After coming out of a 2016 Presidential election cycle in which one candidate was the subject of multiple federal investigations related to illegal pay-to-play activities as well as the illegal destruction of federal records subject to a Congressional subpoena, perhaps it shouldn’t be so shocking that the United States was ranked 18th on Transparency International’s 2016 “Corruption Perceptions Index.” But irrespective of our expectations, here is how the United States stacks up against other countries in terms of mass corruption of our publicly elected officials and the institutions they run.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 26, 2017.
The growth of US military power has rarely, if ever, been the result of legitimate concerns about defensive strategy, let alone about the national welfare. Instead, it’s more often a consequence of a waste, corruption, and imperial ambition that together have produced the modern military-industrial complex. This history receives some well-deserved attention in Paul Pedisich’s book Congress Buys a Navy: Politics, Economics, and the Rise of American Naval Power, 1881-1921, which offers an in-depth look at the history of Congressional involvement with the US Navy. I’ve written a more general review of the book for those interested (here), but in this post I want to focus on some of the economic implications of US naval history over these four decades. The main emphasis of the book is on a series of Congressional battles over appropriations for the Navy, and how these disputes influenced its growth and change. This process, Pedisich argues, was not driven by strategic questions of national security, but by a wide range of political interests. Pedisich provides a wealth of information about Congressional voting blocs and committees, as well and the personal and professional ties between politicians, the Navy, and the war industries. These consisted most often of conventional rent-seeking: members of Congress wanted appropriations channelled to their own constituencies, and the Navy’s budget provided an excellent opportunity for those states that stood to gain from the Congressional spoils system (pp. 28-29, and throughout).
As Donald Trump himself tweeted on Monday morning… “Busy week planned with a heavy focus on jobs and national security. Top executives coming in at 9:00 A. M. to talk manufacturing in America.” -via twitter- … the president’s first official day on the job will be busy, including a meeting with business executivesm congressional leaders (including a separate meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan), signing executive orders and getting his cabinet picks voted through. According to the WSJ, Trump is also expected to sign various executive orders around 10:30am, which as previewed yesterday will include such topics as trade, immigration, government hiring, Obamacare and a lobbying ban. According to the White House, which released daily guidance for the president on Sunday evening, Trump’s Monday will include a ‘breakfast and listening session with key business leaders’ and a similar afternoon session with union leaders and ‘American Workers.’ Among this week’s key meetings, Trump is scheduled to with meet “top executives” at 9 a.m. today to discuss manufacturing, and British PM Theresa May on Friday.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 23, 2017.
The Senate began working through President-elect Trump’s cabinet appointments this week, as Washington prepares for next week’s inauguration (which will cost taxpayers over $100 million.) One of the pressing concerns worrying libertarians is Senator Jeff Session’s view on the war on drugs, which has been one of the most successful areas for states’ rights in recent years. Obamacare has also been in the news, as the Republican Congress has begun taking steps to ‘repeal and replace.’ Unfortunately, as Per Bylund notes: In the present debate on Obamacare, all possible alternatives are simply a move from one interventionist economy to another, and this only distracts us from the real alternative: a radical rolling back of the state. Of course this approach of less politics, more markets is the approach needed in all facets of America today. On Mises Weekends this week, Jeff talks about crony capitalism with Nick Sorrentino, proprietor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. Jeff and Nick discuss how huge public companies – think defense giants like Lockheed Martin and Boeing – engage in an obvious form of fiscal cronyism, while Wall Street funds and investment banks engage in what we might call monetary cronyism. And they also discuss how average people reap undue benefits in a million small ways, from selling their homes in artificially overheated markets to making money from small businesses made possible only by bubbles. Is that tech startup really “worth” a $50 million payout to the founders? Thanks to the endless distortions of crony capitalism, we may never know.
The ‘fog of war’ erupts in the confusion caused by the chaos of war. And in the media, it’s an intentional phenomenon that makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. While the battles over war narratives evolve, they all have a common goal: to distort reality on the ground. *** On Oct. 10, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as ‘Nayirah’ told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators and leaving them on a cold floor to die. Her testimony was cited numerous times by senators and even President George H. W. Bush as justification for backing Kuwait in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein, which erupted just three months later. However, it was later revealed that ‘Nayirah’ was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States, and her testimony was arranged by a PR firm representing a Kuwaiti-sponsored group lobbying Congress for military intervention.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 13, 2017.
With the Trump inauguration just over 10 days away, attention has now shifted to what Trump will do the moment he steps foot in the White House, and as The Hill reported this morning, judging by his campaign promises, Donald Trump will be a busy man starting on his first day in the Oval Office: “Trump has pledged to take sweeping, unilateral actions on Jan. 20 to roll back President Obama’s policies and set the course for his administration. Many of Obama’s policies he can reverse with the simple stroke of a pen.” The Hill then lays out some of the key agenda items in terms of Immigration, Environment, Lobbying, Trade and Healthcare. The reality, however, is a bit more nuanced than captured in the report, and has to take into consideration not only what Trump’s intentions are, but how they would integrate with Congress, where simply structural limitations could put hurdles ahead of the Trump agenda. So, for a more comprehensive preview of what Trump can – and can not do – both on day one, and for the rest of 2017, we present a recent analysis by Alec Phillips of Goldman Sachs (which, now that Trump has surrounded himself with Goldman alumni will be as critical when it comes to fiscal policy as Goldman was when it came to advising the Federal Reserve on monetary policy), which notes that the political agenda for 2017 is starting to take shape, with tax reform and Obamacare repeal seemingly at the top of the agenda. Trump will be delighted to know that both items can be passed without Democratic support via the budget reconciliation process.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 9, 2017.
This week the 115th Congress was sworn in, and there are some indications that Fed reform may be on the agenda. The combination of populist anger fueled by Ron Paul’s Presidential campaigns and the 2008 financial crisis coupled with the repeated failings of the Federal Reserve to meet their projections has created a rare window for monetary policy to be both politically advantageous, as well as so obviously needed that even politicians can see it. The question now is what sort of reform is on the table. Congressional Reforms Last Congressional session saw proposals from both the House and the Senate. From the House we have the FORM Act, which would require the Fed to adopt a monetary policy rule and explain to Congress whenever they deviate from that rule. The FORM Act also calls for an annual GAO audit of the Federal Reserve, doubles the number of times the Fed Chairman testifies before Congress, and makes some other tweaks to the makeup and protocol of the Federal Reserve Board. Since the FORM Act passed the House in 2015, there is a good chance we will see it resurrected in 2017. On the Senate side, Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby has pushed for the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act. Not only does it lack a catchy acronym, but its reforms to the Fed are far more modest than the FORM Act. The meat of the bill focuses on changes to the Fed board. The head of the New York Fed would no longer be appointed the banks board of the directors, but would instead be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate – just like the Federal Reserve Chairman. It would also grant powers to the Fed’s regional presidents that currently only reside with the board of directors. Though early drafts of the Senate bill called for the Fed to adopt rules-based monetary policy, this ended up being stripped from the final proposal due to Democratic opposition – largely because much of the Hill focus has been on the Taylor rule, which many Fed advocates fear is too restricting.
Republicans in the U. S. House of Representatives didn’t even wait for the new congressional session to begin before betraying President-elect Donald Trump’s key promise ‘to drain the swamp’ of political corruption. On Monday evening, in a closed-door party meeting, GOP lawmakers in the House voted overwhelmingly (119 to 74) to neutralize and reconfigure the Office of Congressional Ethics by stripping its independent authority and making it subservient to the very members of congress it was designed to oversee. Though Trump himself has already showed (repeatedly) how the ‘drain the swamp’ mantra was nothing more than empty campaign rhetoric, the Republican Party’s decision to ditch independent oversight of themselves looked to many like an ominous way to kick off the New Year or the 115th Congress, whose members will be sworn in Tuesday. The vote was an approval of an amendment put forth by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. If finalized, as the Huffington Post explains, the change would:
The three most hated modern American politicians were LBJ, Nixon, and Hillary. They were driven out of power by their enemies. Nixon was long called Tricky Dick by Democrats. The Democrats hated him as they hated no other nationally famous Republican. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn at the Democratic National Convention in 1960 persuaded LBJ to take the Vice Presidency slot under Kennedy, whom LBJ despised almost as much as he despised his brother Bobby, in order to defeat Nixon. He ate a big mud sandwich in the name of Party unity against Nixon. Johnson quit in March 1968 before he was driven out of power by the Republicans in November. The anti-war Democrats had deserted him in the primaries. Nixon was driven out of power in 1974 by a small contingent of Republicans in Congress, who went to him and said he would be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate. Hillary was defeated in full public view by the first man with zero political or government-employment experience to win the Presidency. All three went into forced retirement. THE HATED NIXON. The conservatives trusted Nixon in 1948 when Nixon trusted Whittaker Chambers. Nixon was a first-term Congressman from California. In 1948, he was the member of a House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. (Note: there was never a House UnAmerican Activities Committee. “HUAC” was a phenomenally successful acronym imposed by the Left onto a Committee that should have had “HCUA” as its acronym.) HCUA was investigating Communists in government. President Truman had issued an executive order in 1947 to require a loyalty oath for federal employees. This order was an extension of Truman’s growing surveillance state. His executive order and Eisenhower’s 1953 extension of it were repealed by Bill Clinton in 1998. Chambers, an editor at Time (and the translator of Bambi), testified to the committee that the Roosevelt Administration’s Alger Hiss was a Communist. Hiss had been an advisor at the Yalta Conference of February 1945. Then Chambers escalated his accusation in 1949: Hiss had been an informant to the USSR — in short, a spy. Chambers was ridiculed by the Establishment. Yet it was all true. Hiss went to prison for perjury in 1950; the statute of limitations against espionage had run out.
This post was published at Gary North on December 30, 2016.
Following last week’s report that Saudi Arabia is starting to apply pressure on the Trump administration by hinting it could move the Aramco IPO away from New York to some still undeteremined venue due to concerns the recently passed Sept 11 law could make business in the US problematic, on Sunday Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he has been lobbying US legislators to change a law allowing victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue the kingdom. According to AFP, Adel al-Jubeir told reporters he had returned from an extended stay in the United States, which was partly “to try to persuade them that there needs to be an amendment of the law”, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). In September, the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the JASTA. While 15 of the 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudi, Riyadh continues to deny any ties to the plotters who killed nearly 3,000 people, and is worried disclosures in court could lead to material complications about conducting business in America. “We believe the law, that curtails sovereign immunities, represents a grave danger to the international system,” Jubeir said at a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2016.
Hillary told her donor base at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel last Thursday that Russian cyber attacks were both ‘a personal beef against me’ and meant to undermine ‘the integrity of our democracy.’ Of course, absent from the speech was anything realistic acknowledging that there is a global trend against corruption that is unfolding worldwide. Hillary will blame everyone and everybody but herself. Obama in his press conference is trying to address the contradictions surfacing when Clapper told Congress there was no evidence of a Russian hack on November 17th. Obama now says when he saw Russian President Vladimir Putin in China in early September, he told him to ‘cut it out’ and that there would be some serious retaliation if he didn’t.’ Obama now says that after of that meeting, the government did not see further tampering of the election process. The Wall Street Journal says Obama goes off the Hillary script.
I am sorry, but he has not basis to refuse to show his evidence. He is clearly trying to instigate a revolution in the Electoral College. He should be held in CONTEMPT of Congress and he is clearly playing politics now with the intelligence community. This is just showing how far we have gone already from our model’s forecast that 2015.75 was the PEAK IN GOVERNMENT. This is becoming blatantly obvious. Congress should hold Clapper in prison on Contempt until he agrees to brief the nation showing the EVIDENCE that the DNC was hacked by Russia. Even if it was, the emails released have exposed unbelievable corruption and collusion between the Democrats and the media, who obviously will not really push this issue for their own conflict of interest issues.
You Got to Know When to Fold ‘Em What Happens If We Don’t Balance the Budget? Howard Ruff, RIP Washington DC, New York, Atlanta, and Florida This will be a shorter letter, in keeping with the need for holiday fun and relaxation. However, last week’s letter with my thoughts on what Trump should do generated more responses than any other letter had in the last 17 years. As you might suspect, with a topic so controversial, not everyone agreed with me. But there were many good questions and comments and some thoughtful disagreements, so I want to address a few of those. And I will specifically go into why I seemingly deviate from core conservative principles regarding taxes. It’s all about debt and the consequences of debt – that’s the overriding factor for me. And I’ll try to make the case that there are times when we just have to make hard, even philosophically unpalatable, choices. Some comments I will excerpt; others I will characterize in general terms; and where appropriate I’ll copy and paste whole comments. So let’s jump in. Allen Jones Univ. of Arkansas Please explain further corporate tax rate of 15% on income above $100,000 with “no deductions period.” Sounds like a 15% tax on sales. What do you mean no deductions? Are operating expenses deductions? Allen, this was probably the most-asked question, and since you asked it most concisely, you get the recognition for it. No, this is not a sales tax. It is a 15% tax on corporate income. That is normal GAAP accounting income. There are something like 3,400 different, legal, congressionally mandated corporate tax loopholes and deductions. (I can’t find the exact number right now.) Many of those tax loopholes apply to only one company or one very small industry and are favors from a Congressman or Senator to their main constituents. So when I say no deductions, I mean get rid of every one of those loopholes. I know, I know – I will be goring practically every business’s ox in some way or other. And that’s the problem: Too many people think their industry deserves some breaks and one little loophole is not that big a deal, and the next thing you know there are 3400 of these puppies. And then you find General Electric paying less income tax than I do while making multiple billions of dollars a year.
Six months after Brazil’s former president Dilma Rouseff was removed from power as a result of a carefully orchestrated process by her former Vice President, Michel Temer, who as many suggested at the time, was merely trying to shift attention away from himself and to his former boss due to his “checkered past”, swirling with allegations of corruption on par with those of the deposed president, Temer himself may be in danger of impeachment when overnight, Brazil’s public prosecutor announced it was studying a possible investigation into whether President Michel Temer put pressure on a former minister to favor a Cabinet colleague’s property investment. Marcelo Calero, who resigned last week as culture minister, told federal police that the president pressured him to resolve a dispute with another Cabinet member, Geddel Lima, president Temer’s top government congressional liaison, who was seeking a permit for an apartment building in a historic preservation area of his hometown, a federal police source said. Calero’s accusations have set off new crisis for Temer for allegedly using his public office to obtain a permit for the luxury oceanfront building in the city of Salvador. Following the news, the Brazilian real slumped as much as 2.2% to 3.4679 reais to the dollar, the biggest intraday drop since Trump’s unexpected victory. Traders cited concern that the controversy could derail an overhaul of government finances favored by investors. Simiarly, Brazil’s main stock market index, the Bovespa, fell 1.3 percent on concerns of continued political uncertainty delaying recovery from the country’s worst recession since the 1930s. As Reuters adds, adding fuel to the crisis, the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported on Friday that Calero secretly recorded his conversations with Temer and Vieira Lima to back his case. If the chief prosecutor’s office finds grounds to investigate the allegations it would have to ask the Supreme Court for authorization to allow the probe involving the president, the spokeswoman said, effectively starting a new impeachment process. Confirming this, the leader of the Workers Party in lower house Afonso Florence said that former Culture Minister Calero’s allegation that President Michel Temer pressured him on Lima’s case is ‘very serious’ and may lead to an impeachment request.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 25, 2016.
During this season of Thanksgiving, I would like to express my overwhelming gratitude… Thank you, President Obama. Thank you for not upholding your oath to the U. S. Constitution to protect America’s southern border. Thank you for illegally granting amnesty via executive action and avoiding the unnecessary hassles of passing the legislation through Congress. And thank you for your efforts in turning the United States of America into a third-world refugee camp. Thank you, Obama, for your broad support of Islam and for labeling American citizens as bitter, xenophobic racists clinging to their guns and religion. I would also like to express my gratitude to you, your enablers, and all of the sycophantically corrupt, establishment politicians for near doubling the national debt of the United States these last eight years. Another heartfelt expression of gratitude goes out to all of the media pundits, talking heads, newspaper columnists, Silicon Valley moguls as well as the proprietors, purveyors and contributors of actual fake news websites who contort themselves daily to support leftist politicians and the progressive agenda. Without the blind commitment of those who have facilitated the Cloward-Piven strategy of sacrificing America to the global elite banking establishment, it would have been far more difficult for Obama to fundamentally transform our country over the last eight years.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 20, 2016.
Editor’s Comment: Is it really any wonder that the most dangerous leaders in society, and their cadre of supporters, are always urging everyone to vote? Democracy has been sanctified because of its symbolic indication that the will and the voice of the people is being considered. Grand sweeping sentiments, ‘democracy,’ the ‘American way’ and so forth. But perhaps it is a model that never could live up to the needs of society… if voting just means picking the personality of your dictator, then there is noting to vote for. Not sure all the things asserted in this article should be implemented either, but it is worth keeping mind that the population and size of the societies that first instituted democracy in Ancient Greece, etc. have little in common with the easily divided, multi-dimensional population base in the United States – with a whopping 315,000,000 people being represented by 1-of-2 presidential candidates, and 535 people in Congress. The most populous state in the U. S., California, is represented by 2 Senators – at a ratio of about 1 to 19 million, and each of its 53 representatives in Congress theoretically represent the views of more than 700,000 people. In Wyoming, the least populous U. S. state, 1 House member represents about a half million people, and each of their 2 senators represent about 232,00o people. Anyway you slice it, no matter what system or values you believe in, that’s a lot of people being represented by a very few… and almost none of those representatives are able to resist corruption, avoid tainted lobbyist money or uphold their promises to voters. So you tell me what the solution is? Mathematicians Prove Society is Way Too Complex to Have A President Mathematics, a report published by Vice’s Motherboard prior to Election Day suggests, proves society is so complex that democracies have been rendered irrelevant. According to a study carried out by mathematicians at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), it is difficult for government entities or single individuals to debate what these mathematicians call ‘social policy’ if the goal is to find something that works for everyone. Once we consider that members of any society are simply too complex, the study suggests, we are able to understand that the systems of government currently available fail to meet our expectations.
This post was published at shtfplan on November 18th, 2016.
The lobbying game is simple. The first step is to work on “The Hill” for a while to build up your sphere of relationships and influence. Of course, you don’t have to work in an elected capacity, being a high-level staffer for a prominent Senator or Congressman is more than sufficient. Then, after you’ve hobnobbed with enough people on The Hill to be deemed worthy, you get recruited by a lobbying firm just down the road that’s willing to pay you several multiples of your government salary in return for peddling your newly acquired influence. And, so you join the lobbying ranks where your sole mission is to peddle your influence to rake in millions of dollars from wealthy special interests. But, in 2016, there’s just one problem: Trump. For the past 12 months Trump has toured the nation telling his voters that he has every intention to “Drain The Swamp” in Washington D. C. and lobbyists are the epitome of everything that regular Americans see as broken with the system. Needless to say, the prominent lobbying firms of Washington D. C. are in full-on panic mode. As BuzzFeed notes, presidential transitions are typically business as usual for the lobbyist because “normal” administrations are staffed with Washington insiders. But, that’s not the case with Trump.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 18, 2016.
The crisis sparked by the shortage of cash in India following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-graft measure to ban high-value currency bills has hit the movement of goods in Asia’s third-largest economy. More than half of an estimated 9.3 million trucks under the All-India Motor Transport Congress have been affected as drivers abandon vehicles midway into their trip after running out of cash, according to Naveen Gupta, secretary general of the group. India’s roads carry about 65 percent of the country’s freight. That adds to the worries of a government battling to keep cash-dispensing machines running after efforts to ease withdrawals failed to keep pace for the fifth straight day. After a teary-eyed emotional appeal to citizens to bear some pain and back the fight against corruption, Modi today defended his move to withdraw 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes, which accounted for 86 percent of money in circulation.
At an event in Davos, Switzerland earlier today, Former U. S. Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, argued that Central Bank independence from national governments should be scrapped in favor of a coordinated effort between politicians, central bankers and treasury to engineer inflation. Seems reasonable, right?…what could possibly go wrong? According to Market Watch, Summers argued that Central Bank independence came from “an understanding of the macroeconomic policy problem that is not relevant to current times.” Ironically, he argued that Central Bank “insulation” was required in the 70s/80s when the “White House” and “Congress” could not be trusted to fight inflation. So does this indicate that Summers’ baseline assumption is that politicians today are more trustworthy than in the 70s/80s? Perhaps Summers is the one that is “insulated” from reality? Is it possible that he’s completely missed the fact that one of our presidential candidates is currently under multiple investigations by the FBI for various allegations of corruption and fraud? Meanwhile, both presidential candidates are polling at among the lowest rates ever experienced for “trustworthiness” while the job approval rating of Congress has never been lower…but sure, we should grant them even more power to wreak havoc on the U. S. economy for political gain…why not? Central bank independence ‘comes from an understanding of the macroeconomic policy problem that is not relevant to current times,’ Summers said in a speech at the International Monetary Fund.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2016.
Doesn’t it seem like most of us are collectively holding our breath as we wait to see what will happen with this election? We are now only a handful of days away from election day and the polls have really tightened up, there are unprecedented concerns about post-election violence, and the Democratic nominee for president could be indicted literally any day now. The American people are going to be absolutely shocked when the FBI finally reveals what they have discovered regarding Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified materials, corruption at the Clinton Foundation, and other ‘stomach churning’ matters that normally aren’t topics of polite conversation. Without a doubt, a Hillary Clinton indictment is coming. The only question now is when it will happen. The moment that FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to Congress, he knew that someone’s head was going on the chopping block. If Hillary Clinton does not get indicted, Comey’s career is over and there is a very good chance that he will be going to prison instead. There is no way that he would have ever put himself on the line like this if extremely powerful evidence had not already been found against Clinton. Because without a doubt, the vultures are circling. Just consider what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently told CNN about Comey… … Nancy Pelosi has claimed that FBI Director Comey is ‘not in the right job,’ following his decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private email server. ‘Maybe he’s not in the right job,’ Pelosi said in an interview with CNN.