The basic premise of my upcoming book Hostile Takeover is that there are no longer any lines or distinctions between Big Business and government. In Washington's corrupt, money-dominated politics, Corporate America and the American government are one and the same -- both looking to fleece the average citizen as much as possible. The book goes onto note that the only way we are going to take our government back is to stop letting both parties deny that a hostile takeover has occurred. To help end this denial, I find it helpful to show folks concrete examples of what I mean by a "hostile takeover." A new story in the Wall Street Journal today is one of those concrete examples.
Back in 2003, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce an amendment to outlaw so-called "cash balance" pension conversions whereby companies, without warning, reduce the pensions they promised workers without giving those workers a choice to stay in their old pension plan. The amendment ultimately passed the House of Representatives (though was killed in the final conference committee) over the strong objections of Corporate America, including IBM, which had been one of the biggest companies to try to shaft its workers with these kind of pension rip-off schemes.
But the amendment didn't pass without the Bush administration quite literally turning over the Treasury Department to IBM. As the Washington Post reported at the time, IBM sent around a document to congressional offices labeled "Treasury talking points" that said the Treasury Department "strongly opposes the Sanders amendment to the Transportation/Treasury appropriations bill." Treasury soon admitted that "the department had prepared" the materials, but had never actually released them to corporations to help them lobby to defeat the bill.
Now, years later, the Wall Street Journal reports that "an investigation into ties between Treasury Department officials and International Business Machines Corp. shows the Treasury worked closely with IBM on pension issues and provided information that was subsequently misused in the company's lobbying." A report demanded by Sanders from the Treasury Department's Inspector General "said a Treasury official disclosed nonpublic information to IBM and failed to report expenses paid by a lobbyist for a pension-industry trade group."
Those are shocking revelations, even for a corporate-owned administration like the one we have now. However, perhaps more shocking is the fact that the Journal also notes that "the Justice Department didn't pursue criminal or civil charges in the matters because they didn't meet the agency's 'prosecutorial threshold.'" In other words, yeah, they broke the law and illegally turned the people's government over to Big Business, but that's not worth prosecuting.
This is your government, ladies and gentlemen of America -- a government that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business. A government where an agency as powerful as the U.S. Treasury Department routinely operates like an arm of the companies such as IBM that it is supposed to be regulating. A government, in short, that is the victim of a Hostile Takeover.