Weekend: Six More Reasons to Riot

Written By Nick Hodge

Posted December 12, 2010

Welcome to the Energy and Capital Weekend Edition — our insights from the week in investing and links to our most-read Energy and Capital and sister publication articles.

Earlier this week, I shared the first half of 12 reasons you should be rioting this holiday season. As promised, in lieu of the standard weekend edition, I bring you the second half…

Six more reasons to riot

7. Figurehead president

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the release of the final part of a trilogy about the life of Teddy Roosevelt. I’ve seen the author interviewed on multiple shows. The reason the book is so exciting is because it reminds us what type of man a president should be.

During a presidential campaign, Teddy was shot in the chest before giving a speech. And he went on to deliver it with blood running through his shirt — with no teleprompter.

What we get today is a figurehead president, whose every word and action are carefully planned and choreographed. We get the bureaucratic bait-and-switch: big campaign promises followed by huge disappointments.

We get someone to blame, not someone to lead; we get a herder, not a shepherd.

Presidential history is filled with courage, decisiveness, and action. Leading the fight for independence… Ending slavery… Commanding troops and winning wars, on the battlefield… Pulling the country from depression… Moonshot and military-industrial complex speeches.

When’s the last time a president did something great?

8. Do-nothing Congress

Hand-in-hand with a figurehead president, Congress has evolved into nothing more than a constant reelection and “fundraising” machine.

Everybody’s got a pet project. Everybody’s on someone’s payroll.

Nancy Pelosi’s raised $2.22 million since 2009. A good chunk of the money came from the health care industry — Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), New York Life, AFLAC, and a host of medical associations were major donors.

The incoming Speaker isn’t any better. He’s raised $8.2 million in the same time. He’s dipping into multiple buckets, with AT&T, American Financial Group, American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), Altria Group (NYSE: MO), Wendy’s/Arby’s, and, yes, Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) each contributing tens of thousands of dollars.

Folks, partisan is a new word for maintaining corporate loyalty. And it’s like this with every single one of ’em.

They could at least see eye-to-eye on something; maybe pushing cigarettes from Altria on the front end while reaping the health care windfall on the back.

9. Entitlements

Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and welfare will cause federal spending to rise 50% by 2033.

We continue to dole out billions in welfare to a culture that’s mastered how to work the system. If you don’t have a job or an education, but can manage to pop out a few kids, we’ll pay you for it.

But I pay 6.2% of my salary into a Social Security fund that warns me annually it will be depleted by 2042. I’m not eligible for benefits until 2050!

And at the same time, those with fluffy government jobs are guaranteed above-average health benefits and pension plans.

We’ve turned into a culture of entitlement. And it only hurts those who actually use their hands and brains to create economic value.

10. Corporate control

It’s been hinted at in this list already, but America is increasingly under corporate control.

The ability for the little man to make an impact in the world around him is gone. A century of corporate growth has taken the power from the people.

Telecom giants have input on communications law. Oil and utility companies have input on energy and environmental law. Health care companies had a hand in their recent triumph. And the Senate just coincidentally failed to pass a bill that would ban earmarks for three years.

Like the Time Warner, speed camera, and back-up camera examples cited already, laws in this country are now written to enrich corporations — not to protect citizens.

11. Wikileaks

Julian Assange should be your hero, not on Interpol’s Most Wanted list. He’s serving to bring to light a whole new list of reasons you should be rioting, some of them with similarities to this list.

Wikileaks is against government secrecy on crucial matters. It’s not a terrorist organization.

If the government is so worried about certain things getting out, maybe they shouldn’t do those certain things. Here’s a sublist of Wikileaks revelations you should be rioting about:

  • Employees of military contractor DynCorp — which gets paid to fight with your tax dollars — have been hiring “dancing boys.” In Afghanistan, boys ages 8-15 are paid to wear make-up and women’s clothing, perform and then sell their, shall we say, “services” to the highest bidder.

  • We continue to fight a war against corruption in Afghanistan, but look the other way when government officials are corrupt. Former Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud flew into Dubai with $52 million in cash and was never asked to explain where it came from. U.S. envoy Karl Eikenberry told America “vast amounts of cash come and go from the country on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis.” Our government ally in our biggest war is corrupt, and we don’t care.

  • Saudi Arabia is one of the chief financiers of al-Qaeda, which means one of our supposed main allies in the war on terror is funding the war on terror. Jon Stewart — our most trusted newsman has had the best summary I’ve seen: “So, if we give them money for oil, that allows them to buy weapons from us, with a little left over to fund terrorist groups that we must then send our military over to fight, which costs a lot of money in fuel, which we buy from them. It’s like we’re the commissionless middle men in a war we’re waging on ourselves.”

It’s the U.S. government that’s committing atrocities, not Julian Assange.

But don’t tell that to PayPal, Amazon, Mastercard, or any of the other major corporations now refusing to work with the organization at, presumably, the government’s request.

Remember, those companies need the government to profit…

12. The thumb on the scale of justice

This is really the worst one of them all. Because whenever someone is part of the government-corporate union, they are seemingly exempt from the rules that govern lesser Americans.

Former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo was arguably the man most responsible for the housing collapse. He made $139 million selling shares of Countrywide as the industry went to crap, and was charged with civil fraud and insider trading for profiting from doling out risky mortgages while misleading investors about the risks.

The penalty? Mozilo wasn’t even convicted. He settled with the SEC for $67.5 million, of which Bank of America will pay $25 million.

So Mozilo got to pocket $96.5 million for misleading the country and wrecking the housing market, sending the economy into a tailspin.

Or take Charlie Rangel, who was just convicted on 12 counts of Congressional ethics violations, ranging from accepting a rent-stabilized apartment from a Manhattan developer to failing to pay taxes on rental income from his Dominican villa to raising charitable donations from companies and corporate executives who had business before the committee he led.

The penalty? Mr. Rangel was censured, meaning his colleagues told them they disapproved.

You or I would be jailed and forced to pay restitution in both cases. But that’s how the ruling class has set up the system.

You can’t even riot — it’s illegal.

Yet it was a riot that started this then free nation, sparking a war of independence from a ruling body that was taxing without fair representation.

Call it like you see it,

Editor, Energy and Capital

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