From New York Times bestselling authors Richard Belzer and David Wayne comes a hard look at the wrongs done to us all by big business in America.
Here is an explosive account of wrongful acts perpetrated, and the ensuing cover-ups inflicted upon us, by American corporations. The bestselling author team of Richard Belzer and David Wayne exposes the ways that the capitalist regime has got us under their thumbs—from the mainstream media and its control over us, to the trillions stolen by big banks and mortgage companies during the mortgage crisis, to the scams perpetrated by Big Oil and Big Pharma. The one common victim of all that corruption is the American public, and Corporate Conspiracies wants to do something about it.
Corporate Conspiracies takes dead aim at those who take advantage of us little guys. Probably most disturbing is the book's examination of politics and capitalism teaming up against us—how politicians and lobbyists all have their hands in each other's pockets while stabbing us in the back, and how the well-established energy lobby—including petroleum, natural gas, and coal—has played a dominant role in the shaping of US foreign policy for decades.
Did you know that companies at times know that their products will kill people, but they do nothing, because it is actually cheaper to compensate the victims than it is to correct the problem? And did you know that the Pentagon is sending $1.5 trillion of our tax dollars to their corporate buddies for a new fighter jet that is already superfluous? This book is guaranteed to make us all think twice about being enslaved and cheated by corporate America.
Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade imprint, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in historybooks about World War II, the Third Reich, Hitler and his henchmen, the JFK assassination, conspiracies, the American Civil War, the American Revolution, gladiators, Vikings, ancient Rome, medieval times, the old West, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
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About the Author
Richard Belzer is a stand-up comedian, actor, and author (with David Wayne) of the New York Times bestsellers Hit List and Dead Wrong. He splits his time between France and New York City.
David Wayne is the author of five bestselling books, including Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country's Most Controversial Cover-ups and Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination (both written with Richard Belzer). He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Read an Excerpt
BOUGHT & PAID FOR: THE BEST POLITICIANS THAT MONEY CAN BUY
America has the best politicians money can buy.
— Will Rogers
This is about a group that we call our political prostitutes — and it had to be the first chapter of the book because it is what actually allows all the other corruption in our country to exist and thrive. As US Senator Mark Hanna said, way back in 1895: "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money — and I can't remember what the second one is." Much more recently, a top Senate Democrat came right out and said that the bankers now "own" the US Congress; and, as journalist Glenn Greenwald noted, that Senator's "confession ought to be major news, yet it won't be. Why not?"
It has certainly now reached a new threat level to our republic:
Former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower told me, "They've eliminated the middleman. The corporations don't have to lobby the government anymore. They are the government." Hightower used to complain about Monsanto's lobbying the Secretary of Agriculture. Today, Monsanto executive Ann Veneman is the Secretary of Agriculture.
One would think — in a true democracy — that the ability to control events would be more in the hands of the masses in the voting booths, than in the hands of a few big power brokers. Unfortunately, events in recent years have brought us dramatically farther in the wrong direction.
The situation is clearly out of hand. As President Obama himself noted, in the home of a billionaire supporter:
"You now have the potential of two hundred people deciding who ends up being elected president, every single time."
"There are five or six people in this room tonight that could simply make a decision 'This will be the next president' and probably at least get a nomination. ... And that's not the way things are supposed to work."
Did you know that "the 100 largest corporations in the world produce $7 trillion in sales and have $10 trillion in assets"? "With this money, they control governments through lobbying and donations, fund academic research so that the 'scientific' view of the world adheres to their perspective — for example, 'There is no climate change' — and, most importantly, dominate consciousness by graffitiing our shared spaces and media with their peculiar philosophies."
President Obama was right. That is clearly not the way that the democratic process is supposed to work. But it is.
Seven billion dollars was spent on the 2012 presidential election. But, "in 2016, those data points would seem quaint by comparison."
Our political process — once the pride of our democracy — has been virtually put up for sale to the highest bidders. It is no longer a case of the richest 1 percent of Americans controlling the course of the country. That task is now accomplished by a very small group of people. And it is a situation that is now at a point where it is totally disproportionate to the best interests of our republic. If you are not concerned about that, then just get a load of this: private groups now spend more on our elections than the Democratic and Republican parties combined.
What's new, you might ask? Corrupt politicians have been around for centuries, you say? Crooked leaders are as common as salt. True. Well, how about this? This time the secret pie that the fat cats are feasting on is ridiculously huge. For example, the Wall Street bailout was over one trillion taxpayer dollars. And nobody broke up the party! These days they have been perfecting their "skill sets" to a point where it is poisoning whatever we currently have left of a free republic: "Crony capitalism is good for those on the inside. And it is lousy for everyone else. But it does provide a hybrid-powered vehicle to sustain a large base of rich campaign contributors with taxpayer money."
After the financial collapse of 2008, when it came time to pass out the goodies — over a trillion dollars of taxpayer money in the so-called bailout — it was Wall Street insiders and companies who had given large donations to Washington politicians who ended up getting the sweetest deals.
Access to TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money was not guaranteed. And the terms of the loans were unclear. There was no transparency and no openness to the process. As the economist Robert Kuttner put it, the TARP proceedings were "being done largely behind closed doors and the design is by, for, and in the interest of large banks, hedge funds, and private equity companies. Because there are no explicit criteria, it's very hard to know" if anyone got special treatment. The entire process, he said, reeks of favoritism and special treatment.
The same thing happened with the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" of the Obama administration. Billions of dollars' worth of loans, grants, and loan guarantees were passed around — but it was largely wealthy campaign contributors who reaped the most direct benefits! These programs should be renamed with a more honest title, such as "No Billionaire Left Behind":
The game of funneling taxpayer money to friends has exploded to astonishing levels in recent years. Now that annual federal outlays exceed $3 trillion, there are extraordinary opportunities to get a piece of the action. Government checks routinely find their way to very wealthy Americans. Convincing the public that billionaires need the money can, needless to say, be tricky. But if a government check somehow serves the "public interest," it can become part of a larger program and might escape scrutiny.
Billions of taxpayer dollars funneled to the corporate interests of very wealthy campaign contributors: payback. "As a jobs program — the stated purpose — these billions in grants and loans were a failure. But as a method for transferring billions in taxpayer funds to friends, cronies, and supporters, they worked perfectly." It's basically a "can't miss" situation — if you happen to be a billionaire. And it amounts to a legalized system of theft:
Imagine for a minute that you are a corporate executive and you start using your company's assets to "invest" in projects that in turn benefit you directly. What would happen? You would be risking possible criminal charges for the misuse of those assets. But if it's taxpayer money? Suddenly it becomes legal. Even acceptable. And for the billionaire who is looking to get a big return on his investment, there are few returns that can be higher than those resulting from campaign contributions. After all, how else can you turn half a million dollars from yourself and your friends into hundreds of millions of dollars after a single election?
That mention of half a million dollars, above, is in reference to a venture capitalist, Steve Westly, who brought in contributions to the Obama campaign in the amount of approximately half a million dollars. Westly sat on the board of directors for Tesla Motors and his venture capital firm had a big stake in Tesla. Now, we happen to like electric cars — but get a load of this. This is an example of how the political process actually works. After Obama came into office, many of his major campaign contributors were on the boards of companies and had major financial interests in corporations that were on the receiving end of huge grants and loans, under very beneficial terms. One of those was Tesla, which received $465 million in government loans. That money — taxpayer money — made the IPO (Initial Public Offering of stock in the company) of Tesla possible. Their IPO was very successful, and made their big investors infinitely richer. Mr. Westly's firm had 2.5 million Tesla shares and he personally has an undisclosed amount of the company's shares on top of that. (Also, you would think that he would have to disclose the number of those shares, but since he is not technically a federal employee, he is apparently exempt from disclosure laws.) He and other big investors made millions, as a result. Then, the Obama administration announced its plan to offer a rebate to boost electric car sales, and Tesla shares shot up an additional 6 percent. The potential conflict of interest has been widely noted; at the same time that his companies have benefited directly, Mr. Westly has had the close attention of and special access to the Energy Secretary who, obviously, is a key decision-maker in the process of giving out those funds. "Companies in The Westly Group portfolio have benefited from more than half a billion dollars in loans, grants or stimulus money from the Energy Department. ... Relatively few companies succeed in winning such benefits."
As we wrote this book, Tesla Motors has risen to a stock market value of over thirty billion dollars. And yes, we know — you could make the argument that it all created a great company, in a great business. But how were they created and who benefited the most? They were made great with the help of taxpayer dollars. So you could also argue — successfully, we believe — that the American taxpayers, who provided that relief, were not the beneficiaries of the positive results. The average American has not benefited from Tesla's success, nor does the average American have $100,000 to go out and buy a new Tesla. Their millionaire shareholder investors were clearly the big beneficiaries of that taxpayer assistance. Fat cat investors made fortunes from taxpayer-provided relief. And that's just plain wrong.
But the Energy Department was small potatoes compared to what was going on over at the Treasury Department. Over at Treasury, the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington was reaping rewards beyond the wildest dreams of most business people.
Goldman Sachs had a direct line to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen, its former managing partner, as well as incoming officials in the Obama administration.
As you will see below, as well as in the following chapter on Wall Street, banking firms like Goldman Sachs now play far too large a role in our election and governing processes. As Glenn Greenwald observed:
Nobody even tries to hide this any longer. The only way they could make it more blatant is if they hung a huge Goldman Sachs logo on the Capitol dome and then branded it onto the foreheads of leading members of Congress and executive branch officials. Of course, ownership of the government is not confined to Goldman or even to bankers generally; legislation in virtually every area is written by the lobbyists dispatched by the corporations that demand it, and its passage then ensured by "representatives" whose pockets are stuffed with money from those same corporations.
As people have said before, these damn politicians should be forced to wear patches of their corporate sponsors on their jackets just like NASCAR drivers do. Then we'd know who the bastards are actually working for. Because it sure as hell isn't us. They have sold out to their corporate masters long, long ago. The only question now is which companies are they working for? Care for examples? There are literally thousands of them.
Remember US House of Representatives Minority Leader, Richard Gephardt? Gephardt's congressional district was centered around St. Louis, Missouri, the home of the huge defense contractor, McDonnell-Douglas. Back in 1996, Gephardt lobbied hard for McDonnell-Douglas, which was hoping to get awarded the hugely lucrative Pentagon contract for its new Joint Strike Fighter plane. Gephardt used his influence, vehemently explaining to the Defense Department that this was a program our country truly needed, that the new Joint Strike Fighter was an "affordable solution to our future strike warfighting needs." But instead of McDonnell-Douglas, the Pentagon awarded the contract to Boeing and Lockheed corporations. How did Gephardt react? The very next day Gephardt withdrew his support for the entire program. Because, apparently, his dramatic concern about our need for the plane was actually based on the desires of his biggest corporate sponsor. That's how it all works, in reality.
And here's another little gem for you.
This example is another one of our favorites: the B-1 bomber. Would you like to know how Boeing Corporation made sure that they had a way to threaten every single member of the US House of Representatives? They came up with a very devious method. It was brilliant. Actually, diabolical would be a more appropriate word. What they did was ensure that the B-1 program was practically invulnerable to attack because it had some of its many parts made in every single one of the country's 435 congressional districts. So it didn't really matter that the B-1 bomber was a ridiculously expensive and unnecessary addition to our forces. What mattered, at the nuts-and-bolts level of the American political system, was that if the program didn't continue, jobs would be lost. They could argue that cancellation of the B-1 program would devastate American labor all over the place. Or, they could bully a congressional representative by even suggesting that they were planning to take those jobs out of his or her district and move them somewhere else. That's the way that the ugly game of corporate politics is played.
These groups have all been in bed with each other for so long that they don't even seem to realize that it's an incestuous relationship. "As the New York Times reported in February 2011, senior Pentagon officials began meeting in secret with investment advisers in New York to give them information regarding defense-related companies." Isn't that outrageous? What the hell do they think they're doing? That's obscene! Further, on the same meetings: "The message was direct: even with defense cutbacks on the horizon, 'the Pentagon is going to make sure the military industry remains profitable.'"
It's reached the point where these people really don't seem to even care anymore about the obvious appearances of conflict of interest. In October 2010, the Deputy Defense Secretary, William J. Lynn, met with a large group of Wall Street stock analysts. According to the New York Times, he laid out the Pentagon's plans "in astonishing detail." And guess what happened as a result? "The Big Five defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, and Boeing — all saw their stocks rise shortly after that October meeting." So tell us, plain and simple, because we have a very direct question: Who exactly is working for whom here?
Corporations have always used the political system to gain advantages, but recently companies have been using politicians to pave their corporate interests to the extreme. And the concept of fairness has got nothin' to do with it, folks. If the bastards think that they can get away with it, they will try. That has been proven to us time and again. "The political success of the income tax always rested upon a broad sense that it was fair, but ... major companies like Boeing, Dow, and General Electric were not only paying no taxes, but actually receiving net benefits through the tax code." There is a well-documented recent history of top Congressional leaders receiving bundles of cash contributions from big oil and gas corporations and then suddenly deciding to "push bills for fossil fuel industry" projects.
Many Americans still tend to believe that Big Business is generally "Republican" as far as their politics goes. Nothing could be further from the truth. They'll buy anybody! They can and do and, in fact, they already have.
Corporate America's effort to mold both political parties to do its bidding was increasingly successful as politicians needed ever more contributions to buy the television ads that got them reelected. Politicians insisted that no one bought their vote with their donation and that was true.
But it was only true on a technical level. It just gave them plausible deniability that they hadn't sold their vote to the corporations. Realistically, everybody in Washington knew what it meant. "But what donations did buy, every politician acknowledged, was access. That access meant that every senator and representative was listening primarily to the concerns and ideas of the super rich, of the political donor class."
If you don't think that the American political process has been totally corrupted by the wealthiest Americans, then just pay close attention to the following sentence. Two individuals — the extremely conservative, multibillionaire Koch Brothers, who are the damn poster boys for the richest 1% who own this country now — spend as much on a presidential election as the entire Democratic Party or Republican Party (which, historically, have been the two major forces in every election); and that comparison, by the way, also includes "the party's two congressional campaign committees." The Koch Brothers budget for the 2016 presidential election is actually far greater than either political party spent on all their elections of 2012.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Corporate Conspiracies"
Copyright © 2017 Richard Belzer and David Wayne.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Bought & Paid For: The Best Politicians That Money Can Buy
Chapter 2: No Banker Left Behind: Too Big to Fail, Or JailorWhere $30 Trillion Went (and It Sure in Hell Wasn't to You!)
Chapter 3: Mainstream Media Consolidation for Control (of You!)
Chapter 4: America's Biggest Export: Perpetual War
Chapter 5: Legalized Slavery: The Prison–Industrial Complex
Chapter 6: Big Pharma: "Side Effects" (such as Robin Williams' Suicide) May Vary
Chapter 7: Chemical Warfare: The Agri-Chem Giants' Assault Upon Our Food & Health
Chapter 8: Big Oil, King Coal & (Un)Natural Gas: Still the Scum of the Earthand Frack You!
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Corporate Conspiracies
“Belzer and Wayne have given us a sobering chronicle of the world’s model democracy’s tragic devolution to corporate kleptocracy.”
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR., New York Times bestselling author, Framed
“If you think corporate America is out to kill you, there’s good newsyou’re not crazy. As Richard Belzer and David Wayne explain, by putting profits ahead of people, corporations and banks are killing us with their products, pollution, and plunder.”
DAVID TALBOT, New York Times bestselling author, The Devil’s Chessboard
“ This book gets right down to the nitty-gritty about how our democracy has been hijacked by corporate interests that have taken over ‘the best politicians that money can buy.’ Read it and be amazed at the extent of corruption.”
GOV. JESSE VENTURA, former governor of Minnesota and New York Times bestselling author
“ America has lost its mind and Belzer and Wayne have found it. Here are hard-core stories of America selling its soul and democracy that have you saying ‘Holy shit!’ every time you turn to a new page. Worth the price just for the tragic story of Robin Williams’s Big Pharma–induced suicide. Burns into you like a fucking tattoo.”
GREG PALAST, New York Times bestselling author, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
“Get your hands on Corporate Conspiracies , read its succinct and extremely well-sourced and highly corroborated evidence, and finish with a substantial basis for your views, one that may knock you off your feet. This book is the real deal, and there isn’t a wasted word in it. Its timing is frightening, its messages urgent. Run, don’t walk, to get your hands on a copy. ”
WILLIAM J. MARTIN, former Chicago assistant state’s attorney and author of The Crime of the Century
“ Corporate Conspiracies is a very timely and disturbing look at how controlled American society has become, with the average citizen completely unaware of the extent to which corporations have taken over our democracy. Big Brother is not only watching youhe is making decisions for you! You will never look at Wall Street, the corporate matrix, or ‘your’ government the same way again after reading this book.”
VINCE PALAMARA, author of Survivor’s Guilt , JFK , and The Not-So-Secret Service
“ Insightful, poignant, and timely, Corporate Conspiracies is a must-read for all who are concerned about the future of democracy and economic justice in our nation at a time of corporate greed and political chicanery.”
ARTHUR BLAUSTEIN, author of Make a Difference , former chair of the National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity
“ Corporate Conspiracies reveals what happens when conspiracy theory becomes conspiracy fact. Authors Belzer and Wayne tell us what we the people can do to get our democracy back. The need for this remarkable, meticulously researched volume has never been greater or more urgent. Start reading it now. ”
ALAN AXELROD, author of Full Faith and Credit
“ Belzer and Wayne document the demise of our representative form of government. Ever since we legalized the bribery of our public officials and the equating of money to free speech, we have become captive to what I believe is a form of economic slavery.”
LEN COLODNY, New York Times bestselling coauthor, Silent Coup and The Forty Years War
“It is obvious that throughout Richard Belzer’s acting and comedy career, he remained a voracious reader and close observer of the corruption and decline of the American democracy. Corporate Conspiracies is a useful and timely guidebook for those engaged in the battle to reclaim our government from the clutches of runaway corporate power.”
ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK, author of The Gilded Rage
“Richard Belzer and David Wayne have raised some very provocative questions about the influence of corporate money on governmentfrom banks to the media and on to energy companies and everything in between. Though you may not agree with the answers, it never hurts to have your preconceptions challenged, and the authors have done just that. ”
MIKE FARRIS, attorney, author of A Death in the Islands: The Unwritten Law and the Last Trial of Clarence Darrow
“Belzer and Wayne provide a tough, candid view of the powers-that-be in the United States and the harsh impact of their manipulative actions on our lives. This no-holds-barred analysis tells us how things are rather than how we would prefer them to be. ”
––J. MALCOLM GARCIA, author, What Wars Leave Behind: The Faceless and the Forgotten
“Belzer and Wayne authoritatively cite how corporations drive us to war, corrupt the election process, despoil the environment and our bodies and, tragically, more. This is an essential guide for restoring democracy in the United States. ”
BRAD SCHREIBER, author, Revolution’s End: The Patty Hearst Kidnapping, Mind Control, and the Secret History of Donald DeFreeze and the SLA
“ Reading Corporate Conspiracies made me angry. It made me think. It also told me how we can all regain control over our fate as a nation. Richard Belzer and David Wayne show us that corporate conspiracy is real and hidden in plain sight.”
William Matson Law, author of In the Eye of History: Disclosures in the JFK Assassination Medical Evidence