Let’s Make a Deal

Let’s talk about dealmaking, crony capitalism style. The Atlantic reports

Between 2007 and 2012, GE secured more than $16 billion worth of federal contracts, which might have something to do with the fact that it spent $150 million on lobbying during that period.

According to the article, the Sunlight Foundation recently examined the activities of 200  politically active for-profit corporations between the years 2007 and 2012.  Between lobbying and campaign contributions, those 200 companies spent $5.8 billion to influence government. In return, they got more than $4.4 trillion in federal business and support. (It may have been more; according the the Foundation, federal record-keeping isn’t as precise as we might wish.)

For comparison’s sake, $4.4 trillion is more than the amount that Social Security paid out to roughly 50 million beneficiaries over the same six-year period.

It’s interesting. So-called “deficit hawks” like Paul Ryan are constantly looking for ways to cut “entitlements”– social programs that benefit large numbers of American citizens. There is a lot of discussion of the costs of those programs. There is  far less discussion about the amount of taxes that most Americans have paid toward those costs, about  whether ordinary Americans should be able to expect a reasonable return on that tax “investment,” and what such a “reasonable return” might look like.

There is even less discussion of the appropriate “return on investment” for monies spent on campaign contributions and lobbying, or about the possibility that the tax dollars paid under the government contracts secured by campaign contributors exceed the value of the services being rendered.

When Social Security was established, it was sold as insurance. That “deal” was simple: Workers would pay taxes on their earnings, those taxes would be invested and kept safe, and government would pay them a monthly income in their old age. We can argue about the sufficiency of that income, the fairness of the tax, the mandatory nature of the program, whether social security is really an insurance program or welfare…all sorts of things. But lawmakers chosen by We the People bickered and argued and ultimately voted to make that deal.

I don’t remember a similar vote on the appropriate level of  “quid pro quo” payable for campaign contributions….


  1. This issue is so very important! I know that you are right and that the points you express need to be made more universal. My frustration is that so many lower income and middle class people continue to be unaware of these facts and even worse, appear to have no desire to learn the facts. Is it because the right has been so successful with its use of FOX news as the primary news delivery service for the right or because the Koch Brothers and their ilk were able to develop and sustain the Tea Party? My brothers (a fireman and a carpenter) watch only FOX news. They love Bill O’Reilly and seem to enjoy his rants. They get all worked up about welfare, too much government, the high taxes, the immigrants, “tree huggers” and “lazy, no good” welfare recipients that they feel they are personally supporting. They will not engage in an intelligent conversation or look at data that doesn’t support what FOX news is preaching. They seem to love to rant and and justify their prejudices. Need I also mention that they hate President Obama. I dearly love my brothers, but it is getting to the point where I do not look forward to seeing them or being around them. I can not have a meaningful conversation because their views are so different from me and I know that they look at me as the “crazy libtard”. How do we get this segment of the population to become educated before our nation is further destroyed? How do we reach these people before the U.S. totally evolves from “We the people….” to “We the Corporations of America”?

  2. I was shocked when I heard the short analysis of the proposed funding bill currently being considered by congress: less regulation of the banking industry, more campaign money and the list goes on. The newly energized republicans are shameless and unbeatable. Looks like the coming years will be grim.

  3. I’ve always wondered if corporate welfare would make welfare mothers look like small time pikers. You’ve answered that question – in trillions.

  4. Mary Kay, I have met the type of people you speak of. It seems to me aggression and fear are the dominant personality traits. FOX News is certainly the out let for aggression, fear, and a general lack of facts. The Reactionary Right has been stunning successful with simplistic messages: Death Panels, Death Taxes, Welfare Queens, Obamacare, Feminazis, Eco-Terrorists, 2nd Amendment Rights, Bible Thumping, Tree Huggers, and many more.

    Each of these messages as a whole or in part are the foundation of the Republican Party. The Elected Republicans and want to be Elected Republicans repeat these messages over and over again. The real agenda is to further enhance the 1%, although that agenda is carefully hidden from view.

    Real Campaign Finance reform is the only hope. Limits on Campaign Donations and Lobbying are desperately needed. There will be screams, wailing and gnashing of teeth of limiting Free Speech. As anyone knows who has ever run for Public Office Political Speech is not Free. Once you enhance your voice through the Media, or even Brochures Speech is no longer Free.

  5. From a slightly different perspective:

    All companies market their wares. Esstentially taking care of customers. Companies that sell to us, we the people, through our government, are no different. Lobbying is the name that we give to that particular marketing activity.

    Politicians also market themselves. Take care of their customers. Show us why we should hire them and not their competition. They do it with lobbying income.

    So, far, no harm no foul, right?

    What we have here are problems of magnitude and detail. Quantitative not qualitative.

    What if companies decided to supplement their lobbying with marketing directly if subtally to we, the people, with the message that taxes are too high because our government is inefficient and ineffective compared to those who work for profit only? Builds their business and helps get around that pesky competition thing that they hate so much.

    Would we save money if we fell for their once upon a time? No. Hell no. We’d spend more. But it’s good old fashion wealth redistribution. From all of the taxpayers to the oligarchs.

    When capitalism collapses under the weight of itself, who will be found by history as at fault?


  6. Capitalism is the direct opposite of Socialism. It was contrived by capitalist. i.e. those with capital. It is working the way it was designed. You have been taught that it is good for you. And you believe it.

  7. On capitalism, there are different varieties of capitalism. The US is dominated by vulture capitalism. Cooperative capitalism is nearly nonexistent here except for cooperation between vultures.

  8. Not sure about “direct opposite” Earl.

    With capitalist economics the means of production are owned by some of us. With socialist economics the means are owned by all of us. The US economy (and the vast majority of other countries) now is split between the two with the capitalist piece somewhat bigger. Competition makes capitalism work. The human inclination to do work with honor allows socialism to work.

    Capitalism distributes wealth up, socialism evenly.

    The question for us today is if the capitalism part can be made sustainable by regulation. Of course that pits democracy with oligarchy.

    In other words the biggest threat to capitalism is oligarchy.

  9. I’m not a socialist. Our capitalist system has been legislatively tailored to ensure the capital success of those who need the least help. Our government needs to return to providing for the public welfare.

  10. There are different varieties of Capitalism just as there are different varieties of being pregnant. It’s going to lead to the same thing. Those with the gold make the rules and those rules are not going to benefit none other than the rule makers. They would be crazy to govern for the benefit of others. They are lots of things, but they’re not crazy. If you believe we are headed for anyplace other than The Grapes of Wrath, you have not looked well around you.

    Most living today fail to realize that the period 1950 to 1980 was an anomaly. Not the natural order of things. If you doubt it take a look at any 1930’s movie and you will see how warped reality was, and is. People paid to look upon a world they would never know, and called it entertainment.

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