Essay: How the Bullshit Facade of Partisanship Allows the Selling Out of America

Citi.svgI enjoyed this expose by Ben Hallman of the Huffington Post on how Citigroup deprives the Treasury of billions in corporate taxes by using loopholes. Hallman also goes on to detail how other big corporations like Apple use similar tricks to make a mockery of our corporate tax system. This is a subject that Liberals and Conservatives can agree on, as Liberals don’t want corporations skimping on their share of the tax burden, while Conservatives don’t want a complicated tax-code that allows government officials to play favorites with mega-corporations while small businesses get stuck holding the bag.

But I was disappointed when Hallman ended an otherwise thoughtful piece with this conclusion:

An effort led by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to eliminate the loopholes that permit companies to store huge sums of cash overseas has stalled out, now frozen in the same partisan traffic jam that has essentially brought Washington to a standstill.

This narrative of partisanship getting in the way of reform is one we hear often, but its complete bullshit. There is more consensus in Washington between the members of the two parties than any other time in recent memory. They all agree that selling out to powerful interests and big money is more important than serving the people. But they need to win an election first, and “I love special interests” is not a popular campaign strategy. So the smokescreen of Republican vs Democrat is pushed to distract our attention.

The relationship between Washington and big financial firms like Citigroup is a perfect example of this deceit. To prove my point I will challenge the standard narrative that Republicans support big banks while Democrats try to contain them. I agree that Republicans try to help companies like Citibank, but disagree that Democrats are any different. Lets look at the examples of the most powerful Democrat in America, Barack Obama, and Citibank.

When it comes to Citibank and tax loopholes, the biggest ever enjoyed by the mega-bank was one handed to it by the Obama Administration in 2009. At the time Citi owed billions of dollars in taxes as a result of the bailouts bestowed on them by both the Bush and Obama administrations. But as detailed by the Washington Post, the Obama IRS gave the bank a special exemption and let it keep the money. Citigroup owed the most in bailout related taxes because it received the biggest bailouts, as during the financial crisis it was one of the most dangerous, greedy and incompetent financial firms in the world. They didn’t seem to learn from the experience, as shortly after the crisis Citi was central in the foreclosure scandal and confessed to committing fraud and other illegal activities to screw struggling Americans out of their houses.  All of this malfeasance brings us to the many Citigroup executives that the Obama administration prosecuted for their well established crimes of fraud, forgery, perjury and negligence. You know who I am talking about.

Actually, you probably don’t, because there weren’t any. Not a single Citigroup executive was ever accused of or indicted for any financial crime by the Obama Justice Department or any other regulatory body. President Obama’s favorite treatment of Citigroup executives has been not to prosecute, but to recruit.

Our current Treasury Secretary is Jacob “Jack”Lew. Before joining the Obama team, just around the time when Citigroup was taking the kind of risks that led to its collapse, Lew was the head of Prop Trading at Citi. Don’t worry if you don’t know what Proprietary Trading is. All you need to know is its something so dangerous it was made illegal by the Dodd-Frank bill that President Obama signed into law. It wasn’t in the original version of the Bill, but President Obama was so worried about his current Treasury Secretary’s former occupation that he inserted the ban later. Lew did not go straight from Citibank to the Treasury Department. Before being the Treasury Secretary he was Obama’s Chief of Staff, and before that he was the White House Budget Director, replacing Peter Orszag. Where did Orszag go after handing the reigns of the White House Budget Office to a high ranking Citigroup official? You guessed it, he went straight to Citigroup.

Some might be wondering why it is that President Obama is so tied into this one dangerous and potentially criminal financial institution. It might have something to do with Michael Foreman. Foreman is the current US Trade Representative, but before that he was a member of Obama’s 12 person transition team. He was also a managing director at Citigroup, at the same time. Remember that Obama’s transition to the White House happened during the worse moments of the Financial Crisis. So at a time when major decisions needed to be made regarding who staffs the White House and how those people tackle the misdeeds of Wall Street, one of the people that Barack Obama chose to help him make those decisions was a person working full-time at the firm central in everything that had gone wrong.

I should mention that if McCain or Romney were President, I don’t think anything would have been different. In fact the shenanigans between Washington and Wall Street might have been worse, although its hard to imagine anyone worse than Barack Obama. Democrats tend to get away with the whoring out of America to Wall Street more because the major media has bought into the false narrative that this is only a Republican tendency.

Towards the end of 2012 Washington played a dangerous game of chicken with the looming Fiscal Cliff, which was sold as another example of the partisan gridlock in Washington. After a raging debate on the Bush tax cuts, entitlement spending and the debt ceiling, a deal was reached in the 11th hour. Despite the many differences, the one thing both sides easily agreed on was the insertion of special tax loopholes designed directly for Wall Street – the same exact loopholes Ben Hallman claimed are there because of partisan gridlock. The language was insisted upon by the Obama White House and agreed to by the Republican controlled house.

So the next time some politician you care for starts a Red vs Blue fight over a divisive issue like abortion or gun control, pay close attention. There’s probably some powerful entity like a Wall Street bank getting a sweetheart deal in the process.  There is more across-the-aisle cooperation than ever before, and you will most likely be a victim of it.










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