Recently, the United States was once again turned into a rhetorical battleground for all things reproductive (and, it seems contraceptive). Allegations flew, heated rhetoric issued, slurs uttered, and rumors became rallying points for one side or another. The Democrats in Congress, seeking to make some points with another one of their astroturf-victims, chose Sandra Fluke to stand in for as a witness before Congress. She was billed to the American public as a poor college student, a victim of the rising prices of education in this country, who was having trouble paying for all the necessities for college.
The truth is that Ms. Sandra Fluke was not the young college co-ed we expected (she was actually 30) nor was she an undergrad at just any random university (she was in the Catholic, Georgetown’s prestigious law program). While these sins of omission normally may not have been in and of themselves particularly damning, she bemoaned the fact that she could not pay for both the $60k tuition, and another $3k for contraceptives, and that the government should pay for her contraceptives.
This seeming inability to balance time and money, really caused this writer to pause – something did not smell right here. This woman has had time for the rigors of Georgetown’s law school, a full-time summer job, (we later learned she is an activist as well) and yet still manages to amass $3k in contraceptive bills? How does a person have so much time on their hands? Did Ms. Fluke really not know that a Catholic University would balk at covering contraceptives? I find this very hard to believe.
I have seen on Twitter and elsewhere in the media, any number of people, trying to conduct a sort of “damage control,” claiming that either Fluke did not claim that $3k was for contraceptives (which Fluke certainly did), or by attacking others’ essays on her disingenuous testimony. Time and time again during her testimony, Fluke called the measures she wanted covered, “contraceptives.” What effect this had, was only to further blur the lines of already sketchy legislation (Obamacare and other health coverage) and their rationale for requiring blanket coverage of afflictions. I have no problem covering legitimate, necessary, medical conditions – but we must draw a line when the issue is a personal choice, or in this case, a seeming lack of self-control. Fluke, by trying to attach the coverage of her contraceptives to other, legitimate medically necessary treatments, does a disservice to women who suffer from, and actually need, those treatments/medications.
My problems with her testimony: Fluke also used charged language, like calling the insurance companies’ reviews of student need for the thousands of dollars of contraceptives, “interrogation.” While that plays perfectly into a victimized narrative the left loves to write, I doubt there was an insurance agent taking students to a grubby room, with a single light bulb. Another thing she did was use the plight of a hospitalized, close friend, with complications of polycystic ovarian syndrome. The problem I have with that is if Fluke were honest from the beginning, and not chosen to make a political football from the issues on the stage she was given, far more sympathy could be given to her. Instead, she undermined her credibility from the onset, and may have caused long-term damage to female healthcare (ironically, the supposed thing she and her Democrat advocates espouse). Attacking the Catholic Church is no way to reach a tenable resolution either, and depending on the government to step in and overrule Church dogma sets a very dangerous precedent.
It would have been far more powerful to have the actual victims of the policies at the hearing, but instead, we had a single person relaying all these concerns. Do these sympathetic friends even exist? Maybe – with shaky credibility, I cannot say. But to rely on a woman whose mission is to further her own, and others’ political goals, instead of actually helping raise awareness of overlooked women is disgusting and reprehensible.
The man came from the east, and rode aboard a midnight black steed, with angry fire in its eyes. The steed seemed reluctant to allow anyone but its rider to even get close to it. The mount whinnied uneasily, and lived for moments it could swoop in and, with its rider cause confusion and destruction. Once its rider saddled up, they were unstoppable. Always riding all-out, and never looking back, they rode without care nor conscience.
One of the most infamous raids, that so many remember, came one day in the 90s, in the middle of the country. Mitt-ila with his steed, Bain, came to the steel mill, licking his lips, and casing everything that he would soon own and be able to plunder and turn asunder. Sparks flew from the horse’s hooves as they rode onto the grounds. The horse and its master began the blood-letting – the guild members, their pay, the equipment – they began laying waste to everything in sight…Soon, their nefarious plans were complete, and the tiny factory was no more.
What is this? This is the Newt-would-approve-if-he-read-it-version of Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. This is the, politically-expedient version of what happened in Kansas City. Mitt of course, the ardent anti-capitalist and destroyer of all that he touched, only wanted the companies Bain invested in for their liquidity values, right? I mean, why would anyone invest in a company that they may be able to resurrect, and restore to profitability (and make far more money, than just relying on the liquidity value)? Once a company is seen to have its best days behind it, the person who attributes this “un-profitable operating” designation could never have any ways of turning it around – its only value is in plundering anything and everything that still has any value. Right? So it is raid and plunder away.
Except – that is not always the way that business happens. I would venture to guess it is seldom that a capital company step in and buys a company solely for its liquid assets, before it has declared bankruptcy, when the investing company can buy it for a song. That seems like paying extra for the “privilege” of going through bankruptcy proceedings and haggling with creditors. With the intention of retrofitting and upgrading the facilities at Kansas City located “GST Steel”, Bain made investments and attempted to turn the troubled steelmaker around. After investments of $100 million were sunk into the plant, due to myriad mismanagement issues, tons of cheap Chinese-made steel (made and sold at a loss, to gain market share), and the debt-load created to save the plant, it still had to be closed. 750 people lost their jobs as a result.
It should be mentioned, but seldom seems to be, that the Chinese steel is probably more to blame for GST’s failure than any other factors, including: Bain Capital’s “raiding”, more competitive American steel foundries, and obsolescing equipment. Add to that, some of the most misguided management that I have ever read about (like hiring managers for this steel plant, that had previously worked in retail for Wal-Mart), and it appears that the factory was always doomed. Some 40+ other American steel companies went under in the same time GST was slowly rusting away.
My main issues with the attack of Romney (and attacks of him, under the guise of attacks of Bain) are the fact that supposed conservative and right-wing candidates are making the majority of them. The fact that some are using Romney’s time at Bain as a way to compare him to Bernie Madoff, and his criminal Ponzi scheme (that was James Clyburn), is also disheartening. As a matter of fact, Mitt wasn’t even with Bain at the time GST finally gasped and was shuttered. Now it’s like all hands on deck for a thrashing of the mechanism that built this country, and gave so many people the lives we enjoy.
The way that I see it, if a person is going to attack a function of capitalism, and stand behind their point, whether it is legitimate or not, it would also mean that the same arbitrary condemnation could apply to any function of capitalism. You don’t like paying some of your bills – then don’t, because you think it’s “unfair.” You don’t like having to pay a manufacturers’ makeup? Well, don’t pay it then – you’ve deemed it “unfair” too. When we slip into a mindset of the left, where, this is fair, that is unfair, this group over here has more than you (and you really deserve it more than they do), and that some big, bad, government boogie-man is piling on with those filthy rich fat cats, it is easy to find yourself getting angry. The trick is to channel that anger and frustration – almost like using that destructive feeling for something…Creative.
So, beginning with a CBS, 60 Minutes exposé this past Sunday evening, politicians began scrambling to attempt to explain their habit of using inside information to make themselves rich. So far, the biggest names involved are: former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, Senator Diane Feinstein, current Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Representative Spencer Bachus. While the posts held by Pelosi and Emmanuel seem to lend the most leverage to playing the market unfairly, Bachus finds himself being held accountable by his own party. His seeming lack of knowledge of the stock market evaporated after he joined the House of Representatives.
Got a hot tip on how a new law’s fine print may affect a company, or how companies may benefit from pending legislation? Call your broker. While you are a member of the U.S. Congress, unbelievably, there is no rule against profiting. CBS.com notes, “Out of 975 federal entities, Congress and the Supreme Court are the only two that have no rules or laws prohibiting them from trading securities based on nonpublic information.” Things that have gotten traders on Wall Street hauled into jail, mean nothing to legislators in the United States. Raj Rajaratnam must be banging his head on his desk, knowing that he could have beat his insider trading case, if only he had run and won a Congressional seat first. For his efforts, Rajaratnam is estimated to have made somewhere around $19.7 million.
The massive amount of backlash against these practices has lead to Rick Perry producing a new advertisement saying legislators guilty of these practices should be thrown into jail. Senators Scott Brown(R-MA) and Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) have introduced legislation to prevent Congressman from partaking of the money-making activities. The “Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge” or STOCK Act of 2011, will be introduced today. It bars not only legislative members from profiting on their inside knowledge, but executive employees as well. That would apply to the former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, who made a bundle dumping Fannie Mae stock before the agency crashed and burned during the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
It is far from a partisan issue – everybody, it seems, is taking advantage of the inside info. Spencer Bachus is said to have shorted the market in 2008, just as the entire market fall hard. Andrew Breitbart has both lead the charge, calling for Bachus’ resignation, and closely monitored ongoing information about all the indicated, enriched legislators. Senator Feinstein invested $1 million in a biotech start-up, shortly before the company received a $24 million government grant. The following year, the company held an IPO where they netted $85 million.
Even putting stocks into a blind trust may not be enough of a bulwark against trading on privileged information – all a legislator would have to do is call up the holder of the securities, and tip-toe around subject matter that would affect the portfolio. A sort of “wink-wink, nudge-nudge”, buy or sell signal. Plausible deniability would be the order of the day. In the past, there has been legislation introduced in the House of Representatives attempting to ban Congressional insider trading. It never received more than 14 supporters.