Author Archive Brian Hoffer

ByBrian Hoffer

Bain Way or the Highway

The world of venture capitalism is often referred to as “vulture capitalism” for a reason. Firms don’t always invest in a company that might hit it big. In the case of companies like Bain Capital, you can invest in struggling companies, pass on the debt to them, and through excessive management fees and carried interest arrangements (which under current tax law, are subject to far lower taxation rates), milk the company dry and leave it, its workers, other lenders, and sometimes even the taxpayers on the hook for the leftover debts.

Even Bain itself was nearly dismantled at the expense of employees and lenders. When the company was unable to make payments to lenders, including the FDIC, Romney engineered a scheme to pay out all liquidity as executive bonuses, leaving lenders with nothing in return – UNLESS they would reduce Bain’s debt to a fraction of its former amount. The blackmail worked, leaving the lenders out to dry – and the FDIC having to recoup the loss through higher insurance premiums to banks, who naturally passed on the expense to customers. Essentially, taxpayers gave Bain a bailout.

Now, Romney and company are auditioning for the role of America’s manager – but without giving any specifics on how they’ll balance out large tax cuts for “job creators” or an increase in defense spending. Is that in any way a responsible way to run a country? No. But after Republican opposition to all of Obama’s attempts at economic revitalization, we’ve been left with a struggling America. And with people like Romney (who milk the system dry) and Ryan (whose budget plans would’ve given men like Romney a near-zero tax rate) potentially in charge, the comparisons are clear. The Republicans are simply using this opportunity to cash out, passing the debt on to the investor (the American taxpayer) while they sit back and enjoy their bonuses.

ByBrian Hoffer

Ignorance is Bliss for Republicans

On the way to school this morning, I decided to flip on the radio and listen to my local AM station. At that point, Laura Ingraham was talking, having moved her show to Tampa this week for the Republican National Convention. In a short span of ten minutes, I heard all of the following questions/accusations (paraphrased, anyway):

  • Why isn’t Obama doing everything he can to help the South with Hurricane Isaac’s arrival, instead of campaigning?
  • Obama is the Campaigner in Chief, on the road nonstop getting support instead of doing his job.
  • Hurricane is going to ruin crops, as has the drought. Of course, Al Gore would say this is global warming. (laughs)

Deflecting comparisons to Katrina much? Admittedly, the horrible response after Katrina wasn’t as much a fault of George W. Bush as it was an underfunded FEMA. Then again,the Republicans cut funding for that, so I guess they’re still to blame. In any case, what you’re asking for is having the President do what the various executive departments, both federal land state, are already doing. It’s like blaming the president for the entire fate of the economy; in reality the person in office is a relatively small factor in such things.

Campaigner in Chief? I seem to recall Mitch McConnell smiling as he said that the Republican’s goal for the next four years was to make Obama a one-term president. Of course Obama has needed o do a lot of campaigning – the Republicans have been doing it since day one! Even if it was a position they previously held, the Republicans refused cooperation, moving farther to the right and and hoping that a president hamstrung by Congress would be seen by voters as a bad president. And Obama’s horrible for taking so many vacation days – forget that Reagan and Bush II took far more by this point in their terms. Facts aren’t important.

Global warming again? We’ve had so many studies reporting the reality of this phenomenon that such views aren’t funny anymore. The Republicans may as well argue that the sun revolves around the Earth, not the other way around. The purpose of science is to understand the world around us, through continual testing of our ideas and hypotheses. If 99% of literature presents legitimate findings for a particular hypothesis, then it’s probably true. If you want to argue otherwise, PRESENT ACTUAL EVIDENCE. This can’t be done, but facts are just another pesky obstacle for Republicans to remove.

A week ago, a friend argued with me over Obama’s “You didn’t Build That” speech. I quite plainly explained what he said and the context, only to hear the words “I don’t care about the context”. This seems to sum up the Republican Party of today: forget what the facts say, and twist people’s emotions to keep them all in your little bubble.

ByBrian Hoffer

History Repeats Itself

Parallel Arrows

Once upon a time, there was a far-right political movement that was not content with the state of affairs. Many years before, after an extensive period of warfare, a new government was put in place, one that they considered illegitimate. There had also been some deterioration of the economy, although it had finally stabilized years later. Clever use of loan programs and easy credit glossed over the defective foundations of the economy while maintaining the appearance of abundant growth during a “golden age” of sorts. However, this created a dependency on the financial system that made this growth possible. Soon, with a stock market crash and the loss of credit nationwide, unemployment skyrocketed, furthering public resentment toward the current officials in office.

Nationalism

It was at this time that the movement truly sprung into action. Mass public protests and rallies against the government and its policies took place. Party messages appealed to voters’ lowest notions; racism and xenophobia reared their heads in addition to the prevailing economic concerns. Many lies were repeated over the airwaves to cement opposition against party enemies. As one party insider admitted:

“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result,” he wrote. “It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”

And so this strategy continued; at the next elections, individuals within this movement gained a small but significant presence in the national legislature, and their strong influence led many conservative parties to join their side. As the body met, it became clear that the movement would refuse to compromise with legislators on the other end of the political spectrum. The lack of action left the country to wallow in recession, which the movement then blamed on the existing government leaders. Religious and political minorities were blamed for the nation’s economic and security problems; terms like Communist were readily thrown around by party extremists. After the movement chose a clear leader for the next presidential election, one media giant threw his money and airtime in support of the candidate; his massive media empire had already been demonizing the existing administration. Several business leaders, fearing the perceived socialist actions of the government, threw their money behind the movement. The leader appealed to the frightened and demoralized middle class, promising to revive the economy (without giving specifics), restore the nation’s greatness, and protect it from a dangerous outside threat. The party’s official message downplayed the racism that had reared its head in earlier years, although it didn’t stay too far under the surface. With major emphasis on the interior ministry and the defense department, the party promised to keep the nation safe and to free its population from the slaveholder hands of the government.

Nazi Flag

That sums up the rise of Nazi Germany. What did you think I was talking about???

Secret Muslim

Author’s note: I am in no way trying to insinuate that electing Mitt Romney is voting for Hitler. I am, however, questioning the wisdom in voting for a party controlled by the Tea Party and willing to use any method, including those outlined, to win the next election. How many times do we have to put up with blatant falsehoods ($700+ billion cut from Medicare, death panels, eliminating work from welfare program, etc) and accusations (born in Kenya, secret Muslim, Nazi Communist – I question the intelligence of people who use both terms to describe ANYONE, not just Barack Obama)? Why consider a candidate whose campaign depends on giving no specifics on ANYTHING? Or a party whose sole goal has been bringing down the administration, regardless of the condition of the country they’re supposed to be helping? Consider the parallels, and ask yourself if people willing to play politics like this are really worth giving your vote.

Read:
The German Reichstag Elections of 1930, by James Pollock
Weimar Republic and the Great Depression – History Learning Site
Nazi Party – Wikipedia
Alfred Hugenberg – Wikipedia
Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich. Penguin Press, 2004

ByBrian Hoffer

Living in a Randian Paradise

In the novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand writes through the character Francisco d’Anconia:

“So you think that money is the root of all evil? … Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or the looters who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil? (pg. 410-413)

Right off the bat, Ayn Rand can’t even quote the Bible correctly. Regardless of her religious and philosophical tendencies, this error dismantles the entire speech. Depending on the translation from the Greek, the correct phrase is “For the love of money is the root for all kinds of evil”. Perhaps that’s the problem with the current Republican platform – they view  greed as good, and consider the rest of the population moochers.

Despicable Me Reference

Why else would you run a completely false campaign ad accusing Obama of getting rid of the work requirement for welfare and simply handing out money? Because welfare has gained the connotation of being a handout to lazy people, to moochers, and playing off of this image allows Republicans to attempt its destruction. Never mind the millions of people too poor to survive, yet apparently too rich to get any support, especially in the most conservative of states.

Relieving “job creators” of their burdensome regulations and taxes supposedly will lead to job creation. Never mind that basic economics teaches that employees are usually the largest expense for a business, so hiring more people is only justified if the resulting production is worth more than their salary and benefits. In an economy where demand has collapsed, you don’t need that extra production, making the employees a cost rather than a benefit to the company. This is why we’ve lost so many jobs – those tax cuts and lax regulations would simply allow companies to cut corners and gain higher profits for the same amount of production. It won’t create jobs; it will only make the wealthy wealthier.

Democrats are hostile toward the rich and are trying to loot them to support their programs? Are they simply trying to redistribute the wealth in a socialist manner? Well, it would seem that way, if it weren’t for the fact that we have another example: the IMF wants Botswana to reduce income inequality in order to promote longer economic growth. This inequality occured DESPITE welfare expansion in Botswana. Botswana, by the way, is one of only a few countries that exceeds the United States (the wealthiest nation on the planet, mind you) in income inequality. It has a GINI Coefficient of ~.48, where .4-.49 is considered high inequality; the US sits at .38,, extremely high when compared to other countries with similar income levels.

Top Marginal Tax Rates in 20th Century

The poor aren’t robbing the rich; it’s been the other way around for decades. If we could put men on the moon, rapidly expand the middle class, and do much more when the top marginal tax rate was 70% or more, then surely allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the upper class won’t bring about economic doom. Despite assurances that government doesn’t create jobs, in a depression created by the wealthy, government IS the largest entity capable of creating demand, and thus jobs. Unless, of course, the wealthy have a change of heart when it comes to charity. But that’s highly unlikely. In fact, that’s immoral in Rand Land.

After all, they can’t even imagine that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”.