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The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money Hardcover – July 11, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
When it comes to the corporations that dominate the US economy, says Carney, there's no difference between Big Business Republicans and Tax-and-Spend Democrats. No matter who's in charge, Big Government and Big Business team up to create a quasi-fascist collective designed to extract maximum revenue from the common citizen. Carney has a host of facts to back up this theory, covering the history of Big Business and Big Government, the tradition of corporate welfare in America, profiles of such private offenders as Phillip Morris and Enron, and the "green" cheat of "environmentalism for profit." Even the heavy taxes and regulation under which large corporations operate is, paradoxically, largely to their benefit, in Carney's view; such impediments serve as barriers to competition, keeping out rivals and allowing monopolies and oligopolies to thrive-and the extra expense, in what becomes a familiar pattern, is simply passed on to the consumer. Though Carney's dire prognosis seems grim, this is an absorbing look at the disconcertingly cozy (and profitable) relationship that has developed between regulator and regulated in America.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1st place book winner of the 2008 Templeton Enterprise Award
"...so good that you might even consider putting it under the tree of the liberals on your Christmas list....they will likely find it fascinating how big business uses government to its advantage. Furthermore, they will likely find The Big Ripoff hard to put down due to Carney's compelling style of writing.... Carney smashes the conventional wisdom that big business is inherently pro-free market and anti-government."—from "Santa Government" by David Hogberg (American Spectator, December 15, 2006)
"This book should be read by every Northern Virginia taxpayer for a chapter aptly titled "You Get Taxed, They Get Rich" in which Carney illustrates this dynamic by examining how former Gov. Mark Warner pushed through the largest tax increase in the commonwealth’s history. Warner, now a presidential hopeful, was helped by the state’s top business leaders, who themselves spent more than $7 million lobbying for higher taxes, instead of the other way around." (The Washington DC Examiner)
"Bashing big business is traditionally a left-wing indulgence, but it need not be. Political reporter Timothy Carney, a small-government conservative, takes up the task with relish in the "The Big Ripoff." Along the way, he produces a spirited and eminently readable indictment of the unsavory alliance between corporate and congressional America." (The Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2006)
"...makes a good case that the American people might be better served with less taxpayer subsidization and governmental protection of big business." (The Boston Globe)
Top customer reviews
- Big business wants free markets
- Government protects us from big business
- Government regulations are intended to restrict big business
- Big business is more aligned with the political right than the political left
This book meticulously chronicles the mechanism by which big business partners with government in order to:
- subsidize its operations
- create its own government customers, both foreign and domestic
- eliminate the free market, and replace it with a corrupt one
- tilt the playing field so that small business has no chance
- control who wins elections
By the end, you realize that the government's primary function is to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the corporate class. You also realize we don't actually live in a free market. In a free market, the businesses that succeed are the ones who customers decide are providing value. In our system, the businesses that succeed are the ones who effectively suck money from taxpayers via the government, regardless of what they provide to the health of society.
This book is important because its message is unique. It is not the same tired old republican theories about trickle down economics or left-wing theories about the evils of the market. Thank you, Tim Carney, for advancing the debate past the usual left/right myths.
To take just one example, Carney focuses his investigative talents upon General Electric to show how they've been lobbying government since the days of FDR- and getting billions in return. But, as Carney exposes time and time again, this is standard operating procedure inside the Beltway.
There is something terribly wrong with our political system, and while we can never get money out of politics, The Big Ripoff does an A+ job of following the money.
Many corporations have found it to their advantage to troll for government subsidies and favors, to accept regulation of their industries on terms that will give them a competitive advantage, and even to support tax increases that will fuel the growth of government (particularly if someone else will bear the brunt of the increase).
Politicians welcome the support of wealthy contributors and are willing to do favors to get it. The characterization of one party being for big business and the other for the downtrodden is quite misleading.
These themes are illustrated by numerous examples - corporate welfare, regulatory schemes that deter new entrants, the tobacco settlement, etc. - that ring true and are convincingly documented. The final section about environmentalism for profit is particularly well done.
Enron, which some have cited as an example of private enterprise run amok, was quite adept at adapting to and profiting from government rules and policies. The company's accounting scams were designed to survive SEC scrutiny (short sellers were the first to notice that something was awry), it raised gaming the energy regulations of California to an art form, and it favored ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in hopes of becoming a player in the resulting cap-and-trade system.
Archer Daniels Midland has long benefited from government mandates and subsidies for ethanol, yet corn-based ethanol takes a lot of energy to produce (perhaps more than it provides) and the asserted environmental advantage over gasoline is illusory. The CEO is quoted as saying, when being pressed about acceptance of government aid, that "people who are not in the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist country."
Other companies (e.g., General Electric and DuPont) hope to profit from "going green" in the future. They do not figure to make much progress without government support, however, and their motives are not necessarily altruistic.
Overall, The Big Ripoff leaves one with the perception of being victimized. I believe this impression is overdone, i.e., that many people in the business and government worlds are trying to contribute to the good of society even if their efforts fall short at times. It might also have been helpful if the author had offered some suggestions for making the situation better.