There is something about a true free market that is romantic and optimistic, so much so that it arouses the deepest emotions in all of us if we imagine the boundless possibilities. The simplicity and beauty of a true free market is that way because it’s derived from nature itself. Its self correcting, rewards hard work and due diligence but also poetically enough; punishes and discards the losers and Mal-investment. You could call it Darwinian, and it can be cruel but more than anything it you have to call it fair.
Now comes what we have – crony capitalism. American capitalism today and for over a century has been anything but free. The system we have in place today is corrupt and has been completely hijacked by the collusion between big business and legislators on the take. I’m not talking about the overt sleazy ones either; im talking about almost every single one of them outside of maybe a Ron Paul. Capitalism today is being destroyed by itself. We are eating our own. Corporations are collectively smarter than politicians. Politicians also need money. Corporations need favorable legislation and thus what we have today is a shell of a free market.
The overt transparency of fraud became evident in the Obama administrations predecessor (the Bush Administration) who used the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and disasters like Katrina to facilitate no bid contracts and cost plus contracts with huge corporations like Bechtel and Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton (do i really need a cite or link here). There was also Treasury's Hank Paulson (former Goldman CEO) giving his former cohorts on Wall Street inside information as to governments plans weeks and months before things happened during the financial crisis of 2008. Not nearly as talked about but equally suspect was the 1 Trillion dollar (and counting) Medicare prescription-drug benefit that facilitated a giant subsidy to thepharmaceutical industry. Maybe it’s the rise of the information age, maybe its our system finally coming undone; either way this type of corruption is something I have never seen or read about since the days of the industrial revolution.
This current administration is no stranger to this corruption either (just look at his past contributors). In fact, what we are seeing under this administration is unprecedented on the subject of crony capitalism and that's saying alot considering Bush's track record. .
One of the most notorious cases has been the solar company out of California, Solyndra. This was a company that received a 535 Million dollar loan from the federalgovernment in 2009 - spent 1 Million dollars in lobbying in 2010 – then went bankrupt in 2011. This put US taxpayer’s on the hook for the 535 Million dollar loan. Solyndra was also influential in the Presidents (who toured Solyndra in 2010 and tabbed it a success) election as its board contributed large sums of money from their own accounts. We also learned via the Tribune Washington Bureau that the Department of Energy employee who helped monitor the Solyndra loan guarantee was one of Obama's top fundraisers.
Solyndra however doesn’t touch the GM scandal. As I pointed out before, the US buying a stake in a company and having it competing with other company’s in the same industry who is not back by the federal government is not supposed to happen. Talk about an UN-leveled playing field? But it did.
GM saw what the Prius was doing a decade ago and for years wanted to get into the hybrid market but never could gain traction. So it concentrates on the next big thing, the electric car. This drive towards the electric car breeds the conception of the Chevy Volt. In September in 2008, the Volt was unveiled. By this time, GM is failing and on its death bed. Nine months later enters Obama and his blank check.
So here the President sits with a gigantic stake in GM. It’s actually us, the taxpayer with the giant stake, but for the sake of the argument, it is Mr President since he has our check book…we just pay the bills (but only some as we have annual trillion dollar deficits). This could go on forever.
Let’s reset. It’s 2009 and with the US tax payers on the hook for GM, and the economy in the tank, Obama puts together the: Presidents Economic Recovery Board. On that board he appoints several giants across the commerce spectrum; one of them is GE Chairman and CEO Jeffery Immelt. GE is known for many things and being a conglomerate, it is obviously diversified. One of the technologies GE is bullish on is Wind Turbines (read green energy) so it makes sense when you take into account this administrations feverish green outlook. GE is also smart, they havent grown to their size and scope being naive; so they do not take risks that aren’t highly calculated.
So what happens in 2010 is pretty interesting. Remember Jeff Immelt? He cuts a deal with GM to have GE buy 12,000 Chevy Volts by 2015. This is the same Chevy Volt that there is no demand for, the same vehicle that has serious questions about its reliability and its safety. Yet, one of the richest, most diverse corporations in the world decides to replace half of its fleet with a car that is still much in question? How does Obama show his gratitude, for buying into this boondoggle? He gives Immelt a promotion. One might start to ask themselves, how does a Chairman and CEO of GE…receive a promotion? Simple, President Obama Gave him another chair, and made him Chairman of the: Council on Jobs and Competitiveness on January 21, 2011.
My Congressional representative (3rd district of PA) Mike Kelly, who is a car dealer himself, had this to say recently about the Volt and Administration:
Here you have a sitting President with a green agenda buying with US taxpayers a stake in an American company GM who sells cars in the US against other US car manufacturers with no federal coffers to dip into. That is the first strike. Then you have said President in a cozy relationship with a CEO of a company like GE (who also has green interest) buying an enormous amount of cars off of GM, who is backed by the federal government. I mean, why not the Ford Fusion Hybrid? They are an American automaker as well and the Fusion Hybrid is actually a better car, according to many industry experts. Strike Two.
Last but not least is ethics. How can a President (who came in loaded with a cabinet of Wall Street insiders) so stuck in a jobs rut side with a company that has been shipping some of its businesses and jobs offshore all the while using tax loopholes to escape paying taxes while using the Volt as another tax win with its tax credits? Or how can we cut joint venture deals with the Chinese to sell the Volt; then to only have the Chinese steal the technology to turn around and use it against us like they have on so many other occasions across multitudes of industry. It’s pretty obvious that the end game is this: GM must succeed for the President to succeed, regardless of how it’s done. The ends justify the means. The government picking and choosing winners, betting on what technology they think is the best option instead of the market place is why Obama strikes out on this matter.
There have been numerous examples of crony capitalism over the years but we are seeing some pretty alarming examples at the height of our elected representatives over the last decade, and the corruption starts at the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This isn’t a partisan problem; this is a national, state and local problem; as this affects all of us and at every level of our government. If it happens there and is so visible, imagine what we don’t know about? We can call it crony capitalism or call it a plutocracy or a plutarchy but whatever you do; do not call it capitalism and never under these conditions dare call this market free.