WARSAW/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hewlett-Packard agreed to pay $108 million to resolve wide-ranging U.S. government investigations into whether some of its foreign units bribed government officials to obtain lucrative contracts, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
HP’s Russia subsidiary pleaded guilty…Polish and Mexican units of the computing giant also resolved U.S. criminal charges related to contracts they had won in those countries…
Foreign companies (owned by HP) paid fees that foreign officials demanded of them. Everyone called these fees “bribes” in order to displace the guilt, that is, to hide the extortion aspect.
U.S. officials were jealous so they, in turn, demanded and got $108 million from HP. Everyone called these fees “settling criminal charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”, again in order to displace the guilt, that is, to hide the bottom-line extortion aspect.
…the difference between being pro-business and pro-market is categorical. A politician who is a “friend of business” is exactly that, a guy who does favors for his friends. A politician who is pro-market is a referee who will refuse to help protect his friends (or anyone else) from competition unless the competitors have broken the rules. The friend of business supports industry-specific or even business-specific loans, grants, tariffs, or tax breaks. The pro-market referee opposes special treatment for anyone.
Goldberg’s point is that the GOP must make up its mind about which one it is. Pro-business is crony capitalism, venture socialism and Big Government as we know it today. Pro-market is more the Tea Party putting real checks on Washington. Goldberg describes the GOP’s dilemma in more detail; RTWT.
To make my view clear: I am not pro-business, I am absolutely pro-market. The mentality that the economy would boom (and America would be great again) if only we could vote in smart people to tinker with the economy in good ways – if only the Republicans had power to do better Washington-y things than the Democrats do – that mentality is part of what has gotten America into a hole.
The truth is, nothing that government does to rig interfere with markets and business outcomes is ever much good. It never turns out anything as well as the politicians said it would, and never as well as what markets – that is, free people – could do, if left to their own devices.
To continue my series on this, I’ve been accumulating chart links. There are so many, especially on Zero Hedge which has great coverage. I’ll make some introductory remarks, then show the charts.
As a capitalist, I have no objection to the good inequality that investors, employers and consumers award by their actions in the marketplace. The problem is inequality awarded by force or fraud. That includes crime of course; but the systemic problems in our economy today arise, sooner or later, from *government force* and fraud. Under President Obama – and our nut-job economic planners at the Federal Reserve – we have more government intervention than ever. We also have more inequality. It can’t be a coincidence.
I believe that Obama likes it on some level, because the more inequality there is, the more he can offer (still more) government intervention as the alleged “solution”. While our problems did not start with Obama, he has exploited and worsened them because inequality of power – taking ever-greater amounts of power away from the People, giving ever-more power to the Party/bureaucrats/government – is the deep tendency of the State, and as well, the deep goal of the Left.
I could talk about the explosion of welfare dependency under Obama, which rapes the “working poor” (among others) for the sake of the “lazy poor”. But my focus today is on the rape of the middle class for the so-called “One Percent”, the wealthier people who gain from our government-planned economy and government-rigged markets.
“This reckless Republican budget casts a dark shadow over the American Dream. By gutting vital investments in our future, it is a direct attack on job creation and a recipe for our nation’s economic decline.”
Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! The Senate Majority Leader rambled incoherently about the budget creating something called a “Kochtopia.”
And, everyone knows how this Kabuki play ends. Both sides agree to spend more, and both walk away pretending they aren’t totally satisfied with the outcome.
CBS recently did a good piece on High Frequency Trading (HFT), a means by which well-connected computers churn the stock markets and skim the cream. 15 minutes, here it is:
But a few things are odd about HFT as a story, or at least noteworthy.
First: the curious absence of government involvement. HFT has been going on for years (Zero Hedge started blogging it in 2009). Where have the vaunted government regulators been, all this time? Answer: Nowhere (until right now, as we’ll discuss in a minute).
The CBS piece praises Brad Katsuyama, a trader who figured out years ago how HFT works and founded a new exchange, IEX, to try to defeat HFT. That’s a great example of private enterprise being ahead of the regulators.
In fact, private enterprise has run circles around the regulators; first by creating HFT, then by being years ahead of government in working to defeat HFT. Could it be that government regulation isn’t effective? (cough)
I’m old enough to recognize a co-ordinated campaign. Granting that HFT is a real story, I still must speculate that the reason why HFT is suddenly on our collective lips, under investigation, etc., is because somebody powerful finds it convenient, at this time. (Where in the previous five years, they didn’t find it convenient.)
Who is that somebody? I don’t know. I did just note that Goldman-Sachs is rolling with the punches, at least. Over at Zero Hedge, they speculate that HFT is now being set up as the scapegoat for a coming stock market bubble-crash. The Federal Reserve is (by its QE, ZIRP and many other policies) the biggest market-rigger of all. The Fed has engineered the stock market bubble of the last five years. And, when that bubble bursts eventually, the Fed will want us all to blame something or someone else.
It’s hard because there are so many items to choose from, weekly. And they’re mostly both technical and depressing (not fun to read). Obamacare is a mess of unbelievable proportions. Even now, I have 40+ related items open in browser tabs, that I had meant to get to sometime.
Last month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that Obamacare will weaken the economy. Along with other Obama policies, it effectively raises marginal tax rates, giving people less incentive to work. “…the CBO…reported that by 2024 the equivalent of 2.5 million Americans who were otherwise willing and able to work before ObamaCare will work less or not at all as a result of ObamaCare.” Labor unions agree that Obamacare will slam wages and work hours.
Even Dana Milbank (liberal at the Washington Post) agrees that young people are rejecting both Obamacare, and Obama. “The administration announced last week that only 1.08 million people ages 18 to 34 had signed up for Obamacare by the end of February…If the proportion doesn’t improve significantly, the result likely will be fatal for the Affordable Care Act.”
Along those lines, Catherine Austin Fitts observes, “I don’t see Obamacare as something designed to offer healthcare…It was designed to create a framework that would allow three things. One…to use digital technology to radically reduce labor costs…Second…you wanted, as the baby boomers were aging, to…dramatically reduce the healthcare services available to them…Third…to use healthcare to really control the population…an effort to centralize power.” – Austin Fitts sees government bureaucrats as profoundly competent, once you know their real plan. What they achieve in practice (which may be bad) was very likely their real plan, as opposed to what they told the public.
Progressive leftists tell us that letting the Government run things optimizes efficiency because Government doesn’t have to worry about profits, and can therefore focus on providing the most efficient and effective services to people.
In a resignation letter obtained by ScienceInsider, David Wright, director of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) — which oversees and monitors possible research misconduct — offers a scathing rebuke of the unwieldy and inefficient bureaucracy that he dealt with for the two years he served in the position.
According to Wright, activities that in his capacity as an academic administrator that took a day or two, took weeks and months in the federal government.
He recalled an instance in which he could not get approval for a $35 cost to have cassette tapes converted into CDs. He eventually was able to get them converted in 20 minutes for free by a university. And another instance in which he “urgently needed to fill a vacancy,” but was told there was secret priority list. Sixteen months later, he wrote, the position was still unfilled.
He also recounts an occasion on which the HHS bureaucracy once evaluated the efficiency of its practices; and the results were so bad they decided to do what any business would do; retool its processes to make them more efficient and get rid of the dead weight.
No, just kidding, they buried the report and vowed never to do it again.
“On another occasion I asked your deputy why you didn’t conduct an evaluation by the Op-Divs of the immediate office administrative services to try to improve them,” he wrote. ”She responded that that had been tried a few years ago and the results were so negative that no further evaluations have been conducted.”
HHS is the agency progressive leftists think should be responsible for everybody’s health care.
No wonder they think Obamacare is a rousing success.
It’s not a good thing. First of all, anytime the government mandates pay increases, it costs real people their jobs. While some people might get more pay, others’ pay goes to part-time, or to zero. When Obama proposed his minimum wage hike last month, even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agreed that it would cost 500,000 jobs.
But the deeper problem is that, in Barack H. Obama, we have a President who increasingly abandons constitutional, legislative and democratic processes. Throughout his administration, in issue after issue, he has declared that the rules are now different because he says so. Whether it’s ripping off honest GM bondholders, Fast and Furious, hiding information about corrupt federal prosecutors, Obamacare or countless other issues, you never can tell when this President will suddenly decide on different rules.
With this overtime change, there is serious debate about whether the President has the legal authority to do it. Some say he doesn’t; some say he does. But that means his move is dubious. And however that might be – and I say, even worse – Obama’s move makes the government interfere, once again, in arrangements that freely consenting adults had agreed on. (Liberals may want government out of the bedroom, but boy, do they want government in everything, everyone and everywhere else.)
This is one more, little thread in the tapestry of America’s decline: we have become a nation ruled by “men, not laws.” And if you think that arbitrary government doesn’t make for an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that stifles the economy, think again.
Last week, President Obama released his new budget proposal, which in February he said would be the end of austerity. First let’s ask, what is meant by “austerity”? As a policy, was it ever tried?
As discussed by myself and others, “austerity” means tax hikes (not spending cuts) in practice. Lefties hurl the word “austerity” to demonize the idea of spending cuts. But few of the countries which left-liberals accused of cruel austerity in the last few years cut their overall government spending levels; the majority continued to increase spending. So spending cuts can’t explain those countries’ poor economic results. What can? Well, most of them raised taxes.
Clearly, we should end (or reverse) the tax hikes. That would be a great “end of austerity”. But Obama’s meaning is that we should undertake spending increases; which, for reasons touched on below, probably mean deficit increases.
Before going into Obama’s proposal, let’s review the current state of the U.S. budget. (more…)
So why do many people assume that the only remedy for anything bad—including bads that involve no physical force—is state action, which always entails the threat of violence? Are we really so powerless to deal with repulsive but nonviolent conduct unless politicians act on our behalf?
Why should we give up our power and freedom to the State in order to deal with a few isolated cases of “people doing things we don’t agree with?”
I’ll give you an answer: Because leftists get off on using state power to punish people they don’t like.
They had years to plan, and billions of dollars to spend. They knew when the project had to be finished and how many prople were counting on everything being ready for them. Instead, they delivered a typical effed up socialist debacle. Nothing works properly, and Twitter is filled with stories of the nightmarish ordeals people are going through. Yet, the regime keeps insisting that everything is great, and instead of addressing the problems, attacks critics as anti-patriotic malcontents. They claimed they had embraced capitalism, but this botched project just shows that they are still socialists, and produce typical socialist results.
So, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner (and Paul Ryan) have declared War on the Tea Party because they say that people concerned about Big Government represent a crazy, ‘whackobird’ fringe and supporting fiscal restraint and limited Government will lead to electoral oblivion because Big Government is, like, uber-popular (the New York Times says so and Rachel Maddow agrees) and what Americans really want is $63Billion in new spending, a replacement for Obamacare that still puts the Government in charge of health care, more NSA surveillance, and Amnesty.
Is President Obama ignorant of how the job market works, or does he cynically exploit the ignorance of his left-wing, “low information” voter base?
If economics has two consistent findings, they are:
Rent control messes up a city’s rental market, driving rents *up* (and rental quality down) over time.
Raising the minimum wage kills low-end jobs, the ones held by young and/or poor people.
You can prove (2) to yourself with a simple thought-experiment. Imagine we raised the federal minimum wage from its present $7.25/hour to, say, $25. Would McDonald’s or any other restaurant, large or small, be able to stay in business?
The E La Carte Presto tablets – powered by Intel – will allow patrons to pay from their seats while also adding food and beverages to their existing orders…
The Presto tablets, which were developed at MIT, have been “ruggedized” to deal with the spills and rowdy children…
DineEquity said it might consider introducing the tablets at its IHOP restaurant chain as well. The company joins many others in the industry that have begun incorporating technology into the customer experience.
When government forces wages up, it forces businesses to kill jobs: either by the business dying, or by its replacing workers with technology (a.k.a. capital). The restaurant industry has technology waiting in the wings.
As if to defy that reality, last week Obama tweeted his base the following total falsehood:
DC – i.e., government employees – got richer compared to the rest of America. What also happened back then was a newly-Democrat Congress adding hundreds of billions to government spending, followed of course by President Obama and his 2009 “Porkulus”.
UPDATE (from Dan): Here’s something to chew on, Jeff, the difference between the governing class and Americans may be considerably greater than this graph suggests. Bear in mind the vast differences in income in the District itself with many blighted areas in the North- and Southeast quadrants of the city. And if incomes there would be pulling down the overall average, some folks living in Northwest (and the gentrified areas around Capitol Hill) would be earning far more than this graph suggests.
President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages and secure the social safety net as he issued an overarching appeal Wednesday to correct inequalities that he said make it harder for a child in the United States to escape poverty. “That should offend all of us,” he declared. “We are a better country than this.”
Obama argued that the dream of upward economic mobility is breaking down and that the growing income gap is a “defining challenge of our time.”
“The basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed,” the president said…
This is an example of the Left’s classic tactic, “poison as food, poison as antidote”. First the Left creates/worsens problems with their dysfunctional policies; then they position themselves (or, even more dysfunctional left-wing policies) as the supposed solution.
In this case, President Obama’s own policies create/worsen the inequality he decries. As I’ve discussed in my “Recovery for the One Percent” series here, here, here and here.
For any lefties reading this, who need the reminder:
Raising the minimum wage costs people jobs.
Big Government denies opportunity to the working poor.
The landmark ruling ends more than four months of uncertainty over the fate of the case and sets the stage for a fierce clash over how to slash an estimated $18 billion in debt and long-term liabilities that have hampered Detroit…
[Judge] Rhodes — in a surprise decision this morning — also said he’ll allow pension cuts in Detroit’s bankruptcy…
Pension cuts will likely be large. I don’t think they’ll be 84% as some have suggested, but I could see them easily being 25-50%. And it will set a precedent for other cities (and perhaps States) doing the same thing.
The point is that a pension (or Social Security, for that matter) is just a hypothetical future promise. If the money doesn’t exist to pay yours when the time comes, then it just doesn’t exist. Plan accordingly, now.
…To all you workers out there preaching morality about those of us who live on welfare… can you really blame us? I get to sit around all day, visit my friends, smoke weed.. and we are still gonna get paid, on time every month…
If I was in a position where I had to work, that might be a different story…
The Soviet Union used to have a slogan, “He who does not work shall not eat”. Though aimed at the bourgeoisie, in tough times it was also applied to the lazy. In other words, the communists were tougher on non-working healthy people than we are.
Via Zero Hedge, who previously noted “the single mom is better off earnings gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045.”
Case study: countries’ experiences of financial crisis – Greece
Suicides rose by 17% between 2007 and 2009 and to 25% in 2010, according to unofficial 2010 data (398). The Minister of Health reported a further 40% rise in the first half of 2011…Homicide and theft rates have doubled. HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with *about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month* and faster admission on to drug-substitution programmes. Prostitution has also risen…
Emphasis added. In pursuing the cradle-to-grave Welfare State, Europe has created a society of smothering government regulation, taxes, “benefits” and controls where:
People can no longer get ahead, or even survive, in the private economy.
People can survive if they qualify for government-paid benefits.
Is it any wonder that economic crisis results? And that, in the midst of the crisis, some people will do anything to qualify for government-paid benefits?
To escape the trap, Europe must do the opposite. It must dismantle the Welfare State, creating a society of freedom where most people can’t get money from government, and can survive, or even get ahead, in the private economy.