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Posts Tagged ‘crony capitalism’
March 21st, 2016 at 11:54 am
CFIF TechNotes: WSJ Hits FCC’s Set-Top Box Scheme in “Government by Google”
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In recent weeks we’ve highlighted a destructive new initiative by the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to impose a one-size-fits-all regulation forcing cable TV set-top boxes to become artificially compatible with third-party devices.  Translation:  in the ever-evolving home entertainment market, where cable companies themselves are already moving from traditional cable boxes toward devices owned by individual consumers, the FCC remains mired in a 1990s mindset and wants to regulate accordingly.  The FCC’s inexplicable proposal would freeze in place a technological state that is already outdated.

Check that.  Perhaps the FCC’s behavior isn’t so inexplicable at all.

This morning, The Wall Street Journal editorial board highlights many of the concerns that we and others address, but notes in “Government by Google” that crony capitalism constitutes the underlying foundation of the initiative:

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed rules that would force television providers to create a universal cable-box adapter.  This would hand over shows to companies – TiVo, Google – that would peddle programming as their own…

The new rule amounts to government-sponsored piracy in allowing TiVo and Google to broadcast programs that providers pay to distribute.  Google wouldn’t have to abide by carriage agreements or pay licensing fees, which is one reason content creators are pushing back.  The stealing would no doubt violate copyright.  Some 30 members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the rule would relegate minority programming to channels rarely visited by viewers.  Google prodded the supposedly independent FCC in 2014 to bust open cable boxes, and Chairman Wheeler followed orders.  The tech giant wants to sell ads against poached content, mowing over cable commercials and crushing advertising competitors.”

The federal government can’t be trusted to control our healthcare industry, our free speech rights, our children’s educational options, our Second Amendment rights and so on.  Why would control over our home entertainment choices or the constantly-advancing telecommunications industry somehow be any different?

The Journal concludes by noting another ominous element:  the Obama Administration’s mad rush to impose the remainder of its to-do list as the sun sets on its tenure:

The FCC rejected a similar proposal in 2010, but now the Democratic majority seems committed to ramming it through before President Obama leaves office.  Mr. Wheeler has already done great harm to his reputation by taking direction from the White House to regulate the Internet.  He’ll do even more damage if he does the cable-box bidding of Google.”

Well said.  Fortunately, a bipartisan Congressional consensus, the creative community, consumer groups and other elements stand ready to stop the FCC’s scheme at the legislative, judicial and regulatory levels.  Its up to the American electorate justifiably disgusted by crony capitalism and stifling federal overregulation to support them.

February 19th, 2016 at 12:06 pm
DISH Back on the Attack as it Continues to Lose Customers
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In recent weeks we’ve highlighted the unfortunate way in which Dish Network repeatedly resorts to crony capitalism to serve its own interest, and now we apparently have another manifestation.

You may have heard that a coalition called Stop Mega Cable, led by Dish Network, is leading a campaign to defeat the merger between Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable.  Today we received a clue about what’s behind the company’s opposition.

At the close of 2015, Dish reported a year-over-year decline of 81,000 customers, a poor showing made worse when one considers that the company augmented its numbers by including Sling TV customers.  Specifically, in the third quarter DISH announced it lost 23,000 customers, but the number was actually closer to 180,000 once Sling TV subscribers are excluded.

Clearly, DISH is losing its traditional TV customer base.  But instead of finding innovative ways to regain its standing, the company is speaking out against current and future competitors.  Dish is already losing tens of thousands of customers per month, and it would likely face even more challenges once New Charter enters the market.

Consequently, Stop Mega Cable works to limit consumer choice in order to benefit Dish. Any attempt to manipulate the industry should be met with skepticism, and the Charter/Time Warner Cable merger should be scrutinized on its own merits.

February 8th, 2016 at 12:37 pm
Dish Network Becoming a Crony Capitalist Serial Offender
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We’re not in the business of demonizing particular private enterprises.  But it is our mission to advance the principles of free markets.  And few things corrupt contemporary markets more than crony capitalism, the exploitation of government power for private purposes.  From eminent domain abuse to kneecapping competing businesses, individuals and groups who favor free markets shouldn’t remain silent when businesses engage in it.

And in the case of Dish Network, we seem to have a serial offender.

In recent weeks, we’ve rightfully criticized Dish’s shenanigans as it relates to the desperately-needed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spectrum auction.

Unfortunately, that unseemly behavior extends to the realm of marketplace mergers between willing parties.  We believe that absent some demonstrable unfair harm or illegality, private businesses should be free to merge, split or otherwise transact as they see fit without governmental meddling.  Regulators and disagreeable parties should have to carry a burden of proof in establishing such illegality or unfair harm before telling mutually-bargaining parties what they and cannot do.

Dish Network, however, appears to believe that it should be free to engage in merger activity when it sees fit, but others should not enjoy the same freedom when that doesn’t serve Dish’s perceived interest.

Perhaps the most prominent immediate example is Dish’s opposition to the proposed merger between Time-Warner Cable and Charter Communications, where it has gone so far as to petition the FCC to block the agreement.  That maneuver parallels its previous opposition to the Time-Warner/Comcast merger, which CFIF supported in the face of needless federal meddling.  Dish also considered it appropriate to oppose the AT&T/DirecTV merger.

But note something peculiar.  Several years prior, Dish itself sought to merge with DirecTV.  Similarly, Dish sought to merge with T-Mobile back in 2015, and in 2013 it asked the FCC to refrain from interfering with the Sprint/Softbank Stake merger, because its own desire to acquire Clearwire depended upon that particular merger going forward.  And in 2011, Dish sought a $2 billion purchase of Hulu, despite maligning the same company less than one year earlier.

Again, we hold no particular animosity toward Dish as an entity, and no opinion regarding the quality of its service.  But we do have a problem with a company inserting itself into merger negotiations between third parties, characterizing mergers as harmful to the marketplace and imploring regulators to interfere with other parties’ private interactions, only to turn around and seek the very same types of mergers when it anticipates some individualized benefit.

That is the definition of crony capitalism, and it should be opposed by government officials and American citizens alike.

August 7th, 2012 at 7:08 pm
Why Romney Won’t Pick SC’s Nikki Haley for VP

Besides her Sarah Palin-esque rise to prominence as South Carolina’s Governor – and the fear that she’s too green to be Romney’s vice president – there’s another, more salient reason Nikki Haley isn’t being talked about as Mitt’s running mate: she’s using Barack Obama’s stimulus formula and getting worse results.

According to The Daily Caller, since becoming governor in 2011, Haley has tried to dole out more than $70 million in tax incentives and grants to businesses as a way to create jobs in South Carolina.  Still, the state’s unemployment rate sits at 9.1 percent, much higher than the 8.3 percent national average.

Some Palmetto State conservatives have had enough, including Harry Kibler, a Tea Party member and founder of RINO [Republican In Name Only] Hunt:

“She basically is running all over the state trying to make sweetheart deals with corporations to entice them to move to South Carolina and start business here,” said Harry Kibler, a tea party activist and founder of the conservative group RINO Hunt.

“I have a heartfelt philosophy that if we get government intrusion out of the business culture in South Carolina, that business will move here on its own,” Kibler told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“The governor seems to think that the only people in South Carolina that create jobs is the state legislature and the government,” RINO Hunt’s Kibler countered. “Make South Carolina the freest state or the cheapest state to do business — for all business — and business will naturally be attracted to South Carolina.”

Don’t expect Mitt Romney to invite that kind of criticism from the Right by picking Nikki Haley as his vice president.

May 31st, 2012 at 5:08 pm
Romney Dings Obama on Solyndra

Standing across the street from Solyndra’s Fremont, CA headquarters today Mitt Romney articulated well just about everything that’s wrong with President Barack Obama’s Solyndra fiasco.

From CNN:

“This building, this half-a-billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team. It’s also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

CFIF readers are no strangers to the Obama administration’s crony capitalism vis-à-vis Solyndra.

The fast-track loan approvals that benefited a major 2008 campaign bundler, the renegotiated terms that leapfrogged private investors in front of taxpayers in the event of a default, and the unnecessary risk of $535 million in taxpayer money on an unproven solar technology that ultimately flamed out are permanent reminders of how this White House’s corrupt politics and bad policies result in debt-exploding outcomes.

Americans can’t afford another day of this fiscal irresponsibility; let alone another four years.

May 7th, 2012 at 1:59 pm
Jim DeMint Stands on Principle on Export-Import Bank
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By the standard rules of political compromise, Senator Jim DeMint could be forgiven if he decided not to wade into the fight over whether the Export-Import Bank gets reauthorized by Congress. The bank, which subsidizes the business ventures of American corporations overseas, counts Boeing as one of its biggest beneficiaries — and the aerospace giant has a major presence in DeMint’s home state of South Carolina.

As he makes clear in a new op-ed in the Greenville News, however, DeMint doesn’t take stances based on which interests they serve; he takes them based on what principles they represent. From the piece:

When Boeing’s home state labor union ganged up with President Barack Obama’s National Labor Relations Board to try to sue Boeing for building a new factory in North Charleston, I strongly supported Boeing’s freedom to build factories wherever they pleased.

More recently dust has been kicked over the extension of the Export-Import Bank, a federal program that subsidizes American businesses’ exports. Because Boeing receives Ex-Im subsidies, and because I favor winding down the Ex-Im Bank instead of increasing its budget, some ask if I went from being pro-Boeing to anti-Boeing.

Neither. All I’ve ever been is pro-freedom.

In both cases, my guiding principle is the same: liberty.

Freedom isn’t perfect, but it is fair. And any time government hands out favors, they’ll be unfair to someone.

When Washington picks winners and losers, in the end taxpayers always lose, and Ex-Im is no exception.

Kudos to Senator DeMint for standing on the side of liberty and equality before the law, and for opposing the trends toward rent-seeking and crony capitalism. We could use more like him in Washington.

April 25th, 2012 at 1:35 pm
“Bribery” in Mexico Not that Different from “Public Policy” in America
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In recent days, Wal-Mart has been rocked by the New York Times‘ reporting on a bribery scandal in Mexico, where the firm reportedly paid over $24 million to government officials to fast-track the permitting process for stores built south of the border.

The left, of course, is all over this because Wal-Mart is their corporate bete noir of choice. Personally, however, I think the party that bears the most guilt is the Mexican government, which has created an atmosphere in which graft is the easiest way to do business. Absent those conditions, the need for bribes would have been minimal and the issue would’ve been moot. Regardless, however, there’s an important angle here that gets fleshed out by the American Enterprise Institute’s Nick Schulz, writing for Forbes:

… While we’re on the topic of companies having to pay the politically powerful for access to markets, can we stop for a moment to examine how things sometimes get done right here in the United States? It’s not uncommon for big box retailers to pony up cash and other unearned benefits in order to break new ground on stores.; what’s different here, however, is that members of our political class often force them to do it. And it’s all perfectly legal.

Consider a recent bill in Maryland, where I live, aimed at big box retailers. Firms like Wal-Mart, Costco, and others hoping to expand operations in wealthy Montgomery County, just outside Washington DC, would be forced to negotiate legally-binding “community benefits agreements” as a condition for building and operating new stores. These sorts of bills are not uncommon when big retailers want to expand or enter into new markets.

The upshot is that politically well-connected local stakeholders – unions, community organizers, and other interest groups – get cash, hiring promises, and other benefits from the retailer in exchange for dropping any opposition to a new store.

Among the possible benefits are “assistance to community organizations and programs.” These organizations can, in turn, use this “assistance” to support the political candidates who push this kind of legislation in the first place.

What Schulz is describing is no more representative of free-market capitalism than the bribery going on in Mexico. As long as business owners have to compensate others who have contributed absolutely nothing to their efforts as the predicate for setting up shop, political power over business is still excessive. At least the folks in Mexico have the decency to call this what it is.

April 18th, 2012 at 7:54 pm
Malkin: Real GSA Scandal is Legal Giveaways to Big Labor

Michelle Malkin says that while the million-dollar junkets enjoyed by General Services Administration officials at taxpayer expense deserve outrage, the real scandals are the $25 million+ paydays the GSA gives to Big Labor thanks to a rule implemented by President Barack Obama.

As I’ve reported previously, the linchpin is E.O. 13502, a union-friendly executive order signed by Obama in his first weeks in office. It essentially forces contractors who bid on large-scale public construction projects worth $25 million or more to submit to union representation for its employees. The blunt instrument used to give unions a leg up is the “project labor agreement,” which in theory sets reasonable pre-work terms and conditions. But in practice, it requires contractors to hand over exclusive bargaining control, to pay inflated, above-market wages and benefits, and to fork over dues money and pension funding to corrupt, cash-starved labor organizations.

One analyst told Congress that “the adoption of a PLA amounts, in effect, to a conferral of monopoly power on a select group of construction unions over the supply of construction labor.”

Since 85 percent of construction laborers are non-union, Obama’s GSA-enforced PLA is a financial boon to the shrinking unionized sector.

Echoing Malkin, the GSA administration’s luxuriant trips to Las Vegas and other locales should be prosecuted fully, but let’s not be distracted from the crony capitalism wasting several times those amounts just about every time a new federal building gets constructed.

If there’s going to be oversight – and there should be – let’s hope the bulk of it zeroes in on unwinding President Obama’s disastrous PLA.

December 2nd, 2011 at 6:45 pm
Cut Obama’s Crony Loan Programs to Help Balance Budget

Here’s my contribution to the debate on how to cut the federal deficit: Congress should cut the criminally mismanaged loan program administered by the Department of Energy.  Under Secretary Steven Chu’s watch, the department has doled out $535 million to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, with a separate $400 million sweetheart deal to Abound Solar.  Both firms are financially backed by top-dollar campaign bundlers for President Barack Obama’s presidential runs.

Had this program not been in place nearly $1 billion of taxpayer money would not have been parceled out to crony capitalists.  (Add the $548 million steered to Siga Technologies Inc. for a smallpox drug America doesn’t need, and you’re at nearly $1.5 billion to pay for products the private market doesn’t want.)  Is there a Democrat in Congress willing to defend this massive waste of taxpayer money, money that could have been spent to pay down the debt, shore-up Social Security, or extend the payroll tax holiday?

The best reason to get a Republican nominee quickly is so that the broader American electorate can be educated on the enormous amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse inflicted on the nation’s fisc by the Occupiers in the White House.

November 16th, 2011 at 5:50 pm
Michelle Malkin Blasts Growing Siga Scandal

Michelle Malkin takes no prisoners with her analysis of the newest example of Obama’s crony capitalism gone wild.  As I wrote about yesterday, the $433 million taxpayer giveaway to the politically connected pharmaceutical firm Siga Technologies will rival the $535 debt incurred thanks to Solyndra going belly-up.  When you tack on an additional $115 billion in R&D the feds gave Siga to create the drug they’re selling to HHS, these two scandals combined have cost American taxpayers over $1 trillion.

When will any of the GOP presidential candidates make this a theme of their campaign?

November 2nd, 2011 at 1:02 am
More Crony Capitalism in L.A. Football Bid

Recently, Troy wrote an excellent indictment of the latest Los Angeles boondoggle, a debt-laden deal to bring an NFL team to a city with job-killing regulations and 12.5 percent unemployment.

Now, Joel Kotkin echoes Troy’s analysis with more scathing criticisms of the regulations-for-thee-but-not-for-me pay-to-play scandal pushing a publicly financed stadium forward.

Such projects often obscure the real and more complex challenge of nurturing broad-based economic growth. This would require substantive change in a city or regional political culture. Instead the football stadium services two basic political constituencies: large unions and big-time speculators, particularly in the downtown area. The fact that the stadium will be built with union labor, for example, all but guaranteed its approval by the city’s trade union-dominated council.

Downtown developers and “rent-seeking” speculators, the other group behind the project, have siphoned hundreds of millions in tax breaks and public infrastructure in the past decade. They have done so – subsidizing companies from other parts of Los Angeles, entertainment venues and hotels — in the name of a long-held, impossible dream of turning downtown Los Angeles into a mini-Manhattan. Perhaps no company has pushed this more effectively than the stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group, a mass developer of generic entertainment districts around the world. AEG has expanded its influence by doling out substantial financial donations to Mayor Villaraigosa and others in the city’s economically clueless political class.

October 14th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
Perry Getting Hit from the Right

The hits just keep on coming at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.  The governor of Texas is in increasingly hot water as he tries to parry away charges that he’s soft on illegal immigration and insider tax breaks for friendly corporations.

In Texas, Tea Party activists are demanding that Perry sign an executive order or call a special session of the state legislature to pass an Arizona-style law authorizing state police to check a person’s immigration status.  On the business front, Perry’s use of a governor-controlled “emerging technology fund” is drawing criticism for producing more misses than hits for taxpayers told that tax holidays for some would create jobs for many others.

Perry can’t run away from his record.  He can, however, enhance it with better defenses of it.

We’ll see if he’s up to the challenge.

September 20th, 2011 at 11:48 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Crony Socialism
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

September 16th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
WSJ: Fed Loan Ruined Solyndra

While congressional investigators continue to probe into whether the Obama Administration broke federal laws in awarding a $535 million loan to now-bankrupt Solyndra, the Wall Street Journal details how crony capitalism prolonged a series of bad decisions by the solar company’s management.

Here’s the money paragraph:

In mid-2009, Solyndra had a choice: It could hunker down with its existing factory and try to slash costs to meet competition, drawing on additional private capital as needed, according to the people familiar with the company. Or, with a loan from Uncle Sam, it could gamble and build a brand-new, bigger factory in a bid to gain economies of scale and dominate the market.

Choosing to gamble, Solyndra overbuilt its manufacturing capacity, and continued rushing to market a product that was not marketed – or priced – correctly.

As the WSJ article makes clear, not all of Solyndra’s problems were the result of inept management.  An unexpected drop in the price of a competing product turned Solyndra’s profitability upside down.  The market was sending Solyndra’s management a message to rethink their strategies.  The Obama Administration bypassed that all-important-process with huge amounts of money to continue pursuing failure.

Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up the president’s thinking when it comes to government spending.  No wonder his new jobs plan is dead on arrival.

September 8th, 2011 at 11:26 pm
FBI Raids Obama Green Jobs Company

There’s been quite a bit of media buzz surrounding the recently announced bankruptcy of Solyndra, the California solar panel company that couldn’t turn a profit even after a $535 million loan from the federal government.

But what started out as Exhibit A in the case against subsidizing green jobs into existence has morphed into the latest scandal engulfing the Obama Administration.  At issue is a suspicious connection between a Solyndra investor’s work as a bundler for the Obama campaign and the sweetheart loan given to the company.

On Wednesday, the FBI raided Solyndra’s Fremont, California headquarters, and Republicans are promising increased scrutiny.  It would be bad enough if there is a pay-to-play scandal, but it’s even worse financially since the failure of Solyndra is both corrupt and incompetent.

May 19th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
Maybe an American Should Run the IMF

For some reason, the French are trying to maintain a death grip on leading the International Monetary Fund, newly headless after Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned over an alleged sexual assault scandal.  Though Deputy Director John Lipsky, an American, is now serving as the interim head of the IMF, a move is already underway to install France’s Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as quickly as possible.

But not so fast, say a panel of French judges.  They are weighing whether to investigate Lagarde for allegedly intervening in a lawsuit against the government on behalf of a political donor to her party.  The announcement is clouding her candidacy.

First, the French had to endure the hypocrisy of the Socialist Strauss-Kahn staying in a $3,000 a night hotel suite.  (So far, the alleged attack is a lesser blemish in French circles with a majority believing Strauss-Kahn was set up.)  Now, his potential replacement is under fire for crony capitalism.

Is French disdain for America so great that the most obvious replacement is deemed unacceptable for the long-term because he happens to be from the United States?