Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Second Income Tax

Insurance has become a de facto second income tax

One of the reasons people haven’t got much money anymore is probably due to the fact that the insurance mafia takes more and more of it all the time.
Using the government as its muscle.

First car, now “health.”

Soon, no doubt, mandatory life insurance will be required as well.

Insurance has become a de facto second income tax. Except instead of paying the government mafia, we’re forced by the government to pay the insurance mafia.

In economics, this is called rent seeking.

So-called “private” (and inevitably, for-profit) businesses make money the new-fashioned way, by seeing to it that laws are passed requiring the populace to purchase its products or services. So much easier (and so much more profitable) than the old-fashioned way of having to persuade people to freely purchase what you have to offer.

Imagine the Hamburger Lobby ( a consortium of McDonalds, Wendys and Burger King) got Congress to pass a law requiring the purchase of at least one hamburger a week from the “provider” of your choice. Would you expect the price of a hamburger to go up – or down? Probably the only reason there isn’t a mandate to buy hamburgers (yet) is because the Hamburger Lobby hasn’t figured out a way to frame such extortion in terms of a “public good.”

Give them time.

Meanwhile, insurance costs continue to skyrocket – precisely because we’re not permitted to say no.

How much is the average person paying out to be “covered”? (Which, by the way, is not the same thing as actually getting anything, in the event you file a claim.)

At-gunpoint car insurance costs in the neighborhood of $1,300-$1,500 a year for most people (see here) or about $120 a month.

How about health insurance? It’s currently about $250-$350 month for a very basic (and basically worthless) Obamacare policy for a single (healthy) young adult (see here). This works out to about $3,000-$4,200 annually. You will be (forced) to pay much more if you are older – or have a family. Just as you will be forced to pay more for car “coverage” if the mafia’s enforcers select you for a roadside “tune-up” (i.e., give you a ticket for the manufactured, victim-free offense of driving faster than they like), the fact that you’ve never filed a claim – or had one filed against you – being immaterial.

But, let’s call it $600 a month – a very conservative figure – to be “covered” for car and health insurance.

Grab your pay stub. Have a look at federal and state tax withholding. Odds are you are paying less to the federal and state mafia (er, government) than you are to the insurance mafia.

If not, you will be.

Obamacare costs are skyrocketing, in some cases by 30-40 percent. So is car insurance – in part because the government keeps mandating expensive new “safety” features that cost a small fortune to fix when the car is in an accident.

This is what happens when there’s no saying no.

Street muggers aren’t going to leave you a $20 in your wallet. They’re going to take everything. Why? Because they have the power to do so.

So does the insurance mafia. Expect the same, accordingly.

Car insurance is arguably even worse than health insurance. Among other things, you’re forced to buy multiple policies if you have more than one vehicle – even though it’s not physically possible to drive more than one of them at a time. And you’re usually required to maintain “coverage” even if the car never moves. Which is like being forced to buy health “coverage” for a mannequin, when there is no possibility of it even catching the sniffles.

The fact is that as much as we’re bled white by the tag team of fiat currency and government filching through whatever’s left in our pockets, it’s the growing burden of insurance-at-gunpoint that’s eventually going to leave us all living in a van down by the river.

To really get a handle on just how much they mulct from us, look at the numbers from a different angle.

What if you simply put the money you were forced to pay the insurance mafia into an interest-bearing account (or better yet, a mutual fund) with the principle and interest accrued remaining your property unless you actually caused damage to someone else’s person or property – in which case, the funds would be used to compensate the person for his loss?

Take the low figure of $1,300 annually. Over just ten years’ time, you’d have a principle of $13,000. But the miracle of compounding interest would increase that sum considerably. Invested conservatively, as in a mutual fund, that $13,000 would probably be $20,000 after ten years’ time. And after another ten years, that $20,000 might be $35,000.

This is not chump change. But what about “what if”?

How many of you have ever caused $35,000 (or even $10,000) in damages to anyone? It is much more likely that you won’t have an accident … which of course is why insurance is profitable.

It would still be so if the operation were run on a free market rather than a gangster basis.

Just less so.

Insurance issuers (as opposed to a mafia) would need to earn your business. By offering you a policy that seemed like a good buy. The ability to say no would impose the same positive pressure on insurers that the same market forces impose on McDonalds and Wendys.

They have to convince you to buy their burgers – because they can’t force you to buy them.

Nevertheless, they still manage to make billions of dollars – without resorting to mafiosi tactics.

And without bankrupting us.

Why can’t insurance work the same way?

Probably, because that would work for us.

A Crushed Generation: Photography under Siege in Gaza

A Gaza mother and daughter at the Rafah border crossing. (Johnny Barber, PC, file) Courtesy Palestine Chronicle
Life in Gaza became impossible, to the extent that the UN Conference on Trade and Development released a report last September warning that Gaza could become ‘uninhabitable’ in less than five years, if current economic trends continue.

By Ramzy Baroud
Taghreed has never been outside Gaza. Her family were exiled to the impoverished Gaza Strip when Palestine was ethnically cleansed, to make room for the state of Israel in 1948.
She was born in Gaza City 30 years ago, where she dreamed of a world beyond the confines of sand, water and barbed wires. However, these dreams were to no avail. When the Al Aqsa Uprising began in 2000, Gaza was blockaded by the Israeli army on the ground as its navy patrolled the horizon. The Egyptian side of the border-crossing with Rafah was intermittently shut down. Then, Taghreed was only 15 years of age.
Gazans feed on hope and little else. Taghreed, too, learned to digest a daily dosage of hope, always telling herself that ‘tomorrow will be better.’
Then, Hamas won the elections in 2006, and soon after, the Gaza siege became progressively worse. Between 2008 and the present, Gaza was subjected to three wars that killed over 4,000 people, and wounded and maimed thousands more. Hundreds were killed during the ‘lull’ years, and more perished when Gaza hospitals faced the dismal reality of lack of medical supplies and no space.
But the physiological impact of the siege – the idea that one is perpetually trapped in a tiny stretch of land not more than 360 square kilometers in size, chased by snipers, and occasionally blown up by fighter jets – is crushing. Even Gaza’s fishermen who venture beyond few nautical miles are an open target for gunboats, from Israel and, recently, the Egyptian army.
When Egypt decided to open the Rafah border crossing (which separates it from Gaza) for two days on December 3rd and 4th, a sense of guarded relief was felt in the impoverished Strip. True, 48 hours were hardly enough for the tens of thousands of patients, students and other travelers to leave or return to Gaza, but the idea that a respite was on its way helped to break, albeit slightly, the sense of collective captivity felt by Palestinians.
When the border shut down again on Saturday, December 5th, only 1,148 people were allowed to leave, and 561 Palestinians who remained trapped in Egypt, were allowed back home. Over 23,000 Palestinians in the Strip, who were either in urgent need of medical attention, needed to cross to their universities, needed to be reunited with their families somewhere in the world, remained trapped.
Excluding the recent two-day opening of the border, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the Rafah border was only partially open for 37 days throughout 2015. Moreover, its closure has included the shutting down of humanitarian assistance.
To cope with her confinement, Taghreed bought a camera, itself smuggled from one of the tunnels snaking underground between Gaza and Egypt. She walked the dusty streets of Gaza and began snapping endless photos. Photography allowed her to freeze certain moments in time, and escape, albeit temporarily, the physical confinement and limitations of her existence.
Last year, most of the tunnels in Gaza were either blown up or flooded. Unsurprising, for many, including Taghreed, the result of having virtually no access to the hope of simple treasures, like a camera, has resulted in depression. In fact, depression in Gaza is now endemic, to the point that such headlines as “War-ravaged Gaza Strip haunted by depression, drug addiction and suicide,” are hauntingly familiar. According to a study by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP), “30% of Palestinian children have developed PTSD.”
As has been the Palestinian reality for decades, things have worsened since then. The 2014 war was most destructive, and the 2015 closure of the Rafah border is the worst on record.
Palestinians speak angrily of an Israeli siege – a reality that cannot be countered by all the official Israeli hasbara and media distortions. However, the Egyptian closure of the Rafah border crossing, which has contributed to the siege is rarely discussed as a political decision first and foremost.
In a border-related agreement that was reportedly signed mid-November between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt’s Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, both sides seemed genial and unperturbed about the tragedy bubbling up north of the Egyptian border.
The ‘activities’ near Rafah were intended to “secure the border,” Sisi told Abbas,according to a statement issued by the Egyptian President’s office. These activities “could never be meant to harm the Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip.”
The term ‘activities’ here is, of course, a reference to the demolishing of thousands of homes alongside the 12-kilometer border between Rafah in Gaza and Egypt This, in addition to the destruction and flooding of hundreds of tunnels, which have served as Gaza’s main lifeline that sustained the Strip throughout the Israeli siege during most of the last decade.
Last year, in an interview with Egypt’s ‘Al-Akbar’ newspaper, Abbas said that the destruction of the tunnels was the best solution to prevent Gazans from using the smuggling business for their own benefits. He then spoke about 1,800 Gazans becoming millionaires as a result of the tunnel trade, although no corroboration for this specific number was ever divulged.
Of course, Abbas has rarely been concerned about the rising fortunes of the alleged ‘millionaires’, because his Authority, which subsists on international handouts, is rife with them. His grievance is with Hamas, which has been regulating tunnel trade and taxing merchants for the goods they import into the Strip. Not only were the tunnels a lifeline for Gaza’s economy, the underground business helped fill a void in Hamas’ own budget, a fact that has annoyed Abbas for years.
Following Hamas’ election victory in January 2006 and the bloody clash between the new Government and Abbas’s Fatah faction, Hamas has experienced immense pressure: Israel launched three massive and deadly wars, while maintaining a strict siege; Egypt ensured the near permanent closure of its border, and Abbas continued to pay the salaries for tens of thousands of his supporters in Gaza, on the condition that they did not join the Hamas Government.
Moreover, the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, the turmoil in Egypt and the war in Syria, in particular, lessened Hamas’ chances of escaping the financial stranglehold that made governing Gaza, broken by war and fatigued by the siege, nearly unviable.
Life in Gaza became impossible, to the extent that the UN Conference on Trade and Development released a report last September warning that Gaza could become ‘uninhabitable in less than five years, if current economic trends continue.
But these economic trends are the result of intentional policies, mostly centered on achieving political ends. Moreover, none of these ends have been achieved after nearly a decade of experimentation. True, many have died as they waited to receive proper medical care and thousands perished in war; many of the maimed cannot acquire the basic necessity of wheelchairs, let alone prosthetics, but Israel has not managed to stop the Resistance, Egypt has quelled the rebellion in Sinai nor has Abbas regained his lost factional stronghold.
And, things are getting much worse for Gaza. The World Bank issued a report earlier this year stating that 43% of Gaza’s population are unemployed, and that unemployment among the youth has reached 60%. According to the report, these unemployment figures are the highest in the world.
When Taghreed goes on her photography spree in Gaza City, she wears her favorite black dress and checkered headscarf. She is captivated by old people for, unlike the young, frustrated by their confinement and yet unable to channel their anger and energy, the old just set outside their homes and gaze at the passerby. They watch their misery unfold, as they have for decades. This time however, their hardship is not only the work of Israel, but that of their Arab ‘brothers’ as well.

Originally appeared at Palestine Chronicle
Ramzy Baroud – Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is:

58 Facts About The U.S. Economy From 2015 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

By Michael Snyder
58The world didn’t completely fall apart in 2015, but it is undeniable that an immense amount of damage was done to the U.S. economy.  This year the middle class continued to deteriorate, more Americans than ever found themselves living in poverty, and the debt bubble that we are living in expanded to absolutely ridiculous proportions.  Toward the end of the year, a new global financial crisis erupted, and it threatens to completely spiral out of control as we enter 2016.  Over the past six months, I have been repeatedly stressing to my readers that so many of the exact same patterns that immediately preceded the financial crisis of 2008 are happening once again, and trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has already been wiped out globally.  Some of the largest economies on the entire planet such as Braziland Canada have already plunged into deep recessions, and just about every leading indicator that you can think of is screaming that the U.S. is heading into one.  So don’t be fooled by all the happy talk coming from Barack Obama and the mainstream media.  When you look at the cold, hard numbers, they tell a completely different story.  The following are 58 facts about the U.S. economy from 2015 that are almost too crazy to believe…
#1 These days, most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.  At this point 62 percent of all Americans have less than 1,000 dollars in their savings accounts, and 21 percent of all Americans do not have a savings account at all.
#2 The lack of saving is especially dramatic when you look at Americans under the age of 55.  Incredibly, fewer than 10 percent of all Millennials and only about 16 percent of those that belong to Generation X have 10,000 dollars or more saved up.
#3 It has been estimated that 43 percent of all American households spend more money than they make each month.
#4 For the first time ever, middle class Americans now make up a minority of the population. But back in 1971, 61 percent of all Americans lived in middle class households.
#5 According to the Pew Research Center, the median income of middle class households declined by 4 percent from 2000 to 2014.
#6 The Pew Research Center has also found that median wealth for middle class households dropped by an astounding 28 percent between 2001 and 2013.
#7 In 1970, the middle class took home approximately 62 percent of all income. Today, that number has plummeted to just 43 percent.
#8 There are still 900,000 fewer middle class jobs in America than there were when the last recession began, but our population has gotten significantly larger since that time.
#9 According to the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
#10 For the poorest 20 percent of all Americans, median household wealth declined from negative 905 dollars in 2000 to negative 6,029 dollars in 2011.
#11 A recent nationwide survey discovered that 48 percent of all U.S. adults under the age of 30 believe that “the American Dream is dead”.
#12 Since hitting a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004, the rate of homeownership in the United States has been steadily declining every single year.
#13 At this point, the U.S. only ranks 19th in the world when it comes to median wealth per adult.
#14 Traditionally, entrepreneurship has been one of the primary engines that has fueled the growth of the middle class in the United States, but today the level of entrepreneurship in this country is sitting at an all-time low.
#15 For each of the past six years, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened.  Prior to 2008, this had never happened before in all of U.S. history.
#16 If you can believe it, the 20 wealthiest people in this country now have more money than the poorest 152 million Americans combined.
#17 The top 0.1 percent of all American families have about as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of all American families combined.
#18 If you have no debt and you also have ten dollars in your pocket, that gives you a greater net worth than about 25 percent of all Americans.
#19 The number of Americans that are living in concentrated areas of high povertyhas doubled since the year 2000.
#20 An astounding 48.8 percent of all 25-year-old Americans still live at home with their parents.
#21 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month, and nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty right now.
#22 In 2007, about one out of every eight children in America was on food stamps. Today, that number is one out of every five.
#23 According to Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, the authors of a new book entitled “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America“, there are 1.5 million “ultrapoor” households in the United States that live on less than two dollars a day. That number has doubled since 1996.
#24 46 million Americans use food banks each year, and lines start forming at some U.S. food banks as early as 6:30 in the morning because people want to get something before the food supplies run out.
#25 The number of homeless children in the U.S. has increased by 60 percentover the past six years.
#26 According to Poverty USA, 1.6 million American children slept in a homeless shelter or some other form of emergency housing last year.
#27 Police in New York City have identified 80 separate homeless encampments in the city, and the homeless crisis there has gotten so bad that it is being described as an “epidemic”.
#28 If you can believe it, more than half of all students in our public schools are poor enough to qualify for school lunch subsidies.
#29 According to a Census Bureau report that was released a while back, 65 percent of all children in the U.S. are living in a home that receives some form of aid from the federal government.
#30 According to a report that was published by UNICEF, almost one-third of all children in this country “live in households with an income below 60 percent of the national median income”.
#31 When it comes to child poverty, the United States ranks 36th out of the 41 “wealthy nations” that UNICEF looked at.
#32 An astounding 45 percent of all African-American children in the United States live in areas of “concentrated poverty”.
#33 40.9 percent of all children in the United States that are being raised by a single parent are living in poverty.
#34 There are 7.9 million working age Americans that are “officially unemployed” right now and another 94.4 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”.  When you add those two numbers together, you get a grand total of 102.3 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.
#35 According to a recent Pew survey, approximately 70 percent of all Americans believe that “debt is a necessity in their lives”.
#36 53 percent of all Americans do not even have a minimum three-day supply of nonperishable food and water at home.
#37 According to John Williams of, if the U.S. government was actually using honest numbers the unemployment rate in this nation would be 22.9 percent.
#38 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, only about 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.
#39 The labor force participation rate for men has plunged to the lowest level ever recorded.
#40 Wholesale sales in the U.S. have fallen to the lowest level since the last recession.
#41 The inventory to sales ratio has risen to the highest level since the last recession.  This means that there is a whole lot of unsold inventory that is just sitting around out there and not selling.
#42 The ISM manufacturing index has fallen for five months in a row.
#43 Orders for “core” durable goods have fallen for ten months in a row.
#44 Since March, the amount of stuff being shipped by truck, rail and air inside the United States has been falling every single month on a year over year basis.
#45 Wal-Mart is projecting that its earnings may fall by as much as 12 percentduring the next fiscal year.
#46 The Business Roundtable’s forecast for business investment in 2016 has dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession.
#47 Corporate debt defaults have risen to the highest level that we have seensince the last recession.  This is a huge problem because corporate debt in the U.S. has approximately doubled since just before the last financial crisis.
#48 Holiday sales have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.
#49 The velocity of money in the United States has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  Not even during the depths of the last recession was it ever this low.
#50 Barack Obama promised that his program would result in a decline in health insurance premiums by as much as $2,500 per family, but in reality average family premiums have increased by a total of $4,865 since 2008.
#51 Today, the average U.S. household that has at least one credit card has approximately $15,950 in credit card debt.
#52 The number of auto loans that exceed 72 months has hit at an all-time high of 29.5 percent.
#53 According to Dr. Housing Bubble, there have been “nearly 8 million homes lost to foreclosure since the homeownership rate peaked in 2004?.
#54 One very disturbing study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either currently have medical bill problems or are paying off medical debt.  And collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from about 30 million of us each and every year.
#55 The total amount of student loan debt in the United States has risen to a whopping 1.2 trillion dollars.  If you can believe it, that total has more than doubled over the past decade.
#56 Right now, there are approximately 40 million Americans that are paying off student loan debt.  For many of them, they will keep making payments on this debt until they are senior citizens.
#57 When you do the math, the federal government is stealing more than 100 million dollars from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day.
#58 An astounding 8.16 trillion dollars has already been added to the U.S. national debt while Barack Obama has been in the White House.  That means that it is already guaranteed that we will add an average of more than a trillion dollars a year to the debt during his presidency, and we still have more than a year left to go.
What we have seen so far is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg.  About six months ago, I stated that “our problems will only be just beginning as we enter 2016?, and I stand by that prediction.
We are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is beginning to accelerate once again.  Our economic infrastructure has been gutted, our middle class is being destroyed, Wall Street has been transformed into the biggest casino in the history of the planet, and our reckless politicians have piled up the biggest mountain of debt the world has ever seen.
Anyone that believes that everything is “perfectly fine” and that we are going to come out of this “stronger than ever” is just being delusional.  This generation was handed the keys to the finest economic machine of all time, and we wrecked it.  Decades of incredibly foolish decisions have culminated in a crisis that is now reaching a crescendo, and this nation is in for a shaking unlike anything that it has ever seen before.
So enjoy the rest of 2015 while you still can.
2016 is almost here, and it is going to be quite a year…

Greece gets one billion euros in third bailout

Two other rescues since 2010 worth a combined 240 billion euros, plus a private-sector debt writedown of more than 100 billion, had failed to stabilise the economy as Athens struggled to implement the austerity measures demanded in return for fresh funding. (AP File Photo) 

Greece’s international creditors this week handed over a payment of one billion euros under the terms of its third bailout programme after Athens met their demands for further tough economic reforms.
The European Stability Mechanism, the 19-nation eurozone’s bailout fund, said the funds will help Athens repay debt, balance the budget and finance projects.
“With the disbursement of one billion euros, the ESM is supporting the Greek government in its reform process,” ESM head Klaus Regling said in a statement.
“The reforms cover a wide array of policy fields that are important to modernise the Greek economy,” he said.
The Greek government had earlier this month established a privatisation fund and planned to sell a major stake in electricity distributor Admie, the latest reforms sought.
The creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the ESM - finalised a third Greek debt rescue programme in August worth 86 billion euros ($94 billion) after Greece looked to be on the brink of crashing out of the eurozone.
Two other rescues since 2010 worth a combined 240 billion euros, plus a private-sector debt writedown of more than 100 billion, had failed to stabilise the economy as Athens struggled to implement the austerity measures demanded in return for fresh funding.
Left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reluctantly accepted the third debt programme but insists Greece’s debt mountain - amounting to nearly twice annual economic output - must be cut if the country is ever to stand on its own feet again.
This has divided the creditors, with the IMF saying the debt can never realistically be repaid and must be cut sharply to avoid another disaster while the Commission, the ECB and ESM say it must first adopt the reforms they say are essential to avoid any repeat.
Regling reiterated that the debt can only be addressed if Greece continues to live up to its commitments on reform.


The Big Short: “Every American Should See This Movie & Be F##king Pissed Off”

by Jim Quinn

“The truth is like poetry, and most people fucking hate poetry.”
The Big Short opens nationwide today. But it happened to have one showing last night at a theater near me. My youngest son and I hopped in the car and went to see it. I loved the book by Michael Lewis. The cast assembled for the movie was top notch, but having the director of Anchorman and Talledaga Nights handle a subject matter like high finance seemed odd.
The choice of Adam McKay as director turned out to be brilliant. The question was how do you make a movie about the housing market, mortgage backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, collateralized debt swaps, and synthetic CDOs interesting for the average person. He succeeded beyond all expectations.
Interweaving pop culture icons, music, symbols of materialism, and unforgettable characters, McKay has created amasterpiece about the greed, stupidity, hubris, and arrogance of Wall Street bankers gone wild. He captures the idiocy and complete capture of the rating agencies (S&P, Moodys). He reveals the ineptitude and dysfunction of the SEC, where the goal of these regulators was to get a high paying job with banks they were supposed to regulate. Heskewers the faux financial journalists at the Wall Street Journal who didn’t want to rock the boat with the truth about the greatest fraud ever committed.
What makes the movie great are the characters, their motivations, their frustrations, their anger at a warped demented system, and ultimately their hollow victory when the entire edifice of fraud came crashing down on the heads of honest hard working Americans. The movie does not glorify the men that ended up making billions from the demise of the housing bubble. But it clearly defines the real bad guys.
Steve Carell plays Mark Baum (based on the real life character Steve Eisman). He’s the kind of prick who would fit in perfectly on TBP. He is abrasively hysterical with his foul mouthed commentary and insults to authority. He is the heart and soul of the movie. You feel his pain throughout. Carrell should win an Academy Award for his performance.
Christian Bale’s quirky performance as one eyed Dr. Michael Burry, whose Asberger’s Syndrome actually allowed him to focus on the minutia and discover the fraud before everyone else, is top notch. Ryan Goseling is hysterical in his role as the narrator of the story. Brad Pitt plays a supporting role, but does it with his usual class.
Ultimately, it is a highly entertaining movie with the right moral overtone, despite non-stop profanity that captures the true nature of Wall Street traders. This is a dangerous movie for Wall Street, the government, and the establishment in general. They count on the complexity of Wall Street to confuse the average person and make their eyes glaze over. That makes it easier for them to keep committing fraud and harvesting the nation’s wealth.
This movie cuts through the crap and reveals those in power to be corrupt, greedy weasels who aren’t really as smart as they want you to think they are. The finale of the movie is sobering and infuriating. After unequivocally proving that Wall Street bankers, aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve, Congress, the SEC, and the mainstream media, destroyed the global financial system, put tens of millions out of work, got six million people tossed from their homes, and created the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the filmmakers are left to provide the depressing conclusion.
No bankers went to jail. The Too Big To Fail banks were not broken up – they were bailed out by the American taxpayers. They actually got bigger. Their profits have reached new heights, while the average family has seen their income fall. Wall Street is paying out record bonuses, while 46 million people are on food stamps. Wall Street and their lackeys at the Federal Reserve call the shots in this country. They don’t give a fuck about you. And they’re doing it again.
Every American should see this movie and get fucking pissed off. The theater was deathly silent at the end of the movie. The audience was stunned by the fact that the criminals on Wall Street got away with the crime of the century, and they’re still on the loose. I had a great discussion with my 16 year old son on the way home. At least there is one millennial who understand how bad his generation is getting screwed.
Merry Fucking Christmas America from a Wall Street banker

The Federal Reserve: There Will Be No Economic Recovery.

Rackets Science: the Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 2029)

Rackets Science: The Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 2029)
1 Government by the wealthy.
2 A country or society governed in this way.
Christmastime for Plutocrats
Political scientists need a new sub-specialty to describe the end of year extravaganzas that influence peddlers and special interests have made a Capital Christmas tradition: the racket of wholesale plundering of government. Paraphrasing Willie Sutton, that’s where (the tax-farmed and public-debt) money is.
On Friday, December 18, 2015, Obama and Congress processed the plutocracy’s 2015 Christmas gift order at lightening speed. These rented politicians jump right to attention when the owners are being served.   Who said government doesn’t work? Under Obama it purrs right along smoothly, for plutocrats.
If there are Americans in need of more evidence that they live in a plutocracy, where governing is just another racket run by what Bernie Sanders calls “the billionaire class,” then the Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015 should provide. Technically known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, this law almost seems like piling on after last year’s similar year-end Bonanza for Plutocrats Act of 2014 (known as CRomnibus”).   All on the same day, the House and Senate approved H.R. 2029, Obama signed it into law, and still had time left over for propaganda to make it sound like something that could plausibly be supported by one holding the middle class values that he likes to speak about.
My extensive piece last year on this subject described how Obama and a majority of Senate Democrats similarly connived to bypass ordinary legislative procedures to expedite the 2014 appropriations bill. The 2014 “CRomnibus Act” could rank as one of the most corrupt laws in United Sstates history. It increased the amount of money that plutocrats can legally give to political parties by a factor of ten. (It thereby enables plutocrats to finance, while their propaganda machine supports, the DNC “finger on the scale” effort to stop Bernie Sanders).
These large kickbacks to political parties were exchanged for the favor of making taxpayers insure casino capitalists who are poised to loose trillions in the next, inevitable, too-big-to-fail banking crisis. I wrote then: “The CRomnibus repeal of this ‘swaps push-out rule‘ to withdraw federal insurance from this particular gambling table is the most blatant of second Gilded Age economic recklessness, exceeding even such Clinton era corruption as the repeal of Glass-Steagall.”   As described in that article, Obama lobbied for and signed the 2014 Act when he could have obtained a clean appropriations bill by using his veto power, as House Democrats wanted him to do. An Appropriations Committee member summed up the quid pro quo purpose of Obama’s 2014 handiwork: “’This bill is a one-two punch at middle-class voters. It weakens financial regulation on big banks and rewards Congress for doing so by increasing campaign donation limits of big donors.”
Matt Taibbi, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap (2014) 70, describes Congress as “enabling the transformation of the world’s biggest banks into bona fide organized crime operations” where no target large enough to be worth their trouble, such as last year’s middle class bank deposits, or this year’s government treasury, is exempt from the political corruption racket. Congress’ repeal of the swaps push-out rule, so as to give casino capitalist gamblers federal deposit insurance and other federal benefits for banks guaranteed the eventual bankruptcy of the essential New Deal reform for protecting ordinary bank depositors.
Last year’s Christmas gift for plutocrats required some slight financial understanding to foresee the threat of bail-in theft of middle class bank deposits as a result of allowing the FDIC to be used as a guarantor for Wall Street’s table stakes in the swaps markets.
But the racketeers got away clean last year without much comment. So they came back for a repeat performance in broad daylight this year. They only needed Obama’s continued support to succeed. The “mascot of the Wall Street oligarchs” did what he is paid to do, and artfully obliged. He upped his game this year by promoting his handiwork for plutocrats as a good thing, rather than just disguising his role.
Without going over the same ground again in the same detail as last year to describe what the plutocrats are up to, and how their caper works when Congress unbreaks itself momentarily for their bipartisan felony fiesta, the rules of the game for this per se illegitimate form of legislation can can be briefly stated.
Obama cuts the deal directly with the few party leaders who control the flow of money and other benefits within the party. The process is rigged to skip all the ordinary legislative steps. It is totalitarian in its nature in that it issues a virtual decree without advance notice, committee hearings, or much time for deliberation by legislators responsible to the people, let alone knowledge by the people themselves.
Special interest lobbyists with their Christmas wish lists all show up to the party at the end of the year, a week before Christmas, the very end of the work week. Their wish list gifts all get attached to an appropriations bill necessary to fund the government just prior to the date it would otherwise shut down. The whole package becomes law before the public has any opportunity to sort out the provisions on a variety of different subjects.
Congress and Obama’s now annual Influence Peddlers Protection Acts deliver their bipartisan Christmas goodies to plutocrats as if from a down-the-chimney black-box form Santa’s special gift bag for special interests, bypassing the normal legislative process where laws are supposed to use the front door.
Here’s the tick-tock: The same process used in 2014 was used again for the 2015 caper, stripping an unrelated bill of its content to use as a vehicle to be sent back over to the House for substituting, this time, two interdependent amendments: Amendment #1 titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 and Amendment #2 titled the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, which contained tax break “extenders.”   The two amendments represented the two halves of the basic extortion deal.   One contained the tax expenditures and the other appropriations for the government to stay open. They were separate, since each amendment had different supporters. But they were joined into one bill when sent back to the Senate and on to Obama. This way Obama would have to accept both or neither, giving him the excuse again that the Republicans made him swallow the large amount of bad to get the little good in the bill. A veto would have killed both amendments.
Amending an empty bill with respect to another much lesser matter (H.R. 2029) that had already gone through whole the legislative process short of final enactment, avoided the messy journey of taking the new amendments for financing the whole government and for tax breaks through the same subcommittee and committee vetting, mark-ups and hearing process that the gutted bill took the better part of a year undergoing. Debate could be limited to 2 hours in the House, the total debate allowed for this main legislative output of Congress for the whole year. This process shuts down all discussion, debate, opposition, and public input. Lobbyists, rather an open legislative process, produce such a bill.
House Democrats voted unanimously against the resolution to adopt this summary procedure. This was a deal between Obama, the Speaker, and the Senate leaders, and eventually the House leaders, that could not be stopped by dissenters in either party. On December 18, 2015, the House sent its two amendments of the Senate’s stuffed bill back to the Senate for rubber stamping. There Bernie Sanders and a mixed group of only 6 Democrats and 26 Republicans voted against HR 2029. Among the 37 Democratic votes that provided a filibuster-proof majority for this bill to protect dark money by a margin of seven, were at least seven Democrats who complain about “unaccountable” money in politics, like Hillary Clinton does.
Thus plutocrats have turned the once-boring budget process for funding the federal government into a swift act of larceny from the taxpayers, while changing out the locks to make future larceny even easier. Lobbyists get to stuff all the presents for special interests they can pay for under their omnibus Yule tree called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, while politicians get to receive secret payments for these gifts and many more to come.
After signing the Act, President Obama conducted one of his rare press conferences to soft sell it to the public. He sought to make it all sound normal, “Just keep moving, nothing to see here.” Legislative circumvention which last year the Washington Post protested as a “caricature of the deliberative process by which Congress is supposed to approve appropriations” this year becomes, in Obama’s alternate version of reality, “typical of American democracy.”
Not content with just signing the law under his usual pretense that the Republicans made him do it – a dodge which seems to be wearing thin — this year, according to CNN, “Obama called Ryan after the vote to thank him ‘for helping government work,'” although even the Speaker was complaining about the process: “Ryan repeatedly stressed he doesn’t like rolling up all the spending bills, along with a myriad of policy provisions, into one measure.”   NYT confirms he told reporters, “You know I don’t like this process, right?” Short-cutting democratic process is Obama’s preference, designed by him to instruct the leaders what Republican policies he will not veto in order to serve Wall Street as discreetly as possible. This approach makes it easier to defraud his supporters. Obama can almost make Paul Ryan look good.
This year’s theft is more raw and comprehensible. In a nutshell the basic deal was that to support a federal budget of $1.1 trillion, Congress and Obama have awarded tax-breaks mostly for special interests in an amount that will put the government another $622 billion deeper in debt, not including the CBO-projected increase in spending over ten years of over $57 billion.   The cuts primarily benefit plutocrats though there was some window dressing – like the “small-but-symbolic tax deduction” for teachers mentioned by NYT – in order to reward some union, poverty and environmental ”non-profit industrial complex” constituencies, which they and Obama could talk up. “Just keep moving, please.”
Made simple, what Obama failed to mention is that plutocrats took more than half the amount of the whole federal budget as their price, payable in future tax expenditures, for allowing the government that they own to continue functioning. What Bernie Sanders calls the “billionaire class” has taken over a formerly public bridge by force of bribery and is now charging tolls worth half its value to keep the non-military level of it functioning for civilians another year.   An open question is whether the federal government even functions for the public as usefully as does a privatized bridge since it is now used mainly to facilitate plundering expeditions against the citizenry by its corrupt new owners.
Unlike last year, not only the company town Washington Post rushed out reportage on these last minute shenanigans. This year others also have covered this “orgy of predatory, omnivorous bipartisanship” in some detail. One piece exposed “the truth of inadequate government spending and conservative sabotage” reflected in the levels of appropriations so diminished as to undermine government missions. The general flavor of priorities was reflected in the proud report of a Republican supporter who praised the law because it: 1) “Cuts EPA funding by $452 million below the President’s budget request, holding the agency’s budget at 21% below FY10 levels;” 2) contains “funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy at $986 million, an increase of $73 million above fiscal year 2015 and $79 million above the President’s request.” and 3) “Denies the administration’s request to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II” which had been requested by the Air Force on cost grounds.
Steve Horn wrote an excellent piece on a major global warming provision “to end the 40-year export ban” on US petroleum, which serves the twin public policy goals of increasing the price at the pump for future American consumers with the added bonus of increasing the global temperature too.
And then, barely worth remarking in the permanent war state, there is a declaration of war hidden in there somewhere, according to Harvard expert on such things, Jack Goldsmith. “Congress is not calling its funding an authorization for the use of force against ISIL, much less debating the authorization. But make no mistake: The funding to continue the war against ISIL is an authorization of force against ISIL, albeit a quiet one, designed not to attract attention.
Who knows what else is in there seeking to avoid the disinfection effect of sunlight.”
In exchange for such favors for plutocrats in various sectors, Congress has also included some gifts for themselves while they were in the holiday mood. Like last year’s Christmastime for Wall Street exercise, politicians captured a percentage rake by the house on the gifts to plutocrats by prohibiting the forced disclosure of corporate and others’ “dark money” political investments. More dark money will produce more money for the incumbents’ who just voted for the tax giveaways and other breaks.
Michael Hiltzik described in the LA Times how, “Two provisions buried in the 2,009-page bill … emasculate efforts by the Internal Revenue Service and Securities and Exchange Commission to force public disclosure of donations by individuals and corporations.” They were so buried that Hiltzik missed a third provision, equally important, that prevents the president from using disclosure requirements for enforcing federal procurement law.
The procurement law should be used to ban independent political investments in politicians by government contractors in accordance with international best practice. Since government contractors are among the largest racketeers this alone could solve much of the problem. The long-existing FECA provision, titled “Contributions by government contractors,” prohibits contractors “directly or indirectly to make any contribution …to any person for any political purpose or use.” 52 U.S. Code § 30119(a)(1). “Dark money” independent expenditures enabled by Citizens United are mostly indirect contributions made in violation of this law. Obama has not only refused to enforce this law against these largest of corporations used by plutocrats for making political investments. “See no evil” Obama has refused to even take the most modest step of requiring such contractors to simply disclose their Citizens United expenditures as a condition of doing business with the government. This would be a “necessary and proper” enforcement tool for a law designed to foster effective governance.
There has been much agitation for Obama to use this power. Under existing law such a disclosure mandate should not violate even the Supreme Court’s most bizarre interpretations of the First Amendment to legalize influence peddling. The efficient conduct of government functions has been generally exempted from such First Amendment rulings, which would otherwise raise separation of power concerns. E.g. Wagner v. FEC (D.C. Cir. 2014) (unanimous en banc decision) (upholding constitutionality of the contractor contribution prohibition). Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 359, itself acknowledged this exception in order to accommodate the public’s “interest in allowing governmental entities to perform their functions” while it, and McCutcheon (2014), also more generally approved disclosure rules. It is just good government practice that contractors should not be funding the campaigns of politicians who both create the projects and appropriate the funds to pay the contractors.
Obama disagrees, of course.   By conniving with Congress to pass a law that makes it illegal to use any of the three tools available for him to require such disclosures, he is no longer theoretically impeachable for his failure to see that federal procurement law was faithfully executed after Citizens United. He can blame on Congress his refusal to enforce existing law by requiring disclosure of independent political investments of government contractors.   His defense is that Congress has withdrawn his power to do that, or to require disclosure of political investments by SEC-regulated corporations (i.e., most contractors), or by plutocrats who launder their political investments, corporate or otherwise, through 501(c)(4)’s in order to keep them secret.   Now, without disclosures of the dark money, Obama can see no evil that would be subject to the law he is not enforcing.
All three of these provisions blocking such disclosures are extending the perverse reach of Citizens United by a law that was approved by an overwhelming majority of Democratic Senators, and negotiated, approved, signed, and propagandized by Obama, all of whom have chanted the refrain of wanting a futile “constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.” These provisions, constituting a “Dark Money Promotion Act” are reproduced from the bill below.
Obama calls these provisions “American democracy” at work. When Obama goes to the trouble of personally taking his propaganda game to the public, it can be expected that the truth will be the opposite of whatever he says. Telling the truth is not what he is paid for. These provisions are in fact clear sign posts that democracy is dead in the United States where elected officials are able to get away with passing laws mandating that their formerly illegal bribe-taking and influence-peddling – now legalized by a plutocratic majority of judicial supremacists on the Supreme Court that these same officials have failed to restrain within their proper judicial powers – can now be conducted by law in secret. Ari Fleischer’s comment, “Bush’s 4th term continues” applies to more than just Guantanamo, secret renditions, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, permanent war.
Is the United States more corrupt that it was eight years ago?
The Supreme Court has constructed its “money is speech” jurisprudence since Buckley v Valeo (1976) and as recently as McCutcheon (2014) on the premise that disclosure is available as a sure remedy for corruption. This theory both demonstrated the total theoretical ignorance of the Court and was also proven wrong in lived experience as the country succumbed to systemic corruption in a disclosure regime after Buckley. Disclosure works in a system where corruption is illegal and regularly prosecuted, but has no useful function after corruption is legal or tolerated and therefore systemic as it has been after Buckley v Valeo (1976) bizarrely legalized it as “speech.”
Now that Obama and Congress have foreclosed disclosure of unlimited independent expenditures by law, not just refused to mandate it by law or administrative regulation, the whole rotten edifice of the Supreme Court’s money is speech jurisprudence now collapses around it with nothing to support it but shell game logic that somewhere in the four words “the freedom of speech” is to be found the meaning “the freedom to corrupt.”.
Self Help
An ironic note can be found in The Influence Peddlers Protection Act.   This same law in which Congress paid off plutocrats with enormous tax expenditures and other profit opportunities, and which further tightened the firm grip of plutocracy by prohibiting SEC, IRS or government procurement regulations from interfering with plutocrats’ right to keep their corrupt “dark money” political investments in politicians secret from the public (though not from the politicians who are expected to reciprocate), also happens to contain a provision that the segregationist, propagandist, warmongering Woodrow Wilson would like.   Wilson diverted attention from the lack of democracy in the Jim Crow United States by making war, he said, for democracy abroad.
It is ludicrous to think that the systemically corrupt United States, which has struggled to live up to its democratic traditions and Constitutions,could be capable, in its current second Gilded Age, of spreading democracy elsewhere in the world. But under this guise a group of beltway bandits do run businesses as contractors of USAID to do just that. These operators are as capable of recycling kickbacks to politicians who appropriate the money for these programs with the best of the military industrial complex. Actually, some of them are the MIC.
Countries where the United States has had the most influence in fashioning a new government after it caused the old one to collapse, Afghanistan and Iraq, are two of the most corrupt governments in the world according to an accepted global index.
The influence of the US is typically negative because those ultimately in charge of such programs, like Hillary Clinton was as Secretary of State, are as totally clueless about what it would take to build a democratic foreign government that is not corrupt as she is about what it would take to reform the systemic corruption of the US government. A corrupt plutocracy is what such politicians in ‘the Clinton school of economics” — who arose after Buckley v Valeo (1976) legalized corruption,” actually mean when they use the word “democracy.”
As a first-hand witness of Hillary Clinton’s specific personal responsibility for corruption in Afghanistan wrote: “If the obstacle preventing more meaningful action against abusive corruption wasn’t active U.S. complicity, it sure looked like it.” Sarah Chayes, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (2015) 147. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John Sopko, has exposed waste and corruption in Afghanistan notwithstanding the U.S. government’s lack of commitment to preventing it. Sopko emphasizes that corruption and the closely related problem of narcotics are “mission critical” factors jeopardizing all U.S. goals in Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton’s clueless approach to anti-corruption work, which in her own “memo entirely ignored the structured, vertically integrated nature of the corruption networks that had taken over the Afghan government,” according to Chayes, was responsible for the failed mission in Afghanistan, as it was in Iraq and wherever“terrorist” insurgency is a predictable response to systemic corruption, as Chayes observes and tried to inform the Clinton State Department.
An authority on that part of the beltway bandit democracy business that specializes in anti-corruption work captures this ignorance at the top about this kind of systemic corruption when she writes that “approaches of the anti-corruption industry diverge a full 180 degrees from the realities of [systemic] corruption with its built-in unaccountability.” Janine Weddell, Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt Our Finances, Freedom, and Security (2014) 87. Albeit for programs designed to fail,   the money for the democracy programs continues to flow. The money almost certainly does more harm than good abroad, since it is directed in the opposite direction from success, as Weddell describes.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 2029), Division K, Title VII ” SEC. 7032. (a) FUNDING” provides “$2,308,517,000 shall be made available for democracy programs.” It is unlikely that Congress could point to a single country which has become an authentic democracy, free of the undermining effect of corruption, as a result of these annual appropriations of billions of dollars. But were this same money spent strategically at home on reform of US corruption, the US could possibly be the first country to actually benefit from this otherwise wasted taxpayer’s largesse.
One of the insincere pieties of Obama’s first Inaugural Address was, “America has carried on … because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents. So it has been; so it must be with this generation of Americans…. Our security, emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example.” The capacity for the United States to demonstrate a functioning democracy that were not, as it is now, systemically corrupt would unquestionably have a beneficial impact on promoting democracy around the world, far moreso than these wasted appropriations that are more likely part of the problem than part of the solution.
Congress defines the purpose of its democracy programs abroad as “development of democratic states, and institutions that are responsive and accountable to citizens.” Id. Wouldn’t Americans like to have such a state? Instead of the corrupt plutocracy that is unaccountable to voters in all important matters. It could probably be provided here for less than the price Congress spends to achieve counterproductive results abroad.
Let us then rededicate these wasted billions to the need of the United States to 1) create and robustly enforce an automated conflicts of interest reporting system for political investors, and their lobbyists and rented politicians, that would support enhanced conflicts of interest recusal requirements foreclosing all politicians from doing favors for those who pay for them; 2) convert the Patriot Act and Homeland Security budget to focus on defending against plutocracy – which has actually overthrown by means of corruption the formerly democratic government described in the Constitution – at least as robustly as it now focuses on those who would attempt to overthrow it by the highly unlikely means of violence; 3) develop a voting machine or apparatus, using publicly-owned intellectual property rights, that cannot be programmed or rigged to steal elections by deliberately miscounting the vote ; 4) host debates and other campaigning on non-plutocratic, publicly controlled airwaves (pdf), thereby reducing the major cause for the inordinate cost of political campaigns that now functions as a subsidy to a mass media propaganda system; and 5) write and enact laws that would strip jurisdiction from the Supreme Court to continue basing unconstitutional rulings the surreal proposition that “money is speech,” while restoring all the state and federal laws the Court has overturned under that flight of illogic, laws that would also create and fund the enforcement of new comprehensive prohibitions against and the robust prosecution of political corruption in all its forms.
After adopting such reforms the US could stand as a role model capable of again exporting lessons of democracy to the world. But then, the real irony is that the US government would not qualify under its own democracy program The same rules supposed to apply to Afghanistan , for example, would prohibit funding the US to recover democracy. Division K, Title VII, “SEC. 7044 (a) AFGHANISTAN … (2) (A) Provid[es], That such funds may not be obligated for any project or activity that— (i) includes the participation of any … individual or organization … involved in corrupt practices.” That rules out any government and its corrupt hangers-on in the United States which is crawling with a political class mired in “corrupt practices.”
Nor could the systemically corrupt US government be certified under SEC. 7044(a)(2)(B) requiring “Prior to the initial obligation of funds made available by this Act…the Secretary of State shall certify … (iv) the Government of Afghanistan is reducing corruption ,,,.” Ashraf Ghani’s government may well be “reducing corruption” in Afghanistan from its extraordinary level under the Karzai family, especially now that Americans are mostly gone from the country; but Barack Obama’s government would be disqualified since it has increased corruption here many fold.
As Obama said “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.” Perhaps a US democratic government in exile, on the right side of history, could qualify for the US democracy program appropriations.
Addendum:   “Dark Money Promotion Act” (selected provisions from Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016) (H.R. 2029)
Division E, Title I, SEC. 107. None of the funds made available under this Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to target citizens of the United States for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
[Translation: “right guaranteed under the First Amendment” is influence paddlers’ and their Supreme Court patrons’ lingo used euphemistically to both connote and provide protection for political corruption]
Division E, Title I, SEC. 127. During fiscal year 2016—
(1) none of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used … to issue, revise, or finalize any regulation, revenue ruling, or other guidance not limited to a particular taxpayer relating to the standard which is used to determine whether an organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare for purposes of section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
[NOTE: 501 (c)(4) nonprofit groups are allowed to spend on projects for the “promotion of social welfare,” such as say supporting Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, with much less disclosure of their donors than is required of a campaign or political action committee. They are the prime vehicles for political “dark money.”]
Division E, Title VIII, SEC. 735. (a) None of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to recommend or require any entity submitting an offer for a Federal contract to disclose any of the following information as a condition of submitting the offer:
(1) Any payment consisting of a contribution, expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication that is made by the entity… to a candidate for election for Federal office or to a political committee, or that is otherwise made with respect to any election for Federal office.
(2) Any disbursement of funds (other than a payment described in paragraph (1)) made by the entity … to any person with the intent or the reasonable expectation that the person will use the funds to make a payment described in paragraph (1).
(b) In this section, each of the terms ‘‘contribution’’, ‘‘expenditure’’, ‘‘independent expenditure’’, ‘‘electioneering communication’’, ‘‘candidate’’, ‘‘election’’, and ‘‘Federal office’’ has the meaning given such term in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431 et seq.).
None of the funds made available by any division of this Act shall be used by the Securities and Exchange Commission to finalize, issue, or implement any rule, regulation, or order regarding the disclosure of political contributions, contributions to tax exempt organizations [e.g., 501(c)(4)’s], or dues paid to trade associations.
Division K, Title VII SEC. 7032. (a) FUNDING.— … $2,308,517,000 shall be made available for democracy programs [for]… development of democratic states, and institutions that are responsive and accountable to citizens.
Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.

Brussels bonus bonanza: EU bureaucrats pocketing a backdated pay rise worth £74MILLION today – including £2,700 for President Juncker

  • The 100 million euro pay rise comes as member states impose austerity
  • European Union civil servants awarded a 2.4 per cent pay rise for 2016
  • But leaked documents seen by the Mail reveal it will be backdated to July
  • Farage blasts Commission President Juncker is being rewarded for 'failure'
  • But bumper pay packets are declared 'not dramatic' by EU spinners

Brussels bureaucrats will today pocket thousands of euros in generous Christmas bonuses despite their shambolic handling of the migrant crisis.
In the face of the tightening of belts across continent, the European Union is to reward its civil servants with a bumper 2.4 per cent pay rise next year costing nearly 100million euros (£74million), it can be revealed.
The inflation-busting increase will be backdated six months to July meaning staff will get an extra treat in their pay packets today.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, pictured at last week's EU Summit, will pick up an extra £2,701.06 in backdated pay today
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, pictured at last week's EU Summit, will pick up an extra £2,701.06 in backdated pay today

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who this year has allowed millions of migrants to pour into Europe on his watch, will get a Christmas bonus of 3,679.86 euros (£2,701.06)
Next year's pay rise, which is much higher than current levels of inflation, will see his will rise to a staggering £230,490.68 – 60 per cent higher than the £142,500 paid to the British Prime Minister.
The former Luxembourg prime minister is also entitled to a generous £47,064 housing and expenses allowance, and will get a £48,805 a year pension from age 65, as well as £295,795.98 to help him 'resettle' and 'transition' at the end of his five-year term.
Fellow EU commissioners, including Dimitris Avramopoulos who is in charge of the EU's response to the migrant crisis, will each get a 3,000 euros (£2,202) bonus with their December pay.
A leaked document, seen by the Mail, that reveals the pay hike – which will apply to all 55,000 EU bureaucrats including those working in the European Commission, Council, Parliament and Court of Justice – also shows how staff numbers have increased hugely.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people working at the Commission went up 21.6 per cent, at the Council up 52.5 per cent and at the Parliament up 90.8 per cent.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: 'This fat bonus will only encourage Juncker to fail again and fail bigger. With Schengen falling apart and the security threat now very real we should ask why Juncker is getting rewarded for failure.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage blasted the pay rise as rewarding and encouraging failure
Ukip leader Nigel Farage blasted the pay rise as rewarding and encouraging failure
'As the number and scope of EU laws from the Commission decreases to there is an increase in the number and pay of EU Parliamentary staff. 
'This means more people are getting paid more money to do less work and this is unacceptable to British taxpayers.'
The pay rise ends a two-year freeze demanded by governments including the UK.
A European Commission spokesman said the salary increase was 'not dramatic' and argued that officials' pay has risen on average by 0.5 per cent a year since 2010, below the rate of inflation.
He said: 'The pay rise is under an automatic formula that leaves no room for the commission to interpret.
'The formula is based on salary increases for civil servants in 11 member states and a cost of living index for Belgium and Luxembourg.'
He added: '[Since 2010] we have increased the working week to 40 hours versus 37.5, that means people work more for the same salary.'