Thursday, January 29, 2009

With His Personnel Picks and the "American Collapse and Socialization Act", Obama is Ignoring the Financiers That Got It Right

No wonder President Obama's administration members are warning that the economic recovery is several months away. He's doing nothing different than George W. Bush did when his attempts at economic recovery failed.

Obama has appointed, without exception, people who helped cause the problem. Obama's associates, not to mention his "stimulus" package (more on that in a later article) are prime indication that he actually wants the economy to get much worse. Does anyone know why?

Robert Rubin contends that no one saw the economic crisis coming. He's probably lying, but even if he really is that dense, it proves that Rubin's not even fit to be dogcatcher for the smallest bank in Poughkeepsie. There are several individuals who

Just like before, those people who are honest, who have integrity, and who could really fix the problem that those in office don't seem to care much about, are left out in the cold.

saw it coming
, and some of them are from the financial sector. Ironically, (is it ironic when it's on purpose?) none of them belong to the Insider-Man American-Hater Club, so they were left out of Barack Obama's presidential entourage.

Timothy Geithner? Okay so he didn't pay a bunch of his taxes. That makes him a money-grubbing son of a monkey. But much worse, he was also president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during the Fed's money-creation orgy, which...well...makes him a money-grubbing son of a monkey. The Fed, which has been carefully cultivating a bumper crop of soon-to-be-experienced hyperinflation, is the main part of our problem. Most Democrats and Republicans are barely able to squeeze themselves around the outer edges of the room that that elephant is standing in. C'mon, President Obama, you can do much better than Timothy Geithner.

Lawrence Summers? Back in October when this issue was being

It's not, like Rush Limbaugh, that I want it to fail. It's simply that we are destined to fail when we fight against inexorable economic laws.

discussed by the king-makers and slave-makers, here's what was said:
Robert Rubin, treasury secretary under President Clinton and now an adviser to Barack Obama, said it was important "to be highly, highly proactive."

Lawrence Summers, also a Clinton treasury secretary, said, "Any time you have a problem with trust, you've got to deal with it in a very aggressive way."
Sure, we have been aggressive. We have been highly proactive. And the economy continues further into the tank. It reminds me of the long-running joke about socialism--that it hasn't worked yet because it hasn't yet been tried by the right people. Lawrence Summers was a poor choice.

You may not know that there are banks who have continued to turn a profit during the current crisis. Perhaps these people should be punished,

Nancy Pelositician ensured today that the "ship of state" is headed for the same rocky shoals toward which President Bush steered it. The only difference is that our clipper is now breezing along at full sail.

because they didn't do certain things that were encouraged by the federal government, such as give loans to people who couldn't afford them, or things that manifested corporate greed, such as decorating their offices for millions of dollars and giving themselves obscene bonuses.

John Allison, of BB&T corporation, is looked at by some as a member of the new Sons of Liberty for having stood up against the folly of federal bailouts.
It was Allison who wrote a stinging letter to Congress on Sept. 23, arguing that the contemplated bailout would reward poorly managed banks at the expense of properly managed banks...
...like his. Allison explained another reason why bailouts won't work
"The primary beneficiaries of the proposed rescue are Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley ," Allison wrote. "The Treasury has a number of smart individuals, including Hank Paulson. However, Treasury is totally dominated by investment bankers. They do not have knowledge of the commercial banking industry."
Dick Kovacevich of Wells Fargo has proven that honest bankers can turn a profit. People are fleeing the troubled banks and putting their money in a bank they can trust--Wells Fargo.
[Wells Fargo's] success is largely due to Kovacevich who served as CEO from 1998 to 2007, and didn't bow to pressure even though rivals such as Countrywide and Washington Mutual were growing their mortgage operations faster than Wells Fargo earlier in the decade.
Following the passing by the House of Representatives of the latest stimulus boondoggle fad package (I think it was H.R. 1, called "The American Collapse and Socialization Act"), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had this to say:
My colleagues, the ship of state is difficult to turn but that is what we must do.
You're right, Ms. Consummate Politician. However, what you did today was ensure that the "ship of state" is headed for the same rocky shoals toward which President Bush steered it. The only difference is that our clipper is now breezing along at full sail. It's not, like Rush Limbaugh, that I want it to fail. It's simply that we are destined to fail when we fight against inexorable economic laws.

The more things change, the more they seem to be the same old same old.

Just like before, those people who are honest, who have integrity, and who could really fix the problem that those in office don't seem to care much about, are left out in the cold.




29 comments:

  1. Sorry Ron Paul isn't Secretary of the Treasury, but elections have consequences.

    H.R.1 was loaded with compromises, but failed to attract even ONE Republican vote. Next step-- pass the bill without all those GOP-friendly tax provisions.

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  2. Don't worry. I'm quite sure the Republicans would have done something equally as stupid had they been in charge. It's the nature of the political class.

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  3. Of course, in our highly unregulated and unaccountable financial market, even the companies run by "good" bankers like Kovacevich are more than willing to participate in industry-wide tactics of indeciferable statements and contracts, hidden fees and other aspects of gotcha capitalism. But there's nothing wrong with screwing suckers in pursuit of profit, eh?

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  4. Richard,

    So you thought that HR 1, alternately known as the "Throw a Bunch of Money Down a Rathole" act was a good idea?

    Derek,

    Are you suggesting that you have evidence that Kovacevich and Wells Fargo do what you've suggested? Beyond the likely fact that you probably don't, it's rather aggravating to hear the implication that free marketeers somehow don't advocate the punishment of fraud, torts, etc.

    America's major problem is that we have condoned a cacophony of immoralities for so long in ourselves that we look the other way when dishonest people predominate in both our corporations and in our government.

    Our impending demise lies in the fact that corporate executives and politicians are overwhelming liars and shysters. That is as un-free-market a thing as I can think of.

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  5. Free market advocates have fought for years to get government out of the "right of contract," allowing parties to determine between each other what are fair terms. Of course, this gives overwhelming advantage the the corporate entities with deep pockets and access to legions of lawyers and psychologists. Try to legislate against such chicanery, and the Right complains about "loss of liberty" and freedom to chose. And aren't they always talking about "tort reform," aka tort restriction?

    I used to be a patron of Wells Fargo. I saw several attempts to sneak in fee changes and additions. For more on the rampant attempts throughout the financial industry to dupe their customers, read Gotcha Capitalism by Bob Sullivan.

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  6. Your joke that "socialism hasn't worked yet because it hasn't yet been tried by the right people" brings up another one about capitalism, particularly that "capitalism will never work even if tried with right people."

    Why so? Simply because a wrong way cannot lead to the right place. Deciphering the statement, capitalism, with inherent to it love of money and the spirit of competition, would inevitably lead to the day we are 'enjoying' currently. In simpler words, an environment allowing and encouraging legal plunder of the working class people, will foster greedy individuals who will eventually materialize their lucrative aspirations to conspire to defraud the people. In even simpler words, legalized jungle relationships (capitalism) will eventually dehumanize even right people, at least their next generation. In the simplest words, legalized natural man relationships will inevitably bring to development of natural men.

    If you want to blame someone, rather than capitalism, you better blame yourselves for not understanding the true nature of capitalism before, and for not doing enough to keep the situation under control. You should not have allowed those greedy rich of your society to usurp YOUR government.

    Again, lack of true knowledge is the cause of indifference. INDIFFERENCE IN THE FACE OF CRIME IS A CRIME ITSELF.

    Again, your total ignorance and slothfulness is the cause. Additionally, not knowing the law does not exempt one from punishment. The current situation IS the punishment for your indifference and tranquility.

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  7. Derek,

    You're right about corporations in general. I think we need to reverse the idea that a corporation is somehow a person and hold the actual people in the corporation liable. That would solve a multitude of problems.

    I'm not too familiar with the details of "right to contract", but here are a few interesting examples of what Cato believes are usurpations of the right to contract:

    1) A person cannot afford a certain level of health care. Should the doctor be able to contract with the person for a lower level of health care?

    2) A person wants to work for less than the minimum wage. Should he/she be allowed to?

    3) A person knowingly buys an automobile without air bags. When the person gets in an accident, should he/she be able to sue the seller for damages that only air bags could have prevented?

    Gnostic,

    Inherent in capitalism is NOT the love of money. It is a problem that can arise out of capitalism. Socialism ALWAYS destroys liberty, but capitalism only destroys it when the people are generally immoral--which is the fundamental American problem of today. I think you and I have the same concern, which is that the ideal of our preferred political environment (mine: free market, yours: socialism) doesn't match the reality.

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  8. Frank, while I agree that we need to eliminate the legal designation of a corporation as a person, that will not solve the problems to which I refer. When financial service corporations spring in all sorts of hidden fees or fee increases upon their customers, and the customers take them to court (assuming they have the resources to take the corporation to court, something which is rare), the corporation will simply say "We have the right to do so; it's in the contract." Because it was indeed in the contract, albeit in language deliberately inscrutable to the average consumer, the free market ideology dictates that the case should be resolved in favor of the corporation, and further rejects the idea that government should play a role in regulating such contracts, because that ideology holds sacred the right of parties to determine for themselves mutually agreeable terms (right of contract). If the terms end up less than agreeable to one party, that is their fault for not taking more care in the provisions of the contract--never mind the fact that the other party has an overwhelming advantage in setting those terms.

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  9. You make a great point. However, prior to the 1930's when the government wasn't the nanny state, people would have taken care of their own problems by saying "I'm not going to sign a contract like that."

    In an honest society, the right to contract might work. In the kind of society we live in today, it probably doesn't very well.

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  10. When all the potential companies feel they can get away with such tactics, and when they are encouraged to do so by the free market economic theory (I will mention again that Friedman regularly said that the only responsibility of corporations is to maximize income and shareholder value), what other options would people have had? How would less government reduce such practices? The kind of society we live in today is shaped by that very economic theory.

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  11. I'm sure you're not intentionally misstating what Friedman said, but here's a bit longer version of it:

    "Milton Friedman (1970 p.6) asserted that "there is one and only one social responsibility of business - to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud."

    I was hoping to get your perspective on the 3 scenarios listed above.

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  12. Frank,
    Who does Friedman propose to enforce "the rules of the game"?

    Do you really believe humanity is disposed to living in an "honest" society without a third party (i.e. government) trying to keep the playing field as even as possible?

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  13. Answer #1: Government
    Answer #2: Of course not.

    I'm not sure what you've read of Milton Friedman, but your idea that he is an anarchist is off base.

    I'm still curious what you think of the three scenarios.

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  14. Ooops!

    Hi Don!

    Sorry to both Don and Derek. My email made it look like the last comment was from Derek (actually I just didn't look close enough at the 2nd message), but if Don would like to comment on the 3 scenarios above I would appreciate that as well.

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  15. I haven't read any Friedman; that's why I asked. ;)

    The point being, Derek seems to be saying common sense regulations that prevent businesses from taking advantage of consumers are a good thing. You seem to be arguing that they aren't and that if, by golly, we just lived in an "honest" society everything would be hunky-dory.

    I don't really think you're that much of a Pollyanna, Frank. That's just how your line of argument is coming across.

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  16. I gave a shorthand version of Friedman's statement, not a misstatement. It captures the intent. He is saying that the only concern of business is to make money. The fact that he qualifies it with a phrase about “rules of the game” is rendered pretty much meaningless because he objects to most rules. And the deception and fraud issue is very much up to interpretation; do the financial services companies perpetrate fraud when their right to arbitrarily enact fees is in the contract? Deception is in the eye of the beholder, and is rarely present when the beholder is pro-business like most free market advocates (Cato, Heritage, etc).

    As to your questions:

    Answering yes to number 1 leads to some pretty brutal consequences. Do we deny the poor emergency room services because they may not have the funds to contract that level of health care? Could lead to some pretty Darwinian consequences. Additionally, when groups of people are required to forgo a certain level of health care, it puts the large population at risk (disease, etc). So I do believe that the government has a right to mandate a certain standard of health care for the entire population.

    Same for question two. Slippery slope to sweatshops and wage slavery. The government has a right to enact minimum wage laws. If businesses want to avoid issues of minimum wage, they can look into cooperative business organization, in which everyone has a share of profit rather than defined wages. Of course, this option is typically dismissed by adherents of traditional free market theory.

    Question three seems more obvious (no, the person should not be able to sue), but gets back to a similar issue that we’re having with the financial services companies: did the buyer really know there were no airbags, or was it hidden in circumlocution? Did the buyer make that choice because the seller convinced (deceived?) the buyer into believing that airbags are pointless? If so, would you say that the seller was being unethical, or would you follow the implication of free market ideology that the seller was merely being aggressive and shrewd in pursuing his own self interest?

    BTW, I would suggest that there were plenty of people in the Gilded Age prior to the 1930s who were bamboozled into immoral contracts, and who suffered greatly due to the lack of protection which government provided against such abuse.

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  17. Frank,
    The answers to your three scenarios depend on the rules of the game. There are instances in all three cases where the answer could be "yes" or "no".

    If we all agree that government should be the enforcer of "the rules" then the question really becomes "What should the rules be?"

    Corporate executives and politicians are only "overwhelming(ly) liars and shysters" if we allow them to be. If they are then I think that's a pretty good argument for more regulation and less adherence to the theory that markets will regulate themselves.

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  18. If government would do a better job of prosecuting fraud and deception as Friedman suggests then we wouldn't have all the permutations that you talk about. But this is the dishonesty we get when we expect government to take care of everything for us.

    It turns out that they don't do a very good job.

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  19. Frank,
    It seems you are not against for the government to do a good job. The good job of the government actually depends on you, all of us actually. it is we who gave them powers, our powers.

    The immorality is not an american phenomenon though. It is universal. America was never a moral society. Our country started by killing and grabbing. So, legalizing it would not and did not take us somewhere nice.

    You still do not get what is the proper role of government. The proper role of government is to do whatever the people want to do rather than the few rich with their collusive interests.

    And the love of money is in the core of capitalism. Capitalism means capital, i.e. money driven economic system. In order to disallow the money driven people to turn our lives into hell a pro people government is necessary. There must be balance. If there was no government at all, we would kill each other within a couple of months. Government is the highest point of civilization. Pro people, socialist government was instituted in France after the French revolution. So inherently pro people government, socialism, is against tyranny of either one person or a group of rich capitalists. When you say socialism takes away freedoms, I wonder if you could bring in a quote from a socialist source. Socialism only takes away freedoms of capitalists to suck your blood. You have to be grateful for socialism rather than opposing it.

    In your version of free market capitalism you are 'free' to breathe. But the other person is also free to privatize the air you breathe. Don't tell me that if people were moral it would not happen. People are inherently immoral. Only the government regulations, together with religion and culture are able to keep them away from destroying each other. If not for your government you would not have your freedoms you currently enjoy. Someone stronger than you would already have taken them away from you. So pray on your knees that you still have a government and get up to take it back from those rich who have usurped it.

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  20. Gnostic said:

    America was never a moral society. Our country started by killing and grabbing.


    You've been watching Disney's Pocahontas too many times. Or have you been reading too much Noam Chomsky? Of course there have been bad Americans, but far from all of them have been anywhere near as bad as you seem to describe. Slavery was a blight on American history, but only a very few people ever practiced it.

    You somehow think that I am an anarcho-libertarian and think that privatizing air and water is the appropriate thing to do. I thought you were reading my articles more closely than that.

    ;-)

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  21. Frank,
    The expression "up for grab nation" is an American expression and is about us, Americans. Both of us can bring in examples to support our claims about the morality of America. Of course there were good people. My statement is about the society in general. I did not want to go to details to state for example that when in Europe Napoleon was fighting to abolish servitude, when in Russia servitude was abolished in 1861 we, Americans, were fighting to preserve slavery. Or that we were a convict nation from the beginning. Slavery was not the only blight. Our history started by ruthlessly massacring the indigenous inhabitants of this land. Do not make me to go to all details.

    Is Hollywood is the only source of information you know? Do you not know of any history books?

    Regarding the vicious nature of capitalism. You are selective in addressing certain issues and are hiding behind sloppy declarations. I do not think of you as anarchist, though, but rather a fervent defender of capitalism. But your free market economy i.e. capitalism eventually brings to the survival of the fittest, accumulator of wealth and power in the hands of very few, i.e. monopolistic capitalism (thus monopolizing land, water, and air).

    You should have read at least Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy to see the pernicious face of capitalism.

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  22. I am NOT a fervent defender of capitalism. I AM a fervent defender of the Free Market. YOU call it capitalism. You probably already know this, but Marx was the one who coined the term "capitalism" as a derisive term. That's why I try to avoid using it.

    You are "selective" in addressing certain issues as well, in addition to being exaggerative in the way you condemn America. The whole time that a very small percentage of people practiced slavery, hosts of Americans were trying to get the practice outlawed once and for all. The Constitution ensured that slavery would eventually be abolished by saying there could be no more importation of slaves after 1808.

    Was Napoleon successful in abolishing slavery? Are you serious when you claim that servitude was abolished in 1861 in Russia? The serfs were told that they were no longer serfs, but they were still serfs. Then along came Lenin in 1917 and told them that they were no longer slaves and made them even worse slaves than before. Ironically, at nearly the same time you claim that serfs were no longer serfs, the Americans were fighting a war that finally DID get rid of slavery. (And I didn't learn that from Hollywood either.)

    With your claim that we ruthlessly massacred the native inhabitants, I fear that you've been reading too many diatribes by James Michener. You claim that we are a convict society. I remember that being said about Australia, but I guess I haven't read the "Gnostic History of the United States".

    You somehow think that "capitalism" as Marx called exploitation, and the free market, are the same thing. They're not. The problem Marx had is that he couldn't imagine, due to his personal dementia, that anyone could be involved in the free market without trying to capitalize on it. I think that you have the same lack of faith in the American people, and then to buttress your ill-conceived argument, you ascribe devilish motives to essentially everyone who ever participated in the free market.

    So...to clarify where you stand...instead of my previous question "Which do you support, Free Market or Communism", to which you replied "Neither", let me ask it a different way--"Which do you support, Free Market or Socialism?"

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  23. Frank,
    If you are avoiding to use the terms invented by Marx you better refrain from criticizing him. Are you suggesting that Marx was joking? If you truly believe so, why are you so seriously opposing his theory?

    So, half of the states practicing slavery was a small percentage for you? And the slavery stopped after the 1808 deadline? The constitution actually allowed the killings to continue but not of the new people.

    Napoleon was fighting to abolish feudalism. He did not succeed to do it in Russia, though. But he was successful in the rest of Europe. In Russia though servitude was abolished by the tsar’s decree in 1861. Don’t tell me you were there back then to witness that the peasants were still serfs. They were free peasants who did not have anything of their own, that is why they had to continue working as workers for hire in the free market environment. Which, actually, is worse than the condition of serfs. In 1917 though they seized the lands of the land owners and became small land owners themselves. It was Stalin who drove them to collective farms. But still they were collective owners of the same lands.

    FYI, the first inhabitants of this continent were the soldiers, then convicts, then the adventurers, then the plunderers and murderers, who murdered not only the native inhabitants but also devastated their natural resources and drove them to extinction. Don’t tell me it was done by a divine guidance. One does not need to be a historian to admit the demographic change caused by us since our arrival. It is of course typical to try to get rid of one’s name by attributing it to others. Australia is also a convict nation.

    So, you do not see any exploitation in your free market. And you are more intelligent than Marx, of course. You seem to have all the features of a paranoid person. About my ascribing “devilish motives to essentially everyone who ever participated in the free market.” You better read carefully what I said. I did not say everyone. I said capitalism, sorry free market, with its capital driven motives is capable to spoil even a noble generation of people. So, what I said is that even with right people your free market will not work. Actually it is not working. Proof? The present condition of our economy.

    Do you really believe your free market brought freedom? We are worse than a slaves. Also, if your personal condition is still tolerable and you have the luxury to steal your employer’s time to self indulge in half intelligent talks on the internet without any regard who is struggling out there for survival, whose little one needs a medical assistance which the parents cannot afford, I hope you will not be so cynical to declare that that is the beauty of the free market. Additionally, I am sure you will immediately turn to claim unemployment benefits while praising socialism soon after loosing your job. You will not need my answer to your question.

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  24. You're right.

    I don't need your answer to my question, because I just got it.

    Stay tuned for my scathing review of the demonic Karl Marx. I'm sure you'll love it!

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  25. The only thing you got is your salary and benefits paid by the tithings of the Church Members, and your lack of capability of a coherent judgment.

    I do not blame you very much. It is because of your beloved leader Benson. He too was advocating to cast the poor and needy out to die in order for others to have enough to eat.

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  26. With your vile hatred of Ezra Taft Benson, you can't seem to understand at all what it was that he advocated.

    I feel sorry for you that you would let your anger get so much the best of you.

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  27. Frank,
    I am not angry at all. I am sorry you are taking all this very emotionally.

    Once you directed me to read his book, The Proper Role of Government. I told you I had read it. I also directed you to the exact pages of the same book where Benson calls to sacrifice the poor of the society to achieve general prosperity.

    I am not angry yet. Why do you think I was? Since when is the direct statement of facts considered a sure sign of anger? It is rather a scientific approach. Cool down. Relax. You have a nice paying job with its benefits for you and your family, your secure retirement, not speaking of a nice working conditions. Additionally there is no fear to loose it, your job, since you are employed by the biggest and most stable corporation in babylon, sorry the world. Or maybe you want to challenge these facts?

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  28. "If government would do a better job of prosecuting fraud and deception as Friedman suggests then we wouldn't have all the permutations that you talk about. But this is the dishonesty we get when we expect government to take care of everything for us.

    It turns out that they don't do a very good job."

    I believe a large part of the reason they don't do a good job at prosecuting fraud and deception is because the free market ideology reduces their ability to do so. eliminating gov regulation also eliminates their ability to prosecute fraud. And the various tenets of the free market ideology encourage an atmosphere in which moral relativity reigns supreme: anything which benefits your self-interest is acceptable. I hope to elucidate in one of my many forthcoming posts. So much to write, so little time.

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  29. "So much to write, so little time."

    I hear ya! I have about 5 ideas, but I've just been swamped with extra work and family activities lately.

    I think the reason they don't prosecute fraud very well is because (a) a lot of lobbyists have made friends with the "prosecutors", and (b) that government is too busy providing subsidies for this and that, fighting foreign wars, and supporting foreign dictators.

    If the government would reduce its size to those things (including prosecution for fraud) that it does best (and that in the case of the Fed Gov are Constitutional), I think both the problems I listed above would mostly go away.

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