for the internet, access to foreign news services, and a few small, independent outlets on radio, the mass media is virtually closed to anybody else.

  Then how do you explain the fact that stories critical of corporations regularly appear in mainstream media outlets? Consider the news coverage of the BP oil spill. Obviously the accident was a huge public relations debacle for BP as well as a major financial hit -- I heard that their stock declined in value by something like 33%. I think the media have been pretty critical of the company, and that this critical reporting was reflected by the fact that respondents in a survey I saw tended to blame BP more than the government for failing to get the spill better under control.

  My bottom line analysis -- You apparently think the real power lies outside of government while I tend to think the real power lies inside government. You primarily feel that corporate executives as getting government officials to do their bidding. I primarily feel that government officials are getting corporate executives to do their bidding. But either way, it's clear that both government *and* corporate insiders are benefitting -- that much seems indisputable.

  Another important commonality in what we are saying here is that we both see government, with its lawmaking, regulatory, and law enforcement capacities, as the *instrument* for exerting control and abusing the public trust. Therefore I would argue to you that getting government under control is *more important* than getting corporations under control.

  Assume for a moment that you're right that the real power lies with corporate executives. The question would still remain -- *which* corporate executives, precisely? As we saw from the financial industry shakedown, not everyone was an insider -- Lehman Brothers was allowed to go bankrupt, Merill Lynch was allowed to be bought out to avoid bankruptcy rather than being bailed out, etc. The inescapable conclusion is that any industry-wide controls on corporations would punish many players who *weren't* secretly controlling government along with those who were.

  Better to simply *control government*, because that is the nexus where the power is being exercised. Eliminate big, powerful government, and corporate executives seeking to manipulate laws and public resources for their own benefit would be left without a mechanism via which to do so. Under this strategy, even if we think certain corporate executives -- which ones, we're not precisely sure -- are the *real* villains, we should aim the majority of our attacks and criticisms at government, as the indirect, but most effective, means of checking the ability of these executives to work the system for their own ends.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Hi Starchild:

   Thanks for the detailed reply! Rather than go down it point-by-point, (which I think we can do indefinately), I'll point out that we both agree on the conclusion; which is one reason why I am a libertarian. If we deprived government of the power to benefit these corporate looters, Wall Street would have no political power and be forced to compete in a free market!

   One point that you mentioned, which comes up a lot, is the tax rate. Most of these corporations actually favor the high tax rate, because, like you mentioned, they can offshore or otherwise evade paying them. the burden falls heaviest on their smaller competitors.

   Some liberals recently have advocated eliminating private campaign funding altogether, which would supposedly stop corporate bribery. I'm not sure that would work, it's the system Mexico has, a political parties there sometimes are organized as businesses in and of themselves. There may be a better solution by networks donating time for debates or something like that.

   Your observation that government is a corporation too is spot on right. I used to drive neocons crazy on other forums by pointing out the that the largest corporation in history was the Soviet Union!