We all know that government policy is for sale and corporations can easily exploit our corrupt politicians for financial gain. Here we look at five industry sectors that are able to buy their way to influencing government policy the most.
Defense contractors have serious pull in Washington for several reasons. The civilian and contractor labor force of the military has grown while enlisted forces have shrunk. The Department of Defense no longer manufactures its own hardware, relying on defense contractors to do this work. Defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon have significant influence in key districts because of the jobs they bring, the prestige military contracts have and the cash they have to donate. The UK Daily mail reported that senators who voted for the Syria revolution received more than 80% more cash from defense contractors that those who did not. In essence, those who get more money from the war machine are voting for war, regardless of national interests.
Big Data companies like Google, Microsoft and IBM make money collecting data and analyzing it for the government. Edward Snowden revealed that telecommunication firms like AT&T have recorded two decades worth of phone call information and given it to the federal government. Data collection initially done in the name of finding terrorists is now being given to the DEA for drug stings while NSA employees spy on love interests.
The federal Do Not Fly list has a million names, with children banned from flying because of their names and people given no recourse to prove their innocence. Now the same security apparatus gain access to all emails, cell phone calls, Skype, text messages, video chats and other electronic correspondence. Telecommunication companies participated because they were paid to do so or faced loss of major government contracts if they refused, as Qwest now says happened. Big Data is actually worse. Google, as part of its “do not evil” motto, actively mines search data. What began as a way to improve targeted marketing became the basis of Big Brother’s data mining online.
These matters are made worse when it was revealed that Big Data firms consider information on the cloud “public” and thus free to be handed over to the NSA. This opinion was reinforced in Mr. Goodwin’s case against the federal government when he sought the return of data frozen by the federal government’s takeover of Megaupload.
Big Data companies don’t consider recording all of one’s online activities as a violation of privacy. Giving the government this data or analyzing it for them is simply another profit center.
Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, was written primarily by health insurance companies. The foundation document for Obamacare was an 87 page whitepaper written by Liz Fowler, then vice-president of WellPoint. Many people without health insurance are perfectly capable of paying for health care via cash or payment plans, while others rely upon private charity. Liz Fowler’s white paper said we needed health insurance like drivers need auto insurance. This neglected the fact that health insurance is not health care. It also gave health insurers a massive new market, with millions now forced to buy health insurance. Federal regulations and mandates as to the required procedures prevent new insurers from coming into the market, while making self-insurance by small companies much more difficult. Medical bill sharing ministries, a religious alternative to for-profit health insurance, remain legal, but the bill grandfathered in only three such medical bill sharing ministries that were founded before 1999. This means that no new medical bill sharing ministries are permitted to form, though the government considers them perfectly legal alternatives to health insurance.
The highly restricted health insurance market and mandatory purchase under penalty of fines enforced by the IRS means that the health insurance firms that do participate in health insurance “exchanges” receive significant income. Once many smaller insurers and self-insurance options go away, they can charge anything they like because there is literally no other alternative except national health care. And no one wants to repeat the horrors of the NHS. For example, the NHS denies of care to smokers, has a far greater mortality rate for cancer patients than the U.S., created the “Liverpool Care Pathway” to intentionally kill patients, as patients wait months to see a doctor.
Wall Street Firms
The “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” was supposedly written to prevent another housing bubble and financial industry collapse as we saw in 2008. Unfortunately, the bill was heavily influenced by big banks and Wall Street firms.
The Federal Reserve is a private financial entity, though it is too often considered part of the government. The Frank Dodd Act gives control over much of the U.S. financial system to the Federal Reserve with modest oversight by a council of regulators picked by industry insiders and government officials who often previously worked at these firms. The problem is the same as the NSA oversight committee that is filled with intelligence analysts who supported NSA overreach and FISA court judges who admitted they have no evidence except what NSA gave them, in essence the wolf guarding the henhouse.
Wall Street firms do have to face additional regulation. However, the 2,300 page bill essentially shuts down small lenders, private lenders, many credit unions and savings and thrifts. Extra regulation is thus in favor of the Big Banks that caused the financial crisis in the first place. Regulations are a heavy cost to bear, but small firms go under due to the load, while big firms get a larger share of the market.
And the Orderly Liquidation Authority in the Frank-Dodd Act is essentially a financial death panel, giving the government the ability to say that a company must be liquidated. Imagine the impact when large banks are able to shut down credit unions and competitors in the name of protecting the economy.
Energy companies have tremendous leverage in Washington. When major financial firms went bankrupt, new regulations and oversight resulted. Green energy companies like Solyndra, A123 Systems, Fisker Automotive, Abound Solar and Ecotality and dozens of other green energy firms have gone bankrupt. And they went bankrupt after receiving billions in federal loans. First Solar and SunPower both blew over a billion dollars each. According to the Heritage Foundation, Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill set aside over $80 billion in funds for green energy projects. This is in addition to federal contracts that require high energy efficiency upgrades to existing buildings, LEED energy efficiency rules that encourage renewable power sources, federal acquisition rules biased toward renewable firms, orders that the DoD install more solar and green energy rebates at federal and state level. In essence, green energy firms get discount loans from the federal government despite more than 10% of these firms going bankrupt along with preferences that force government contractors to buy more power from them and push consumers into renewable energy projects that are not economical without subsidies.
Green energy firms hold sway for several reasons. The first is due to the perceived aura around “renewables”, despite their low efficiency and high cost. Another reason is because they are thought to be a solution to global warming, though we now know that there has been no warming since 1997 and a slight cooling since 2010. The third reason, which even garnered support from Republicans, was the promise of energy independence. Windmills and solar panels would eliminate our need for foreign oil, depriving terrorists and regimes like the Saudi royal family of American money.