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352 of 365 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How 1% of Americans Take From the Other 99% and Why We Tolerate It
The author has written a well documented and detailed account of how less than 1% of Americans are getting rich of the backs of the other 99%. And, it isn't just individuals who are reaping millions of dollars from taxpayers...it's also corporations.

Some of the items presented in detail in the book include how one of the largest baseball teams in the country...
Published on January 3, 2008 by Frederick S. Goethel

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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disapppointing follow up to "Perfectly Legal"
David Cay Johnston's book "Perfectly Legal" was a masterpiece of muckraking which opened my eyes to the way the game is rigged in this country in favor of the rich. The book drew on his experience as a tax writer for the New York Times and presented, in tremendous detail and with great amounts of evidence, exact and precise ways in which the tax code has been rigged. It's...
Published on May 7, 2008 by JoshJosh


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352 of 365 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How 1% of Americans Take From the Other 99% and Why We Tolerate It, January 3, 2008
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This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
The author has written a well documented and detailed account of how less than 1% of Americans are getting rich of the backs of the other 99%. And, it isn't just individuals who are reaping millions of dollars from taxpayers...it's also corporations.

Some of the items presented in detail in the book include how one of the largest baseball teams in the country destroyed a public park for a new stadium, had it paid for by the citizens, and then gave payback to politicians who helped.

Or the two major hunting and fishing chains that got millions and millions in tax subsidies to build stores based on false and unsustainable promises, and continue to try to rape the treasuries of communities across the country with more false promises.

Or the company who built a call center in Buffalo using tax subsidies and sold it to the public through a newspaper owned by the same company.

These are just several examples of the material detailed in the book. In addition to showing who is taking, and how, the author details who is fighting back and how they are trying to in an era when the courts and politicians are held by corporate interests.

The book is well written, and well documented. In addition, the author took what can be a very dry subject and made extremely readable. This book should be read by every American, particularly in light of the upcoming presidential elections. Some familiar names will pop out at you as individuals who made their fortunes off our backs.
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141 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Things Adam Smith Said, February 7, 2008
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This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
One thing you can expect when you open a book by David Cay Johnston is narrative that reads like a drama unfolding except that the plot is present-day America and the story is how the wealthy are getting richer at the expense of the middle class. Hence the title "Free Lunch," where the wealthy steal it with government approval, are paid to take it or get it free, courtesy of the same who hands the bill over to us.

At the very beginning, Johnston explains what the invisible hand of Adam Smith means, for the benefit of those who know it and for those who only think they do--of which there are more than enough of the latter. Smith postulated that a free market economy creates competition that serves the common good but, (and here's the kicker), does not work if government provides them bounty (subsidies), or allows them to collude to keep prices high. He also stated that there would be enterprises that would operate to seek bounties only, the equivalent of modern corporate welfare.

Johnston provides chapter after fascinating chapter of how government at all levels offers break after break which is consistently picked up by Average Joe Taxpayer. Such "bounties" include:

· Misuse of eminent domain, which is supposed to mean appropriating land for the common good such as a new highway or airport. Now it is used to support developers who wish to profit at the expense of the homeowner.

· Tax breaks. Not only do companies such as Wal-Mart, Cabela, or Bass Pro insist on property tax breaks that decimate the local economy rather than improve it, but they might even insist on keeping the sales tax. Communities may not see a return on their investment for decades.

· Government intervention in the form of legislation that may even benefit large companies at the expense of the citizen such as "free-market" energy as espoused by Ken Lay that eventually cost Californians exorbitant charges for no additional electricity generated.

· Kids who take student loans are finding out that what they thought was a loan at six percent suddenly became eighteen percent guaranteeing that they will pay far more than they borrowed for years to come, and the lender is guaranteed no risk.

· Our government is also lavishing subsidies onto for-profit health care companies that consistently look for ways to deny claims. No subsidies go to nonprofit health systems even though studies show they offer superior care. (Adam Smith also said: "What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole").

· The grand prize, which is our current administration in the form of George W. Bush who sponsored a drug plan for seniors that was worked on (behind closed doors) by Billy Tauzin (R), Max Baucus (D), and John Breaux (D). These "representatives of the people" guaranteed that Adam Smith's dictum of seeking the lowest possible price would be ignored. Their bill guaranteed that our government would not be allowed to negotiate the price of drugs for its citizens even though it would make purchases in bulk.

In each of the above, there has not only been collusion by companies and industries, but also a feckless government that has given its blessing with collusion of its own, subsidies, and bluster of threats to investigate wrong-doing, with investigations that never quite materialize.

Having read his previous work "Perfectly Legal" I was eager to get my hands on this book, and I was not disappointed. In twenty-seven chapters that span the length of less than 300 pages, you will discover how industry and government have actually worked to first deceive, then gouge the average hard-working taxpayer. Any one of these chapters is a revelation that made me open this book at every opportunity.

This is the kind of book you can be sorry that it comes to an end, and also be glad that it does (because it is too painful).

If this book cannot stir the most politically apathetic into action, nothing will.

Maybe they'll just have to see the bill first.

Also recommended:

"Perfectly Legal" by David Cay Johnston
"The Conscience of a Liberal" by Paul Krugman
"Sicko" (DVD) by Michael Moore
"The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)"
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136 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars feeding at the public trough, January 3, 2008
By 
Eric A. Isaacson (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
How can our government be so expensive, yet so ineffective?

Showing it's no accident that our political institutions too often serve the interests of the rich and powerful, Mr. Johnston "follows the money" -- the money that buys special favors, and the money that's siphoned out of our pockets to pay for them.

This is an eminently readable and informative book, that deserves a large audience. But be warned -- being informed can produce outrage!

Eric Alan Isaacson
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deafening silence, January 4, 2008
This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
David Cay Johnston has been writing about this topic for years.
Question to all: How come no Dateline or 60 Minutes investigation hasn't exposed this ongoing scam?
How come newspapers just won't harp mercilessly on the politicians about that?

THAT is the real tragedy that shall cost this country its very preeminence. A non-informed citizenry is prime material for being robbed of their money and freedoms.
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104 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Analysis, January 3, 2008
By 
John P. Milton (Crestone, Colorado 81131 USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
This book is an excellent analysis of corporate socialism. Johnson clarifies how profoundly industry has taken all the profits in a growing economy, taxing the citizens to do it. This a powerful political wakeup call. Highly recommended.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How "Special Interests" Pick Your Pocket to Create Billion-Dollar Fortunes, May 14, 2008
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 122,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
I wanted to lose my lunch on the shoes of any politician or executive named in this book after reading what David Cay Johnston had to say. Unless you want to be cheated forever (and for more money), read this book and let your "elected" and "appointed" representatives know that you won't stand for it any more.

George Washington, as usual, got it right: If we allow political parties to exist rather than looking out for everyone's interests in a non-partisan way, the parties will sell out the public interest for pennies to get money to run election campaigns and conduct party politics.

It's popular now to say we need a change in Washington, a change that involves changing political parties in charge of governing. Wrong! Really, how foolish can we get? Can't anyone remember what Washington said?

In the meantime, you can read the excellent exposes in David Cay Johnston's book to help you realize that your Federal, state, and local legislators in the United States are selling out your and your children's interests to curry favor with those who will give them large campaign contributions. Yes, there's some corruption but mostly it seems to be related to wanting power and more power . . . and not understanding what the costs will be.

Once again, we see tales of how the fig leaf of "free markets" is invoked to put in changes that cause "rigged markets" with vastly increased profits. My favorite example in the book is how President Bush and his pal, "Kenny Boy" Lay, from Enron rigged the electricity markets so that instead of consumers paying the lowest price anyone was willing to sell electricity for (a Dutch auction) the highest price bid is paid to all (which means they take turns putting in phony high-priced bids to rig prices way above where they would be in either a free or a regulated market).

Here are some of the more interesting cases in the book:

1. How famous Scottish golf courses were re-created through indirect and direct taxpayer subsidies in a remote part of Oregon that is easily accessible only by corporate jet.

2. How public parks were gobbled up to build the new Yankee Stadium in New York City and parks in poor areas everywhere were left untended to favor richer areas.

3. Ways that college and graduate school students are cheated on their interest rates for student loans.

4. How burglar alarm monitoring companies are subsidized to earn big profits by free police services covering false alarms while response rates to real crimes decline.

5. How John Snow stopped repairing the track at CSX causing deaths with no risk that any costs would be incurred by CSX. You, the taxpayer, paid instead for his willful neglect.

6. How many "high profile" politicians including Rudy Giuliani have ignored anti-corruption laws and take huge gifts and trips from lobbyists.

7. How two leading sporting goods chains persuade governments to subsidize their stores with tax breaks worth a multiple of the total construction cost of each store.

8. How "good guy" Warren Buffett is out for all the tax breaks he can get, regardless of the public cost and harm to the local community in Buffalo.

9. How "required" title insurance creates one of America's most profitable industries by bribing banks and lawyers with money you pay when you buy a home.

10. How the California courts let Barron Hilton seize the assets of a charity that his father had established to help the poor. So if you like Paris Hilton's clothes, realize that she paid for them in part with money that was destined for those who need clothes . . . any kind of clothes.

11. We've all read about the massive amounts of money made in Russia and elsewhere by politicians selling off government operations at bargain prices to their pals. Well the same thing has been going on here with selling off municipal utilities and non-profit foundations. It's like a banana republic.

12. You'll also read about how creating "deregulated" utilities allows companies to shuffle around costs between their subsidiaries so that rate payers pay for the same construction costs twice.

13. You will be reminded of President Bush's misstatements and keeping the lid on more accurate reports about what his drug benefit plan for seniors would cost. But what's a few hundred billion for a guy who spent a trillion dollars (so far) in Iraq?

Most people would probably like this book better if it had a more partisan tone (how the Republicans stole from the poor and middle class to make the rich a lot richer). Instead, the book points at individuals (a more accurate way to assess the sources of corruption) including two-term president "the peoples' choice" George W. Bush and invokes spiritual rules for suggesting other ways of making choices.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disapppointing follow up to "Perfectly Legal", May 7, 2008
This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
David Cay Johnston's book "Perfectly Legal" was a masterpiece of muckraking which opened my eyes to the way the game is rigged in this country in favor of the rich. The book drew on his experience as a tax writer for the New York Times and presented, in tremendous detail and with great amounts of evidence, exact and precise ways in which the tax code has been rigged. It's layered and powerful - "Perfectly Legal" is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.

"Free Lunch" expands on this theme (rich people rigging this country's government to help them) feels like more of a polemic. The writing is shakier and the fact-based evidence is disguised behind a wall of obvious disgust and contempt for the people taking from the many to give to the wealthy and obscenely wealthy. I don't blame him, in fact I am disgusted by it as well, but it means that this book will not have the same impact as "Perfectly Legal". It is more "preaching to the choir" if you will.

The book also seems to bounce around too much. Some topics are covered in depth quite a bit while some not as much. Important points, like the fact that roughly 100% of the increase of value of sports teams has come from taxpayer subsidized stadiums, or that increased funding of libraries, parks, etc. could provide a useful buttress against gang crime, are not given adequate depth in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong - this is a valuable book and I do hope Johnston keeps up this important work. There is lots of good stuff in here, and it's critical more people know what politicians really mean when they talk about "free markets" and the like. But "Free Lunch" is not as convincing as "Perfectly Legal" and therein lies its greatest flaw.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book that Will Engage and Enrage You, July 7, 2008
By 
Steve Koss (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
Seven years into the governmental nightmare known as the Bush II Admininstration, and scant months before the near collapse of the American economy under the weight of a devalued dollar, massive trade imbalances, failed hedge funds, near-failed banks and investment firms, bursting real estate bubble, $4.00+ per gallon gasoline, and the prospect of dual bankruptcies by Ford and General Motors, David Cay Johnston's FREE LUNCH emerged in bookstores. Mr. Johnston's book was as much a warning against these trends as it was a jeremiad, a lengthy register of complaints about a governmental system that, at virtually every level, had been overtaken by lawyers and lobbyists in the name of their corporate clients. In Mr. Johnston's view, the American enterprise system had increasingly become rigged for the aggrandizement of the wealthy few at the expense of the vast many. History will likely show that, while this perversion of government "for the people" was not causative with respect to the Bush II late-term recession, they will be seen as part and parcel of the same neoconservative, trickle-down agenda.

The strength of FREE LUNCH emerges in its lengthy anecdotes. Rather than lecture and philosophize, Mr. Johnston elects to illustrate with concrete examples that leave one outraged, cursing under one's breath at both the sheer audacity and the public's lack of awareness and powerlessness. His case histories begin with the "reward without risk" behavior of CSX, the railroad company whose negligence in maintaining tracks and switches allowed them to increase earnings while offloading the liability for accidents and deaths onto the American taxpayer via Amtrak. Next comes the seizure of the Mullaly and Macombs Dam Parks by New York City on behalf of George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, followed by a fusillade targeted at the use of taxpayer funds and tax rebates for privately-owned professional sports teams around the U.S. (with special attention given to the Texas Rangers during George W. Bush's questionable involvement with that franchise).

Next comes corporate subsidies given to companies like Wal-Mart and Cabela sport shops in the form of land seizures (eminent domain) and tax subsidies which virtually never earn back in other taxes what is lost in the subsidy. One egregious example: Warren Buffet's GEICO insurance company received $100 million in government subsidies to build a $40 million call center in Buffalo, NY. Another is that of Tyco, General Electric, Honeywell, and others in the home alarm system business who collect monthly fees in return for placing calls with local police departments without bearing one cent's worth of the enormous cost of false alarms. Perhaps the most outrageous of Mr. Johnston's stories concerns the five companies who control 92% of the title insurance business in the United States. Not only is the industry rampant with kickbacks to developers, lawyers, and real estate brokers, the insurance itself is wildly overpriced and virtually unnecessary. No such corporate businesses exist in Australia or Europe, nor in Iowa where Johnston claims the typical title insurance premium is just $500.

FREE LUNCH progresses through, among others, the areas of health care and health insurance, pharmaceuticals, student loans, and electrical utilities (including, of course, Enron). In each case, the author illustrates how big business interests are sheltered from risk or given preference over those of the average citizen due primarily to the latter's lack of lobbyists or other voices in government that speaks on their behalf. Congress, the people's purported voice in Washington, has of course long since been purchased by corporate interests, and similar abandonment has routinely taken place at the state and local levels.

One would hope after all the horror stories that Mr. Johnston would have some thoughts on how to change things. Sadly, his suggestions occupy a meager two pages and consist of two hopelessly romantic idealizations: recognizing that "we the people" are not powerless, and "restor[ing] the ethos that cheating is wrong." In addition, and perhaps a bit more concretely, he proposes that Congressional representatives be given unlimited personal budgets in return for full and open reporting on all their expenditures coupled with a total ban (and zero tolerance) on all gifts and contributions of services. As he correctly points out, "A free lunch always costs more than an honest one." Unfortunately, it continues to be "we the people" who end up paying for all those free lunches.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wefare Reversed: The poor aid the rich and do not get anything back., January 5, 2008
By 
Antonieta (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
Hopefully this book changes our collective mind about satanizing poor welfare recipients as "welfare mothers" or unworth of help, while we go unflinched by the rich living off government subsidies, paid by our hard earned tax money. As of the trickle down effect that many economists suggest would happen when rich people get richer and invest, it is still expected. This kind of reversed welfare only increases class inequality, and helps pushing the middle class down into the ladder.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten star MUST READ, January 19, 2008
This review is from: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (Hardcover)
If you don't read any other book this year read this one.

So refreshing to read a book where the author not only has done their homework, but names names rather than rely on the old trick of anonymous sources. Also makes it clear that men like Warren Buffet, Donald Trump and dozens of major sports owners, Steve Jobs and others are not the self made people they want us to believe.

How can they be a self made people with millions if we the taxpayers have provided the money and we have gotten zip back and they have gotten fat and rich? These men and women are nothing but socialist whores.

Doubt any have read Adam Smith or Thomas Paine, which the author write of extensively. Remember this come November and election time. Sadly, I believe the elite few will make sure we have more to fear even if it wisent anything to fear, just so we don't become a larger crowd pointing fingers at them. And lets not forget the elected men and women who have let us down.

Makes one wonder if we don't need another revolution to take OUR country back. Read Adam Smith and Thomas Paine, because they foresaw problems and warned the citizens, so they would be prepared.
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