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comment by goobster
goobster  ·  807 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Barack Obama's $400,000 speaking fees reveal what few want to admit

It's only "weird" because we liberals have this odd mental construct that there is some sort of line between politics and business, and there simply isn't.

You can't get to a senior level in any major corporation without dealing with stupid regulations, and policies and laws that make you scratch your head and ask, "what the fuck were they thinking?!?"

So you complain to your friends about it at a dinner party, and they say, "Yeah! I was thinking the same thing!"

Then you decide to Do Something About It, and now you are meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and they connect you with politicians who have similar/dissimilar beliefs, and you debate it with them.

And, if you are fiscally well-off enough to be able to sacrifice several years of your earnings and corporate-ladder-climbing to earn a piddling wage in public service, you run for office, get elected... and now you have ALL issues to contend with, not just the ones that were pissing you off.

But what do you know? The business you were in.

So you look for experts to consult with on the stuff you don't know much about.

"Gravel pits? What the fuck do I know about gravel pits?!?"

So you talk to the owners of a couple of gravel companies and trucking companies, and some experts on transportation issues in the state (hint: these are called Lobbyists), and you form an opinion, and someone hands you a pre-written policy that pretty much deals with the core problem of the Gravel Pits, and ...

A grassroots campaign gets you ousted from office because you killed off the last breeding pair of Thompson's Turtles anywhere in the state - who happened to nest next to the gravel pits - and now you are out of a job because someone else got elected to do the shit work of a politician for $13,000/year.

What now? You have a lot of knowledge about the business you were in before you ran for office, you now have a lot of connections in government, and you STILL WANT TO ADDRESS THAT FIRST GODDAMN THING that got you involved six years ago.

And it turns out that your surfacing the issue and championing it in the political arena, well, it earned you some friends. So they pay you an annual salary to keep dogging that issue, pushing it, using your connections to talk to friends and educate them on the thing and ...

Guess what? You are now an accursed "Lobbyist".

And you make excellent money. Way more than $250k/year. And you get to affect public policy without having to be elected. And you set your own hours. And you get to accept all the benefits you want, from anyone who wants to give them to you.

"Bob! I hear you are going to Minneapolis to talk to the Governor there about Gravel Pits. Tell ya what: My plane is going there to get its annual service, so why don't you just jump on and fly out there? It'll take a week to finish the full service, but I've got a condo you can crash in, and there's a couple of people I'd like you to meet who have this new Gravel Pit technology that is just going to change the industry. Interested?"

Well?

Are you...?




user-inactivated  ·  807 days ago  ·  link  ·  

And then we have the other end of the spectrum, where the same mechanism allow cronyism to exist. You and kleinbl00 and WanderingEng all seem to be talking about whether or not it's normal. It's normal as shit. I know that. I'm not debating that. What I'm wondering is where, how, when, and why we draw the line and say "this is when it gets to be unhealthy, counter productive, and potentially dangerous."

If I could go to some country where it's normal as fuck to have to grease three different palms to get something as simple as a driver's license, a lot of people would shrug their shoulders and say "Yeah, it sucks, but that's just how it's done."

If the next time I renew my liscense, the teller slips me a bit of paper asking for an extra $20 to "expedite" things, it's gonna be a huge shock. If I see a former politician get paid more money for a few hours of speech than most of my friends will make in half of their adult lives, it's not gonna be a huge shock, but it's gonna stop and make me consider shit, including "why the fuck isn't this a huge shock?" That's the thought process that has been going through my head since this whole thread started and the more I think about it, the more I start to think that maybe people have a right to be upset.

kleinbl00  ·  806 days ago  ·  link  ·  

No one is talking about "normalcy." We're all talking about whether you should be offended or not.

goobster didn't quite get to this point, but here it is:

if you're competent at what you do, and you want to live a normal life, you're going to find a job where you're paid what you're worth.

I have never been so close to voting Republican as when I spent a year dealing with local elected officials. They suck. The guys I'm dealing with cost me an easy $100k through pure incompetence. They're doing their jobs badly and my community is suffering as a consequence. In theory, government belongs to the people who can fix things or at least keep things running. In practice, unless you can attract people who don't suck you're going to get the guys who can't get hired to do anything else.

Meanwhile there are regulations upon regulations upon customs upon boobytraps to keep people from profiting while in office. This is right, this is just, this is good. But the regulations that they write and change and advance and rescind and alter and reinforce alter the fundamental flow of commerce and while your senator makes a pretty good dayrate, your county councilman does not.

What it comes down to is that our capitalist system handsomely rewards the capitalist lobbyists and capitalist industrialists who want to change the laws, and punishes the socialist bureaucrats and socialist enforcers who carry them out. If governing made a better living than petitioning the government there'd be no tension here... but we're more likely to induct Kapital into the constitution than we are for that to happen. So what we're left with is people howling at the moon that the most powerful man in the world for eight years, the first black president in history, might actually get paid by rich people to talk to them.

And make no mistake. ANY amount of money at ANY point from ANYONE would have EVERYONE howling at the moon. There is no scenario in which OB or any of his ilk would not be offended.

And that's why this shit pisses me off.

user-inactivated  ·  806 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    And make no mistake. ANY amount of money at ANY point from ANYONE would have EVERYONE howling at the moon. There is no scenario in which OB or any of his ilk would not be offended.

    And that's why this shit pisses me off.

My very first comment was me agreeing with your first comment and while it doesn't piss me off, per se, I do find it very silly.

    What it comes down to is that our capitalist system handsomely rewards the capitalist lobbyists and capitalist industrialists who want to change the laws, and punishes the socialist bureaucrats and socialist enforcers who carry them out. If governing made a better living than petitioning the government there'd be no tension here... but we're more likely to induct Kapital into the constitution than we are for that to happen. So what we're left with is people howling at the moon that the most powerful man in the world for eight years, the first black president in history, might actually get paid by rich people to talk to them.

I think fundamentally, we're in agreement in a lot of ways, and fundamentally, we're in disagreement in a lot of ways. I'm getting angry though, because I mean, as I said to goobster, while I think people are way overreacting about Obama, I do see where they are coming from, I do think their frustration comes from a valid place, and man, I just want to try and figure out whether accepting $400,000 from the same people he rescued from the problems they created themselves is fucky or not and I keep on getting distracted by all of these dumb side arguments that do very little to address that.

kleinbl00  ·  806 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I just want to try and figure out whether accepting $400,000 from the same people he rescued from the problems they created themselves is fucky or not

A moral relativist, I see.

I'ma write some headlines for you real quick:

"FORMER PRESIDENT OBAMA ACCEPTS NEARLY A HALF MILLION DOLLARS FROM WALL STREET FIRM"

"OBAMA TO GIVE CLOSED DOOR SPEECH TO WALL STREET INSIDERS"

"OBAMA'S FIRST PAID APPEARANCE TO BE BEFORE FINANCE INDUSTRY"

Hang on lemme write a few more

"OBAMA TO GIVE SPEECH BEFORE PHILANTHROPISTS"

wait where the fuck did that come from

    On September 19, Cantor Fitzgerald made a pledge to distribute 25 percent of the firm's profits for the next five years, and committed to paying for ten years of health care, for the benefit of the families of its 658 former Cantor Fitzgerald, eSpeed, and TradeSpark employees (profits which would otherwise have been distributed to the Cantor Fitzgerald partners).[11] In 2006, the company completed its promise, having paid a total of $180 million (and an additional $17 million from a relief fund run by Lutnick's sister, Edie).

ohhhh shit

    The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund provided $10 million to families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Howard Lutnick and the Relief Fund "adopted" 19 elementary schools in impacted areas, distributing $1,000 prepaid debit cards to each family from the schools. In total $10 million in funds were given to families affected by the storm.

wtf

    Each year, on September 11, Cantor Fitzgerald and its affiliate BGC Partners donate 100% of their revenue to charitable causes on their annual Charity Day which was originally established to raise money to assist the families of Cantor employees who died in the World Trade Center attacks. Since its inception, Charity Day has raised $110 million for charities globally.

fuck me THAT Cantor Fitzgerald

    Cantor Fitzgerald lost sixty-eight percent of its workforce, considerably more than any of the other World Trade Center tenants or the New York City Police Department, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, the New York City Fire Department, and the United States Department of Defense. CEO and chairman Howard Lutnick, whose brother was among those killed, vowed to keep the company alive, and the company was able to bring its trading markets back online within a week. On September 19, Cantor Fitzgerald made a pledge to distribute 25 percent of the firm's profits for the next five years, and committed to paying for ten years of health care, for the benefit of the families of its 658 former Cantor Fitzgerald, eSpeed, and TradeSpark employees.

stahp

    On September 2, 2004, Cantor filed a civil lawsuit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for allegedly providing money to the hijackers and Al Qaeda, one of a number of organizations to do so. It was later joined in the suit by the Port Authority of New York.

Fuckin' black hats, these guys. Truly the Vampire Squid. Meyer Rothschild in Armani or some shit. Really - the narrative being spun is "people with money giving money to people with money." Fuckin' Jennifer Lopez made a million dollars singing at a Russian mobster's wedding. But oh god - there's money and influence and it's going to Democrats! Everybody freak the fuck out!

The reason you're angry is because you're being yelled at. the reason you're being yelled at is you're saying the side argument is the main argument. 99% of the people who are butthurt over this speech don't even know who Cantor Fitzgerald is. They hear "wall street" and go full WHARRGARBL without further thought.

But further thought is the place Democrats are supposed to dwell, goddamn it. And for those of us who have voted in more than a couple elections?

it's fucking tiresome.

WanderingEng  ·  806 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I didn't mean to be dismissive with my other comment, and people have a right to raise concerns. My caution, though, is that there might be no back room conspiracy. It might simply be a deep pocketed organization sought to have one of the most prominent people in America come speak to them, and he in turn may have sought to maximize his post-public office speaking career.

Or it might be an informal "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" arrangement.

I think it's always fair to ask questions. It's not only fair, but it's good that people do. But those people need to realize it might not pan out and know when to take a step back before they get labeled as conspiracy nuts. Not for our benefit, but for theirs.

user-inactivated  ·  806 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I never meant to imply you were being dismissive, so I'm sorry you got that feeling. All I was trying to point out was that I don't want to discuss what is and isn't normal. I just want to discuss whether this particular instance is okay or not okay and why.

goobster  ·  806 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You are missing the deeper question my little story illustrates: Who else do you want to do the job?

Crying "cronyism" is a cop out. Because what IS cronyism? That you know someone who is good at their job? That you consult with them and ask them for input when you need to make a decision in their area of expertise? That you vote for the guy when he runs for office because you know he has a good understanding of the industry?

"Cronyism" is an easy epithet thrown from people who are not in the room. Why aren't they in the room, taking part in the conversation?

Because they aren't qualified to be. Either through lack of knowledge, lack of professionalism, or lack of access (because of the previous two deficiencies).

No Wall Street banker is going to invite a megaphone-wielding, hoodie-wearing #Occupy protester to to the table to join in the discussion because they are not equipped to handle the conversation at that level. So the protester cries "Cronyism!" and goes out and gets another facial piercing.

I used to live in countries where bribes were common.

And ya know what? Bribes work when the system doesn't.

Here in the US your permit gets denied for some esoteric detail. The mysterious machinations of the people behind the doors do their voodoo, and you are denied. (Just ask KB.)

In Eastern Europe you just pay the guy another $50, and it is taken care of right there. No questions asked. Quick and easy. And ya know what? Nobody cares, because they know the system is fucked and overly complex and stupid.

I understand you don't want it to be this way. I get that. I really do. But think about it practically... what other possible outcome is there? Politicians get their information from the sources that are available to them, and those sources are largely their "cronies", who, in any other context, would be called their "circle of friends."

Should those circles expand? Absolutely. Should they include scientists and academics? Absolutely. But who is paying the scientist or academic to sit outside the Senator's office and meet with them? Imagine if a scientist applied for funding for their project, and the second largest line item on the Projected Expenses page was "Lobbying". What's the first line that gets cut, when the budget isn't approved? Double-blind testing? Researcher salaries? Lab equipment? Heh. Right.

I'm not denying your base position that this is not an ideal way to run our system. But it is the reality of it, and railing against that is pointless. This is a system that can only be changed from the inside, over extraordinarily long time-scales.

user-inactivated  ·  806 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Who else do you want to do the job?

People who are qualified, properly vetted, and don't have prior, current, or potential future conflicts of interest.

    Because what IS cronyism?

You and I both know what cronyism is. Do not patronize me.

    "Cronyism" is an easy epithet thrown from people who are not in the room.

Or it's actual concerns voiced by people who are actually paying attention who see potential issues with what's going on.

    No Wall Street banker is going to invite a megaphone-wielding, hoodie-wearing #Occupy protester to to the table to join in the discussion because they are not equipped to handle the conversation at that level. So the protester cries "Cronyism!" and goes out and gets another facial piercing.

But they'll totally invite a guy with a background in political science who just so happened to bail out their banks during a debt crisis that was totally their fault. So, I mean, you're right. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Huh?

    And ya know what? Bribes work when the system doesn't.

    Here in the US your permit gets denied for some esoteric detail. The mysterious machinations of the people behind the doors do their voodoo, and you are denied. (Just ask KB.)

    In Eastern Europe you just pay the guy another $50, and it is taken care of right there. No questions asked. Quick and easy. And ya know what? Nobody cares, because they know the system is fucked and overly complex and stupid.

This is not a serious argument. Bribes are a band-aid. A crutch. People need to stop and ask, why are the bribes happening, and what can be done to fix it? Is it because people in official positions aren't being paid enough? Address that. Is it because the system takes too long and is too complex? Address that. Is it because there is very little oversight and people think they can get away with things? Address that. Bribes are a short term fix for a more serious problem, and once again, people shrugging their shoulders and saying "that's normal" isn't gonna fix jack shit.

    I understand you don't want it to be this way. I get that. I really do. But think about it practically... what other possible outcome is there? Politicians get their information from the sources that are available to them, and those sources are largely their "cronies", who, in any other context, would be called their "circle of friends."

    Should those circles expand? Absolutely. Should they include scientists and academics? Absolutely. But who is paying the scientist or academic to sit outside the Senator's office and meet with them? Imagine if a scientist applied for funding for their project, and the second largest line item on the Projected Expenses page was "Lobbying". What's the first line that gets cut, when the budget isn't approved? Double-blind testing? Researcher salaries? Lab equipment? Heh. Right.

Serious question. Serious, honest, one hundred percent straightforward question. Why do you keep using this hand waving argument with me like it's the only way things happen. Cronyism, nepotism, kickbacks, and all sorts of shady shit are real. It happens, we see it, people are currently concerned about it with Trump. People were concerned about it with Hillary when she was running for President. People were concerned with Obama and Bush and Clinton. It's a sliding scale, it's murky as shit, and all I keep on doing is pondering "Hmm, I wonder where a good place to start drawing lines are" and all I keep on hearing from you is "Silly little redneck, there's no lines to draw because the issue is all in your head."

I am trying my best to keep calm about all of this, but I honestly feel like you're being unfairly dismissive for some reason I don't know why. I mean, I'm not saying you're attacking me or anything, but I am saying this conversation keeps on getting pulled in a direction I don't want to go in because it's not what I want to talk about. All I see is some murky fucking pool going on and all I want is someone to throw some fucking flares into it or something so I can get some better understanding of shit. Seriously. Fuck.

    I'm not denying your base position that this is not an ideal way to run our system. But it is the reality of it, and railing against that is pointless. This is a system that can only be changed from the inside, over extraordinarily long time-scales.

The system can be changed from the inside, from the outside, in small growths, in large bursts, by so many mechanisms. Public perception of the issue and the conversations that arise from them, is part of that outside pressure. Saying "shit's normal, nothing to see here," is counter productive. The Model T was normal as balls on an ox back in the day. People demanding and expecting more is how we've gotten the Ford Fusion today.

goobster  ·  805 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm not sure where you are getting this contentious vibe from, but that definitely is not my intent.

I'm just trying to get you to see that "cronyism" is a cheap rhetorical device, that weakens your argument.

Here's another way to look at it: Does anyone self-apply the word "crony" in anything other than an intentionally comically ironic context?

No.

So by falling back on the word "crony", you instantly devalue your point, turn off the listeners who you have accused of being "cronies" or engaging in "cronyism", and you have abdicated your responsibility for presenting a well-formed argument/point.

YOU see "cronyism". THEY see "getting information from informed people/putting the most knowledgeable (and available) people into the role".

So as soon as you cry "Cronyism!", you have lost the high ground, and the opportunity to inform or convince your reader. It's name-calling.

My long-winded examples were simply ways of trying to help you see that perspective, and to hopefully inspire you to forming a more effective argument.

Because, like I said before, I agree with you. But until you frame your argument in a way that ANYONE can use it, without name-calling, it's not useful.

Here: I want people in office who do are there to serve, not people who are doing a job.

Service takes a heavy toll. It is thankless, hard work, and you don't get paid well for it.

So what I want to see are leading thinkers in their field running for office. They serve, do their duty, and then cycle back out into their industry, and continue to do their work. Climb the corporate ladder at their company, and have "House of Representatives 2004-2008" as a line on their resume.

From another perspective, this is "cronyism", pure and simple.