Today I was driving back home from taking my grandmother to a doctor’s appointment, when National Public Radio reported a story which had me laughing out loud in my car. The story was about military tribunals and contained and odd dichomoty.
On the one hand, the Bush administration decided not to try the first indicted terrorist in a military tribunal. On the other hand, the administration was blasted by Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman precisely for that decision.
The more I think back to what happened almost a year ago, the more I think the best outcome was that the nation did not have to suffer through four years of a Lieberman vice presidency.
Lieberman has always been relatively illiberal on speech issues for a Democrat, and he now seems intent on replacing Jesse Helms as the most illiberal person in the U.S. Senate.
- The final Rasmussen poll has Bush 49, Gore 40, Nader 4.
- ABC had a feature last night on the candidates you’ve never heard of which claimed Harry Browne was on all 50 state ballots. Sorry, Charlie, he’s not on the ballot in Arizona where L. Neil Smith managed to get himself placed on the Libertarian Party ballot.
- How desperate are Democrats? In Milwaukee, Democratic activists were handing out packs of cigarettes to homeless people. On my drive to work I saw a Democratic party activist in the middle of a traffic island with huge signs informng me that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush and that a vote for Bush is a vote for racism.
- Time for the celebrity exit watch — if Bush does win today, as it appears very likely he will, I think it is important that we all band together to give Alec Baldwin a fond farewell as he makes good on his promise to leave the country if Republicans capture the White House (that promise alone almost was enough to make me cast my vote for Bush).
ADM — Socialist Supermarket to the World
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Why should the major networks have
any qualm about calling the presidential winner early when itâ€™s already
clear ADM and its CEO Dwayne Andreas are the big winners regardless of
how the race between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton turns out?
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Andreas and ADM are equal opportunity
givers. According to a Cato Institute study, ADM and its associates have
donated more than $4 million to the two major parties since the late 1970s.
In return the parties have treated ADM well, creating over $3 billion
in subsidies and special government protections according to the Cato
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Concerned Americans donâ€™t have
to go all the way to China to find whatâ€™s wrong with socialized agriculture;
ADM is a prime example funded by the United States government.
Price Fixers Extraordinaire
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Aside from their ubiquitous “Supermarket
to the World” commercials, ADM popped into the national consciousness
this summer when the Justice Department began investigating it for illegally
attempting to fix prices on several agricultural commodities, including
lysine, citric acid and high fructose corn syrup (one of the ingredients
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½At last report ADM was trying to
reach a settlement agreement on price-fixing charges by paying a fine
of up to $200 million to the government, while a federal grand jury was
expected to hand down criminal indictments against Michael Andreas, ADM
executive vice president, and Terrence Wilson, head of ADMâ€™s corn-processing
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ADMâ€™s price fixing is a textbook
study about monopoly and price fixing. Although people commonly believe
monopoly and price fixing are the result of free and unfettered competition,
in fact those thrive only where governments intervene to protect firms
from competition on the marketplace. The swirl of regulations, subsidies
and special market protection enabled ADM to attempt to fix prices.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½More importantly, though, ADM executives
must think the U.S. government is being a little schizophrenic. After
all, the legislation that ADM asks for and usually receives causes much
more harm to American consumers, and does exactly what ADM is being punished
for now — it fixes prices for consumers at far higher prices than normal
market forces would allow.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Perhaps itâ€™s time the Justice
Department conducted an anti-trust investigation of Congress!
ADM: The Mother of All Welfare Mothers
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½According to James Bovardâ€™s
excellent study, “Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate
Welfare,” published by the Cato Institute, ADM is the single largest
welfare recipient in the United States. Bovard found that 43 percent of
ADMâ€™s annual profits come from markets that simply wouldnâ€™t
exist without subsidies or protection.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Bovard estimates that regulations
and subsidies benefiting ADM cost the U.S. economy up to $40 billion from
1980 to 1995. According to Bovard, every $1 in profits to ADM from its
corn sweetener division costs U.S. consumers $10.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ADM essentially earns money the
old fashion way — through government handouts.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½In a bit of hilarious irony, in 1994
the Horatio Alger Association, which according to its materials gives
awards to “individuals in our society who have succeeded in the face
of adversity,” honored Andreas for his stellar climb from poor son
of a Menonite farmer to the hardest working leech in America. Apparently
the great American dream now includes getting Congress to set up your
very own medieval fiefdom.
Itâ€™s Raining Money
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Andreas knows how the system works
and how to profit from it. He uses a vast network of friends and business
associates to funnel millions of dollars to candidates of both parties.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½One of the major recipients of Andreasâ€™
good will has been former Republican Sen. Bob Dole. According to the Center
for Public Integrity, ADM-related donors contributed $217,800 to Dole
over his career, putting them fourth on the list of all-time career Donors
to Doleâ€™s campaigns. In addition to the out and out contributions,
ADM also contributes to Dole and Dole-related enterprises in other ways.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Both Bob and Elizabeth Dole have
used ADMâ€™s corporate jet to fly them across the country. Bob Dole
reimburses ADM for the price of a first class ticket on a commercial airline
to avoid having the use of the private jet be considered a campaign contribution,
whereas Elizabeth Dole usually uses the excuse that she was flown at the
request of one charity group or another who wanted her to speak. In one
instance, several executives tagged along with Elizabeth Dole on one of
her jaunts, but her press secretary made certain to emphasize that in
no way was ADM trying to buy access to a politically connected individual.
Perhaps ADM executives simply find Elizabeth Dole a heart conversationalist.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Itâ€™s wrong, however, to imply
this sort of graft is anything but standard operating procedure for politicians.
In fact Bill Clinton has been much more brazen than Dole.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½In June 1994 Bill Clinton received
a $100,000 check from ADM-related concerns. A few days later the Clinton
administration announced a new rule requiring gasoline sold in the 9 most
polluted cities to contain at least 30% ethanol additives by 1996. The
governmentâ€™s ethanol subsidies are little more than ADM subsidies;
the company takes in up to $2.1 billion revenues solely from ethanol and
ethanol-related subsidies and regulations. In this case, though, a federal
court blocked the proposed ethanol requirement.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Aside from Clinton and Dole, the
list of politicians who accept ADM money reads like a Whoâ€™s Who of
Washington, DC. People such as Robert Byrd, Henry Espy, Henry Hyde, Connie
Mack, Charles Robb, Arlen Specter, and others who normally disagree on
a wide range of areas all agree that whatâ€™s in ADMâ€™s interest
is in Americaâ€™s interest (not to mention politicianâ€™s financial
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½For ADM, though, the price of purchasing
politicians is downright cheap. Although corn prices are currently high
and likely to remain so for the short term, the new agricultural “reform”
bill passed by the 104th Congress and signed by Clinton will deliver guaranteed
payments of billions of dollars to agribusinesses such as ADM. Not a bad
return for a few million dollar investment.
The Solution: Get Government Out of Peopleâ€™s Lives
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½The problem with many critics of
ADM is that their solution is essentially more of the same. Magazines
such as “Mother Jones” dutifully chronicle the absurdity of
a political system that allows for corporate welfare on the scale it is
practice in the United States, but in the end call for more government
under the “right people.” Under this view, the problem is merely
that a group of ultra-rich, unenlightened and greedy people calls the
shots in Washington, DC. If only the nation would replace them with not-so-rich,
enlightened, selfless, wonderful people surely then the system would work.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½This is no more than a fairy tale.
The problem is not that the wrong people run the system; the problem is
with the system itself. A government that has the power to increase or
decrease the price of farm commodities (or any commodity for that matter)
in order to benefit some at the expense of others will inevitably be used
for precisely that purpose. The solution is not better leaders; the solution
is a better system â€“ one that does not sell our rights and livelihoods
to the highest bidders every few years.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½As long as Americans continue to
tolerate the constant intervention of the government into the economy
and into their lives, the result will continue to be the rule not of the
people by the people, but of ADM for ADM.