Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bush running Sopranos scam with our tax dollars

Since Congress raised the debt ceiling to $9 TRillion, it's time to recap the "bust out" scam the Republicans are running with the help of many Democrats.

I have passed this on to friends who don't follow politics very closely, and they instantly understood the application to our politics.

Essentially, the mob gets a foothold in a business, runs up huge debts, sells everything, pockets the cash, then leaves the original business owner with the hollowed out shell of the business.

This has been our bipartisan foreign policy, called neoliberalism, for the last several decades. One of the guys who would set up the deals wrote a book about it called CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN.

What he would do is go to the leaders of Third World countries and make them this offer: If they took out gigantic loans their country could never repay, and use the money to buy construction projects from certain American companies like Halliburton and Bechtel, the leader himself would become fabulously wealthy. If he refused, we would support his political opponents. If that failed, we would support a coup. If that failed, we would kill him. If that failed, we would invade his country. Saddam was one of the few to require the full treatment in modern history. Once the deal was set up, and it was clear the country couldn't repay the loans, then we demand that they give up control of some natural resource, privatize and sell off essential services like electricity, phones, and even water for bargain basement prices, and of course enter these free trade agreements which make it difficult to impossible for countries to set their own labor and environmental standards.

This system has worked so well overseas, that the Republicans seem to be doing it to the United States right now. The debts Bush is running up aren't the result of poor planning, but of design. He is running a bust out, using our country to give tax cuts, defense, and rebuilding contracts to the very wealthy and charging it to our collective credit card. Iraq is clearly part of this. Even if the war went well, the benefits would flow to the few, not to the average American who is paying for whole thing.

We have already seen the results of the second half of the scam here in California with the privatization of our electricity: rolling blackouts to extort more money from the state and individual ratepayers. Things have gone even worse in places that have privatized water.

But as Tony Soprano says at the end of this piece, this is who they are, this is what they do.


United Scatinos of America
by Steven Hart

One of the things that redeemed the second season of "The Sopranos," which had gone all wobbly after a good start, was the unblinkingly cruel subplot about David Scatino, a boyhood friend of mobster Tony Soprano, who talks his way into one of Tony’s high-stakes poker games and almost instantly buries himself under an unpayable mountain of debts. It quickly turns out that Tony knew about Scatino’s compulsive gambling problem, but let him into the game anyway because Scatino and his wife own a successful sporting-goods store.

What follows is more frightening than any monster movie. After siphoning out Scatino’s bank account (including his son’s college fund), Tony and his cronies gorge themselves on the store’s credit lines, buying up easily resold big-ticket merchandise and leaving the store awash in hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills. The business dissolves into bankruptcy, taking with it Scatino’s marriage (his wife divorces him), his family (his son, cheated out of an Ivy League future, hates him) and a good portion of his sanity. In the end, as he prepares to embark on his new life as a drifter and day-laborer, Scatino asks Tony why he let him destroy himself. After all, haven’t they known each other since childhood? Tony replies with the story of the frog and the scorpion. "This is what I am," Tony says. "This is what I do."

What we’ve just seen is a variation on an old con called a bust-out. Usually it involves con men offering to buy a business, making a partial payment to gain access to the firm’s credit and name, and then hollowing out the company’s finances by running up the existing credit lines and opening new ones, all of which are maxed out to buy electronic gear and anything else that can be resold quickly at a fraction of its value. For the con men involved in the bust-out, it’s all gravy. The phony buyer –- usually a shell company with no discernible assets -– defaults and the business reverts to its original owner, by which time the once-thriving firm has been turned into a rotting hulk ready to have its bones picked clean by creditors.

The Bush family has often been referred to as the WASP version of the Corleones, but the Soprano clan makes for a much better comparison. At its best, "The Sopranos" is an acid mockery of the phony gravitas of the three "Godfather" movies. Where Michael Corleone is heroically evil, an international player who consorts with statesmen and the Vatican before succumbing to his tragic flaw, Tony Soprano is a sewer rat engaged in the grubby business of preying on human weakness and fear -– when his fall comes, it will be tragic only to himself. Until then, however, he’s going to make as much money as he can for himself and his buddies, and leave the rest of the world holding the bill.

I'm not just using hyperbole here. I do think that when honest historians assess the Bush administration, they will find it more useful to treat George II and his Republican cronies as a criminal organization rather than a political party. The best tool for analyzing Bush's policies is not historiography, but the procedures used by federal agents as they pursue a RICO investigation into a mobbed-up business.


This is what they are. This is what they do. Didn't they tell you?


Insane tax cuts for the wealthy. Delusion military ventures abroad. From the minute the Bushies took power, their biggest concern has been to break open the cash registers, empty the shelves and open the bank vaults. Stewardship is a joke to them. What we are witnessing may very well be the biggest bust-out in human history.

And if you, good citizen, are wondering where you fit into this picture, just cast your mind back to the last episode of the second season of "The Sopranos." One of the closing shots shows us David Scatino in an empty parking lot, tying some gear to the top of his car as he prepares to leave his ruined life behind him. He wanted to play poker with the big boys, so you can say he brought his troubles on himself. A majority of Americans voted for Bush in at least one of the last two elections, so you can say we brought this on ourselves. In Scatino's case, human weakness created a business opportunity for Tony Soprano. America's weakness created a business opportunity for the Republicans. With the national press at a historic low ebb, the Democratic Party flat on its back and the airwaves humming with wingnut propaganda, the pickings couldn't be any richer.

They saw their chance and they took it. That's what they are. That's what they do.

(Posted by Steven Hart, 8/2/05)

1 comment:

JasonSpalding said...

Republican Democrat --- the same thing! The war in Iraq was simple to understand! Our country needs OIL and this is a fact that you will likely agree with. Since our countries inception our country has been at war to secure that which our Nation needs. Your blog requires OIL to power it sure only 81.2% of electricity generation requires OIL and their derivatives. Currently our world has a tremendous appetite for oil. This then requires that our country insures that we have dealings with people that are controllable. When Saddam became evasive and erratic he was no longer on our list of people that we could deal with. Therefore our country had to put his add in a box. Sure it also meant that we had to put his sons 6 feet under.