AIG Contributions to Politicians in 2008

The top 10…

Link: American International Group: All Recipients | OpenSecrets.

Name

Office

Total Contributions

Dodd, Chris (D-CT) Senate $103,100
Obama, Barack (D-IL) Senate $101,332
McCain, John (R-AZ) Senate $59,499
Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) Senate $35,965
Baucus, Max (D-MT) Senate $24,750
Romney, Mitt (R) Pres $20,850
Biden, Joseph R Jr (D-DE) Senate $19,975
Larson, John B (D-CT) House $19,750
Sununu, John E (R-NH) Senate $18,500

via Mike Swanson

Larry Winget Rants about America

It's time for straight talk. Here's Larry Winget's opinion.

Larry Winget — Money – Personal Development – Business |.

I am sick of listening to the politicians blow smoke up my skirt saying that Americans are the hardest working people on the planet.  They are simply pandering to our emotions and our sense of patriotism about what great people we are.  That’s a load of crap.  American workers are NOT the hardest working people on the planet.  Read a little.  Watch some educational television.   Travel some.  You will quickly find out that the American worker is about the laziest worker on the planet.  For the most part, workers do just enough to squeeze by.  Tell them that you have a problem with how little effort they put out and the crappy job they are doing and they will contact their union rep and file a grievance.  Yep, I am taking on labor unions too.  Originally, they were a great idea.  They were formed to protect the American worker from abuse.  But folks, this ain’t a hundred years ago.   Working conditions are not what they used to be.  Your rights aren’t being violated by expecting you to actually do what you were hired to do and are being paid to do.  Now labor unions exist not to make sure that workers are treated fairly and to stop abuse but to put the squeeze on companies for every dollar they can to the point that the company can no longer be profitable or compete globally.  Want to know why we ship so many jobs overseas?  One of the reasons is labor unions.  Highly skilled people, who are willing to work harder than people in our country are willing to work (and for less money, I know) and don’t belong to a union that has management by the short hairs. (Of course the situation is more complex than that but this is a rant, not a thesis.)  In few cases does America produce the highest quality product  and almost never is it done at the lowest price.

Am I anti-American?  Some of you will read this and think so.  Nothing could be more wrong.  I am very PRO-American.  But I’m not so wild about what we have let happen to our great country.  GREED.  A lack of INTEGRITY.  LIES.  IMMORALITY.  Not the kind of immorality that the fundamentalists talk about.  I’m talking about the morality that is based in doing the RIGHT thing.  The thing that has nothing to do with religion or politics.  Instead, it’s the thing you know in your heart is right because it just IS.  You don’t have to ask, you don’t have to think about who will win and who will lose, you don’t have to wonder about the repercussions or consequences, you just KNOW it’s the right thing.  And because you know it is the right thing, you do it.  That is real morality.

Leaders that Sacrifice the Future

I don’t rant often on this blog, but I had to let this out.

We have many leaders whose great skill is misleading us, by exploiting our fears, dreams, and beliefs. Many untruths and much corruption will be exposed by the financial crisis of 2008.

Economic reality is not altered, in the long term, by the self-serving words of politicians and CEOs. They must have a messiah complex to think that what they say will magically come true when they are just hoping to suspend the natural laws of economics (again).

They use charisma and mass psychology to get trusting people to believe their words. These trusting people are finally seeing that many of our leaders are looking out for themselves, greedily plundering organizations large and small to enrich themselves and their cronies, to the detriment of the electorate and investors.

Voters and stock holders have believed and trusted their leaders (who seem to know how to exploit every crisis for their own personal gain) are depressed by what is happening. When enough people get depressed, the economy will follow.

Do we get the leaders we deserve? I encourage every one to ponder that question.

Do corrupt leaders get what they deserve? Some do, but many don’t. Why? Because often they make the rules or can avoid the consequences.

Let’s all pay more attention to the slogans, excuses, explanations, and scapegoating offered by leaders at every level. We can’t afford to be misled any more.

Clean Coal is a Myth

Clean Coal is a nice image used by politicians to win votes in coal producing states. It exists only in the minds of hopeful politicians and marketers of coal and coal-burning plants. Excerpts from Ben Elgin’s article in Business Week magazine are below.

Link: The Dirty Truth About Clean Coal.

With coal-rich swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia critical to the Presidential race, both Barack Obama and John McCain have endorsed the idea that coal is well on its way to becoming a benign energy source.

The catch is that for now—and for years to come—"clean coal" will
remain more a catchphrase than a reality. Despite the eagerness of the
coal and power industries to sanitize their image and the desire of
U.S. politicians to push a healthy-sounding alternative to expensive
foreign oil and natural gas, clean coal is still a misnomer.

Environmental legislation enacted in 1990 forced the operators of
coal-fired power plants to reduce pollutants that cause acid-rain. But
such plants, which provide half of U.S. electricity, are the country’s
biggest source of greenhouse-gas emissions linked to global warming. No
coal plant can control its emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

All the talk relates to the idea of separating CO2
from the coal-burning process and burying it in liquid form so it won’t
contribute to climate change.

Corporations and the federal government have tried for years to
accomplish "carbon capture and sequestration." So far they haven’t had
much luck. The method is widely viewed as being decades away from
commercial viability. Even then, the cost could be prohibitive: by a
conservative estimate, several trillion dollars to switch to clean coal
in the U.S. alone.

Then there are the safety questions. One large, coal-fired plant generates the equivalent of 3 billion barrels of CO2 over a 60-year lifetime. That would require a space the size of a major oil field to contain.

Companies seeking to build dozens of coal-fueled power plants across
the country use the term "clean coal" liberally in trying to persuade
regulators and voters. Power giant Dominion (D)
describes a proposed plant near St. Paul, Va., expected to generate
electricity by 2012, as having "the very latest in clean-coal
technology." What the unbuilt facility actually possesses to address
global warming is a plot of land set aside for CO2-removal
technology—once it is invented and becomes commercially feasible. The
plant design will accommodate the technology, says Jim Martin, a
Dominion vice-president. These steps, he says, "may actually spur more
research on carbon capture and sequestration."

The Presidential candidates will walk a fine line on the issue.
Senators Obama and McCain support legislation to address global
warming. But "coal is rich in some strategic states that are key to
winning the Presidency," notes Eric Burgeson, an energy lobbyist and
former McCain adviser.

In all, some 118 electoral votes are in play in the top 10
coal-producing states—44% of the 270 needed to win the election. That
likely will fuel plenty of speechifying.

Talk about Energy Independence — But No Leadership

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times provides some insight into how the U.S. became addicted to oil and how leaders avoid the tough love required to face the problem.

Link: Business Spectator – Oil’s slippery slope.

Mr McCain’s promise to eliminate American dependence on Middle Eastern oil is hardly original. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made similar pledges. President Bush himself swore to end America’s “addiction to oil” a couple of years ago. President Richard Nixon made similar promises after the first oil shock of the 1970s. The reality is that things are moving in the opposite direction. In 1973 the US imported 33 per cent of its oil; today it imports about 60 per cent and this figure could rise to 70 per cent by 2020. America’s transport system is still completely dependent on oil.

American politicians have, so far, responded to this problem with a mixture of wishful thinking and anger. The calls for “energy independence” are all but universal. Money has been poured into the production of biofuels, which has helped push up food prices. But no leading politician is yet prepared to say that Americans may have to adjust their lifestyles to a world of permanently higher fuel prices.

Last week Senator Pete Domenici, a Republican, issued a plaintive appeal for “more oil and lower prices”. The Democrats are pressing for the US attorney-general to bring price collusion charges against members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. But any such action significantly overrates America’s power over the world’s oil producers. Opec members could retaliate by selling some of their huge reserves of dollars – which would hit the dollar and US consumers very hard. The world’s main oil producers have no shortage of potential customers. More than 50 per cent of Saudi oil is now exported to Asia.

Competition for the world’s oil supplies is intensifying. Chinese oil consumption doubled between 1994 and 2003 and will have doubled again by 2010. China’s foray into Africa is largely driven by its own search for “energy security”. The International Energy Agency predicts that in 2010 China will become the world’s largest consumer of energy. The IEA also thinks that the world’s energy needs will be 50 per cent higher in 2030 than they are today – and that we are going to become more, not less, reliant on fossil fuels.

This seems all too plausible. At present there are about 10 cars in China for every 1,000 people; there are 480 cars per 1,000 people in the US. But by 2015, China could be the world’s largest market for new cars.

While western politicians routinely worry about globalisation, they have yet to focus on a more plausible threat. It is not the outsourcing of well-paid jobs; or the inflow of cheap goods: it is the globalisation of western patterns of consumption. If the Chinese and Indians eventually eat and drive like Americans and Europeans, the current inflation in fuel and food prices could be just the beginning. The environmental implications are also obvious – and alarming.

So although the search for energy security is now central to American foreign policy, as it is for both the European Union and the main Asian powers, in the long run there is no real foreign policy fix for the problem. A future dominated by conflict over scarce oil resources – or truckling to oil-rich dictators – is not attractive.

The only plausible routes to “energy security” lie at home in the US – in the development of new technologies and in a change of lifestyles. Americans may have to drive their cars less. But it will be a brave presidential candidate who says that.

Democracy, Politicians, and War

Another wake up call from Atanu Dey, who continues to aim economic intelligence at the leaders of the world’s largest democracies. He wants us to see the light before it is too late. I fear we’re on the razors edge now.

Atanu (India) and I (US) both live in countries where we can criticize the leaders without persecution. We both want free societies to survive and prosper. Acknowledging a problem is the first step to a solution.

Link: Your Vote for My Money

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.
– Alexander Tytler

Some numbers are well beyond human comprehension. We can talk glibly about millions and billions of this or that but we cannot intuitive grasp what they actually mean. Evolution has equipped us with fine brains but those brains never needed to deal with thousands — leave alone millions — of anything. So we have to do some mental gymnastics to get a fleeting glimpse of what very large numbers represent.

Here’s a way of realizing how large millions, billions, and trillions are relative to a thousand. One thousand seconds passes in less than 17 minutes. A million seconds takes around 13 days. A billion seconds takes a bit over 31 years. We humans live for something between 2 and 3 billion seconds. A trillion seconds is over 31,688 years. We don’t really know what thousands of years mean, of course. Human civilization is not a trillion seconds old.

The US war in Iraq has been estimated to cost around $3 trillion. That is, $3,000,000,000,000. Details are in Joseph Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes’ new book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.” See The Cold Price of Hot Blood in Salon for more on that. The total cost globally could well be over $6 trillion.

…It is the very nature of democracy that creates the perverse incentives for the politicians to implement policies that help themselves at the cost of immense harm to the country. Those who make the policies enjoy the indirect benefits of the policies — votes from specific groups — without paying any of the costs.

There is another asymmetry. The direct beneficiaries of the policies naturally have a concentrated interest in voting for the politicians. The costs are diffuse and poorly understood by the rest of the population. So while they bear the costs, they do not connect it with the policies and the politicians.

In the final analysis, a country is only as rich or as poor as its collective wisdom allows it to be. The politicians can be expected to make those decisions that are good for them, just like you and I make self-interestedly rational decision in our daily lives. However, we get to play with whatever little money we have; the politicians can play with billions and trillions that do not belong to them. So they are understandably less careful with billions than we would be with our few thousands.