Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry

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9781451642223: Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry
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Dylan Ratigan is mad as hell. Infuriated by government corruption and corporate communism, incensed by banksters shaking down taxpayers, and despairing of an ailing health care system, an age-old dependency on foreign oil, and a failing educational system, Ratigan sees an America that has allowed itself to be swindled and robbed. In this book, his first, he rips the lid off our deeply crooked system—and offers a way out.

This country, now more than ever, needs passionate debate and smart policy, a brazen willingness to scrap what doesn’t work, and the entrepreneurial spirit to try what does. Ratigan has compiled brash and fresh solutions for building a new and better America, and with this book he has started the debate America deserves.

With you, he wants to take back the country from the six vampires sucking this nation dry:

· A political system in which lobbyists write legislation, lawmakers place “secret holds” to create more pork for their districts, and money drives the whole process.

· A banking system that uses capital for speculation and debt creation, rather than productive investment.

· A “master-slave” relationship with our Chinese bankers, making our corporations and politicians complicit in a system that rigs our currency and leaves us with permanent joblessness and massive trade deficits.

· A health care system that is among the priciest and least sustainable in the industrialized world.

· An educational system that prizes prestige but produces mediocrity.

· An addiction to foreign oil that has sapped us of our willingness to innovate, made us reliant on inefficient technologies, and left us supportive of corrupt governments.

To combat these vampires and to isolate the systematic ways in which our once productive industries and our government have been breached, Ratigan does not offer a grab bag of flimsy suggestions or useless hot air. Instead he provides readers with a set of values that together form the answer for how each of us can not only understand what has gone wrong—but join together to make it right.

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About the Author:

Dylan Ratigan is the host of MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show, one of the highest-rated, daytime shows on the network.  This make-versus-take, analysis-driven daily broadcast fearlessly takes on the world of politics, money, and the unholy alliance between big business and government.

The former global managing editor for corporate finance at Bloomberg News, Ratigan has developed and launched more than half a dozen broadcast and new media properties.  They include CNBC’s Fast Money and Closing Bell, as well as DylanRatigan.com, which is home to his podcast, “Greedy Bastards Antidote.”

Ratigan left as host of Fast Money in 2009, provoked by outrage over the government’s handling of the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, he has dedicated his work to launching platforms that engage and debate the U.S. government on policy, while opening the door for millions to learn more about money’s often poisonous role in our democracy.  His first book, Greedy Bastards, which will be released on January 10, 2012, details this broken system, and more importantly, illustrates how fixing these problems will release a renaissance of growth and innovation.

Since late September 2011, more than 300,000 people have pledged support, millions of dollars have been raised, and an organization with a staff of a dozen people has been formed under Ratigan’s leadership to pursue the singular objective to pass a 28th Constitutional amendment to separate business and state.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Greedy Bastards


Imagine an ordinary man so desperate that he decides to rob a bank. For years, he’s worked a steady job, but when he loses that job, the only work he can find is as a part-time clerk in a convenience store. Still, he makes do. He cuts his expenses and relies on a little help from his family, though he hates to do so. Then he starts to develop health troubles. He’s nearly sixty years old, and he needs foot surgery. He develops crippling back pain and a frightening bone protrusion sticking out of his chest. He can no longer lift the stock he is supposed to load onto the shelves at the store. Although he could move in with his sister, he doesn’t want to be a burden, and he knows that she can’t afford to pay for his health care out of pocket any better than he can. So what choices does he have? He goes into the local bank and slips the teller a note. It demands $1—and health care.

This is not a fantasy, and the man wasn’t crazy. He was thinking clearly about a crazy situation. Jail, he realized, was the one place where he could get health care without bankrupting himself and his family. “Because he only asked for $1,” Yahoo! News reported, “he was charged with larceny, not bank robbery. But he said that if his punishment isn’t severe enough, he plans to tell the judge that he’ll do it again. His $100,000 bond has been reduced to $2,000, but he says he doesn’t plan to pay it.” Jail, he said, was the best of his bad options.

That true story is one glimpse of a country going seriously wrong. Our unemployment is stuck near Depression levels, prompting outcries on both the left and the right. “We’re well on the way to creating a permanent underclass of the jobless,” wrote economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times. “One-sixth of America’s workers—all those who can’t find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job—have in effect been abandoned.” In the National Review, Rich Lowry wrote, “The statistics tell a dire, but incomplete, story. We were built to work. When we want to and can’t, it is an assault on our very personhood.” But even as the assault continues, our politicians seem not to notice, or not admit, how this country has changed. As Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, asked in the Wall Street Journal, “Do our political leaders have any sense of what people are feeling deep down? They don’t act as if they do. I think their detachment from how normal people think is more dangerous and disturbing than it has been in the past.”

If jobs are a bad deal, housing is worse. More than one in four houses are underwater, and that figure obscures how bad it’s gotten in the hardest-hit states. According to data from CoreLogic, a private research company, 63 percent of all mortgaged properties in Nevada are worth less than the owners paid for them. In Arizona, it’s 50 percent. In Florida, 46 percent. Lacking jobs or stuck in low-paying ones, unable to sell their homes and move somewhere more promising, many Americans find that now is truly the worst of times. The US Census Bureau says that 43.6 million of us are now living in poverty—that’s more poor Americans than ever in the half century since records have been kept. Talk about a bad deal.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the US infant mortality rate is nearly twice as high as those of France, Japan, and Australia. In 2011, as food prices around the world continued to rise, the New York Times reported that 16 percent of Americans answered yes to the following question: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” Compared with over thirty other “advanced economy” countries, New York Times columnist Charles Blow found that the United States now ranks among “the worst of the worst” on measures such as income inequality, student performance on math tests, average life expectancy, and the percentage of our citizens in prison. No wonder that in a CBS News poll, 70 percent of Americans surveyed felt that the country was going in the wrong direction.

Even people who are used to feeling good about their lives are sensing the changes: the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey found that in 2010, only 29 percent of men and women reported being “very happy”—the lowest level of very happy people since the poll was first conducted in 1972.

But if this is the worst of times for many, it is an explosively wealthy time for a fortunate few. While jobs, investment capital, and confidence in the future drain away, there is good cheer in corporate boardrooms. According to a 2011 survey by the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading US companies, American CEOs felt more confident than ever before. And why shouldn’t they? A survey by Equilar, a private research company specializing in compensation, found that median pay for CEOs in 2010 had risen to $10.8 million: an astonishing 23 percent pay raise compared with just the year before. How about you? Did you get your extra 23 percent last year?

The fact is, the very rich are doing very, very well, as they have been for two or three decades. Journalist Robert Frank, the Wall Street Journal’s first full-time correspondent about the very rich, found that “the United States is now the world leader in producing millionaires—even if it lags behind China and India in other kinds of manufacturing.” Their demand for servants has raised butlering, once a dying career, into one of American’s fastest growing trades, along with maids, nannies, personal assistants, and private security guards.

Butlering is one of our notable growth industries. It’s not supposed to be like this. The United States is still a wealthy country. Wealth in a capitalist country is supposed to be invested, making new ventures possible, turning our ingenuity into new industries, creating jobs, and helping the economy grow. In the phrase that President John F. Kennedy used often, a rising tide lifts all boats. But something has gone wrong in America. For the last few decades, the rising tide has been lifting only the yachts.

Almost anywhere you look, if you just open your eyes, you will see ordinary, hardworking people struggling. Not far away, you’ll find a few greedy bastards making out like bandits. What defines greedy bastards? It’s not merely that they’re rich. I’m a capitalist; I am in favor of making lots and lots of money, as long as it comes from creating value for others. Americans have a long tradition of getting rich by making a great product or service that contributes to the growth of our country. But greedy bastards have given up on creating value for others and instead get their money by rigging the game so that they can steal from the rest of us.
Do You Suffer from Greedy Bastards?


Do you have greedy bastards in your state? In your congressional district? In your workplace? Are greedy bastards supplying your supermarket? Your big box stores? Are they lurking at your doctor’s office, your hospital, your gas station, your power company, your elementary school, your local college? If you have an infestation of greedy bastards, you need to be able to see them. You need to know how they got in, and you need to know what actions to take to get them out.

So what do we do about all these greedy bastards?

That question has obsessed me since 2008, when the banking crisis hit. At the time, I was hosting the financial news show Fast Money on CNBC. I’d made a career as a financial news anchor and reporter, chatting up the big traders and billionaire CEOs, and breaking the stories that helped investors pick the right stocks to buy and sell. My success in financial journalism was due in large part to the many personal relationships I’d built with the business leaders I interviewed, such as Carl Icahn, Mohamed El-Erian, and Bill Gross. Shortly after the federal bailout deal was reached in 2008, I had lunch with a banking CEO who asked if he could speak off the record. He said, “Dylan, do you see what is going on here? This is the largest theft and cover-up in American history.”

I didn’t have to take his word for it. My then thirteen years of financial reporting were my education in the ways that business can build up or tear down a country, and the most important thing I ever learned was that if you want to understand where a country is headed, you have to follow the money. So I followed the money trail, and I discovered that many bankers are no better than gangsters, shaking down the American people. As I explain in chapter 2, “The World’s Biggest Ongoing Heist,” the theft was the banksters’ ability to sell bad insurance on loans and keep the income even when they failed to pay legitimate claims. The cover-up was the government’s choice to print trillions of dollars in new money to make it seem (for a while) as if the problem had been fixed.

It was true: the financial crisis and bailout were indeed the biggest theft and cover-up ever seen. Greedy bastards are making almost unimaginable fortunes by skimming money from the customers they are supposed to serve and giving virtually nothing in return. And then those same greedy bastards get more taxpayer money to keep the scam going.

My private conversations with top business leaders encouraged me to trust my own eyes. So while many business journalists were cheering the government for our latest “rescue” from crisis, I was calling for the government’s supposed heroes to go to prison. As a guest on The View, I said that the politicians who authorized the bailout should go to jail. On the Today show, I accused AIG, the insurance company that received an $85 billion bailout, of blackmail. At first, most people in the media business thought I was straight crazy. They couldn’t believe that I was saying this stuff. Many of the companies I was calling out were the ones buying the commercials that paid for financial news programs like mine. So I left Fast Money, started The Dylan Ratigan Show, and I kept talking. Because what makes me so angry, even today, is that the underlying problems have not been solved. The banksters are still using their sway with politicians to commit mind-boggling theft. Ordinary Americans are still being fleeced. All that the supposed rescue did was to shift the cost of their reckless gambling from the wealthy and powerful who had created the problem to ordinary people on Main Street.

I realized that our banking system, on which every business and every one of us depends, has become a greedy bastard’s delight. Instead of serving its customers, it feeds on them. Vampires feast on blood, weakening and eventually killing their victims, but greedy bastards extract the lifeblood of countries, which is capital: the money, resources, and human potential that must flow through the body politic to nourish a nation’s health and growth. When our capital is drained away to private bank accounts and foreign investment, the country becomes weak and sick, threatening our investments, our jobs, our homes, and our future as a great nation.

In a vampire industry, all the usual rules and incentives of good business are reversed. Instead of trying to provide the highest quality product to serve the customer best, a vampire industry preys on its customers. Rewards go not to whoever competes best, but to whoever cheats best. In a vampire industry, the most successful employee is not the one who is most productive, but the one who is greediest. If the job descriptions were honest, they would say, “Wanted: greedy bastards. Responsibilities: to take our customers’ money any way you can.”

Greedy bastards don’t make money at all. They just take it. Here’s what I mean:

If I start a venture capital firm that lends out money to drug researchers trying to find new cures for disease, and I get rich doing it, then I made my money by investing in the productive future of this country; I used my money in a way that facilitated scientific innovation and a cure. I’m what director of the Havas Media Lab Umair Haque calls a “capitalist who makes.” But if instead I take the same money and use it to lobby for changes in a government regulation—changes that help me trick a union into investing its retirement savings in flawed investments so that I can collect the commissions—then I may move as many dollars into my bank account as someone who funded cures for diseases, but I haven’t made anything. I’m a “capitalist who takes,” exploiting my power to influence the government for my own private gain, no matter the harm to anyone else. I’m a greedy bastard.

In my reporting, I found banking overrun with greedy bastards, but banking was just the beginning. As I followed the money trail—the flow of capital through the body politic—I found multitrillion-dollar theft, perpetrated every day not just by banksters but also by greedy bastards in international trade, energy, health care, education, and by the politicians they buy. As I explain in chapters 3 through 6, we are borrowing from future generations to help send our jobs and our most productive industries to China. We have the least efficient energy industry in the developed world, wasting more than two-thirds of all the fuel we use. We have the least efficient health care industry in the world, paying up to seven times what some other countries pay for the same level of care. We spend more than almost anyone else on education, but our results are heartbreaking.

These industries were not always corrupt and wasteful. They once wanted many of the same things that the people did. There was a time in the past century when each industry was essential to our nation’s progress. As Josh Fox, creator of the 2010 documentary Gasland told us on The Dylan Ratigan Show, “Oil and [gasoline] built the whole last century. We have them to thank for that.” But the economic and environmental damage from our reliance on twentieth-century fuels is too severe for us to continue relying on an outdated energy industry. The same is true of finance, trade, health care, education, and politics. Each one had a productive life, and, as I’ll explain, with the changes of the digital revolution, each should have died a natural death. But instead of making room for the new industries of the twenty-first century, they refused to die. They became undead, preying on the customers they used to serve.

In the original Dracula by Bram Stoker, it took a long time for people to realize that actual vampires walked among them. Count Dracula dressed elegantly and carried himself like royalty. People were slow to believe in the vampires’ dark magic, which allowed them to move in secret, to hypnotize and control their servants, and to drain their victims’ blood while keeping them from feeling the terrible cost. Today’s vampire industries, too, have a dark magic: an unholy alliance with government based not just on the money that they contribute to political campaigns and spend on lobbying but on their ability to hypnotize us with false prices. How can a price be false if we pay it and they accept our payment? When the price we’re aware of paying is only the first cost we have to bear, and there is a second, hidden cost that is far higher, I call this the Very Bad Deal hypothesis. It works like this.

First, a g...

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