Posts tagged ‘Beltway Shakedown’

“Politics is unalloyed idiocy”

[O]ne of the reasons why I so thoroughly detest politics: it insults my intelligence. Even overlooking all of its many other faults, politics remains insufferable because it’s so completely imbecilic. It traffics in assertions that are either hilariously false or utterly meaningless. Politicians and their operatives then expect those of us on the receiving end of their moronic assertions not only to believe these assertions to be true, but also to marvel at the amazingness of the politicians who, we are assured, regularly perform the unbelievable feats described by the assertions.

Politics is unalloyed idiocy treated even by – indeed, especially by – the intelligentsia as if it is a solemn and serious undertaking. But it’s not. Politics is overwhelmingly the domain of megalomaniacal frauds, liars, and con artists.

Politics – Don Boudreaux

For too many, politics and the the state are their idols.

Statolatry. Ozymandias.

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“Tysons Corner, the Bubble Inside the Beltway Bubble”

Tysons [Corner, in McLean, VA] is an easy target for anger, with its combination of ostentatious wealth and its utter lack of coherent planning or design. It is the very archetype of ugly American sprawl: neither truly suburban, in which a leisurely drive or stroll down a sidewalk is at least in theory possible, nor truly urban, with all of the cheek-by-jowl rough-and-tumble life and character of a city. Tysons Corner instead consists of miles of grim concrete big-box stores, parking garages, flashy towers, garish office blocks, and decaying mid-century kitsch, all lining an expanse of 10-lane expressways that will kill you instantly if you crane your neck toward the dismal view for more than a second. It is the visual equivalent of putting a Beethoven symphony and a Metallica concert in a blender and piecing them back together at random.

But what should draw more attention is the fact that the greater Washington area now boasts one of the highest concentrations of wealth anywhere in the United States, much thanks to the ginormous federal bureaucracy and National Security State which has grown exponentially since the 9/11 attacks. As of 2015, fully half of the top 10 highest-income counties in the nation are in Maryland and Virginia, within an hour of the capital. There are probably as many Teslas in Fairfax County as there are in Silicon Valley.

None of this, of course, negates the reality that there is plenty of poverty, some of it desperate, right in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. For example, there are the inner-ring suburbs of southern Maryland, largely decaying time-capsules of the 1950s which might be largely abandoned if not for people left behind by the 2008 financial crisis, low-wage workers who likely spend their days servicing their wealthy neighbors, and a deluge of poor immigrants, not all of them legal. These pockets of poverty only make the bloat and waste of the government—and its symbiosis with the sprawling, ever-increasing network of contractors, consultants, lawyers, and establishment media organs—more shameful. It is not as if these counties are rich through a roll of the dice: it is rather through what James Howard Kunstler calls “asset-stripping”—the matrix of financialization, offshoring, and an ever-increasing “Deep State” bureaucracy.

If the government should ever shrink, if the financial system should ever truly collapse, or if the military industrial complex stopped turning, this whole region would be depopulated. The “Alexandria” of The Walking Dead might prove prophetic. Without the steady flow of federal dollars, the 10-lane superhighways, luxury apartment towers, those kitschy mid-century diners, not to mention most of Loudoun and Clarke counties, would make Detroit look like a boomtown.

Tysons Corner, the Bubble Inside the Beltway Bubble

Ozymandias

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The DC Imperial Economy

In no place in America are the abrupt changes in the nation’s security posture so keenly reflected in real estate and lifestyle than the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the decade after 9/11, it has grown into a sprawling, pretentious representation of the federal government’s growth, vices and prosperity, encompassing the wealthiest counties, the best schools, and some of the highest rates of income inequality in the country.

. . .

For [Mike] Lofgren, “Beltwayland” is perhaps best described as analogous to the Victorian novel the Picture of Dorian Gray—a rich, shimmering ecosystem in which all of the ugly, twisted aberrations are hidden away in an attic somewhere, or rather sadly, in the poverty-blighted wards and low income zip codes of “the DMV” (The District, Maryland, and Virginia).

Oscar Wilde might have seen a bit of his Victorian England in Washington’s self-indulgent elite, but unlike the gentry of Dorian Gray, men and women here see not leisure, but amassing personal wealth through workaholism, as a virtue of the ruling class. For them, a two-front war and Washington’s newly enlarged national-security state, much of which is hidden in plain sight, have ushered in a 21st-century gilded age only replicated in America’s few, most privileged enclaves.

. . .

“The federal government is a $3.6 trillion beast in the district’s backyard that keeps the lights burning and the paychecks printing from government office buildings on Capitol Hill down along the Dulles Toll Road to the tech consulting firms in Virginia,” wrote Derek Thompson in The Atlantic in 2011, when the area was growing at three times the rate of the rest of the country in its post-recession years.

“Uncle Sam directly employs one-sixth of the district’s workforce and indirectly pays for much more.” It is the “much more” that Lofgren likes to focus on, pointing out that government workers, who might enjoy more job security and pensions, actually have a cap on annual salaries and benefits. It’s the private class that has remade the landscape, the worst characterized by “the K Street lawyers, political consultants, Beltway fixers and war on terrorism profiteers who run a permanent shadow government in the nation’s capital,” he writes.

How Wartime Washington Lives in Luxury

Continue reading ‘The DC Imperial Economy’ »

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Beltway Shakedown

Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era. If the campaign was about hope, and the early presidency was about change, increasingly the administration has settled into a kind of normalcy in which it accommodates itself to Washington far more than Washington accommodates itself to Obama. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when the result is a bipartisan schmooze-fest at the Jefferson Hotel. But when it comes to the D.C. custom of trading a White House security clearance for a private-sector sinecure, there’s a lot to be said for not going native so easily.

Within Obamaworld, there are a few unwritten rules about how to parlay one’s experience into a handsome payday. There is, for example, a loose taboo against joining a K Street lobbying shop and explicitly trading on administration connections. And while joining a consulting firm is acceptable, those who do are reluctant to work for clients reviled by liberals: gun makers, tobacco companies, Big Oil, union busters. Above all, there is a simple prohibition against excessive tackiness.

Get Rich or Deny Trying How to make millions off Obama

Avoiding tackiness is a big virtue. Hope and change! Forward!

Washington’s `revolving door’ – the movement from government service into the lobbying industry- is regarded as a major concern for policy-making. We study how ex-government staffers benefit from the personal connections acquired during their public service. Lobbyists with experience in the office of a US Senator suffer a 24% drop in generated revenue when that Senator leaves office. The effect is immediate, discontinuous around the exit period and long-lasting. Consistent with the notion that lobbyists sell access to powerful politicians, the drop in revenue is increasing in the seniority of and committee assignments power held by the exiting politician.

Revolving Door Lobbyists,” by Jordi Blanes i Vidal, Mirko Draca, and Christian Fons-Rosen, CEP Discussion Paper No 993, August 2010 (61-page PDFPDF)

An investigation by Sen. Carl Levin and a grilling of Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations were ostensibly about Apple’s low tax bill. But nobody accused Apple of breaking the law. The company moved money around to minimize the tax it owed and then paid the amount the law required. Apple didn’t write the tax law or even lobby very hard to shape it.

And that’s just the problem. The grilling of Apple is best understood as a shakedown by politicians upset with Apple for not playing the Washington game that yields contributions, power, and personal wealth for congressmen and their aides.

Apple doesn’t have a political action committee to fund incumbents’ re-elections. Apple doesn’t hire many congressional staff or any former congressmen as lobbyists. Apple mostly minds its own business — and how does that help the political class?

The Beltway Shakedown is an old game. Microsoft may be its most famous victim. In the 1990s, while the Federal Trade Commission investigated the software giant for supposed antitrust violations, the Senate Judiciary Committee, run by Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, held hearings to beat up CEO Bill Gate

Apple becomes latest target of the Beltway Shakedown

How does Apple respond?

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced at a tech conference yesterday [May 28, 2013] that it was hiring President Obama’s EPA director, Lisa Jackson, as a VP for environmental initiatives.

Obama Revolving Door: Former EPA head Lisa Jackson to Apple

The Beltway Shakedown is a bipartisan game. That’s one reason we need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT).

Ozymandias

Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.

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