American Consequences - December 2017


At the top of the pay-for-play ladder is Corporate Feudalism, a political system whereby corporations replace or coopt governments. It’s the intersection of money and politics, and it’s similar to me giving the garage attendant $5 every time I roll in. I take care of him so he takes care of me. If the corporations take care of the politicians then the politicians take care of the corporations. Regardless whether you’re on the right, left, or middle, the idea of buying political influence should be concerning. Some of the issues can be traced back to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a law that barred corporations from paying for political ads before and during an election. Today,

corporate political spending has become a multibillion-dollar industry. Money makes it easy to lobby Congress and the government. Big dollars can win many legislative and regulatory fights. Some people call giving corporations a better tax rate, less regulation, and more influence, “capitalism.” Others liken it to feudalism. But as a society, do we want to become more or less dependent on big corporations? Look at the stock market to see it happening in real time. Stocks don’t lie. People do. The recent run-up has been largely in anticipation of tax reform giving corporations more money and power and maybe, hopefully, more jobs and higher wages. It’s hard to predict the future, but it feels like “cross your fingers” economics for the middle and lower class. Who was I going to give my next million-share trade to? The guy who sent me two cases of my favorite tequila, or the guy who sent me a $25 gift card to Applebee’s with a scarf that had his firm’s logo emblazoned on it?

Turney Duff is a former trader at one of the biggest hedge funds in the world, the Galleon Group, where its founder and several Galleon employees were found guilty of insider trading. Turney rose through the ranks and then fell prey to the trappings of Wall

Street: money, sex, drugs, alcohol, and power. Turney chronicles his spectacular rise and fall in his bestselling book, The Buy Side: AWall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess .

And whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, it’s easy to throw stones.

30 | December 2017

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