The New York Post by MAGGIE GALLAGHER - October 30, 2008
BROTHER, can you spare $700 billion?
Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, spent most of last Friday in Washington with his hand stretched out - or, rather, with his mouth wide open like a baby bird, waiting for some taxpayer dollars to drop in. You can hardly blame him. As a New York Times business columnist put it: "Banks are getting billions. Insurance companies are getting billions. Why not GM?" There's a phrase for this phenomenon - which I think we'll be seeing a lot more of regardless of who wins this November: predatory government. I'm borrowing the term from a tiny, gadfly paper, The Westchester Guardian, whose publisher recently filed a lawsuit alleging that Westchester County legislators had bought a building in Greenburgh to reward a supporter of County Executive Andrew Spano, while avoiding the requirement that voters approve bond issues over $10 million. "We're talking about the economic crisis and problems with banks," publisher Sam Zherka told reporters. "But no one is discussing predatory government."
He has a point. Why go out and figure out how to make money in the free market when you can get government to subsidize and guarantee your corporate profits in exchange, all too often, for the most pitifully small contributions, campaign or otherwise? When government is in charge, the hard business of making a real profit becomes the soft business of stroking powerful politicians.
Tell Ted Stevens about it. The Republican senator shamed himself and his party (and mine) by accepting and failing to report some $250,000 worth of gifts from Bill Allen, another businessman who found bribing government was easier than making money in a free market. (Allen, the owner of a large oil services corporation, was convicted in a scheme to bribe Alaska lawmakers to help his oil-exploration projects.) But Stevens has this pathetic excuse for his shamelessness: Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Dodd, chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, accepted more than one sweetheart mortgage deal from Countrywide Home Loans.
Barack Obama, who next to Dodd is Fannie and Freddie's most-favored senator, is unlikely to change predatory government. After all, he's the guy who raised $750 million in campaign cash in part by removing ordinary controls from his Web site donation system, such as a requirement that you provide your real name and address or your credit card won't be accepted. Obama has made clear where his heart lies when it comes to conflicts between money and ethics: Predatory government works for Democrats. That's enough for him. What happened to our economy is a scam, pure and simple. Somebody - in Washington and on Wall Street - should go to jail. But corporate cronies aren't worried: Politicians are much cheaper and easier to own than real market share. Neither are powerful politicians: The media won't expose a government controlled by Democrats in all three branches. And so ordinary voters will have to settle for desperately trying to get a small piece of the pie themselves, as the big guys divvy up the really big taxpayer bucks. That's the way predatory government works.