Confessions of a Welfare Queen
April 5, 2004 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Confessions of a Welfare Queen. How rich bastards like John Stossel rip off taxpayers for millions of dollars. By John Stossel.
posted by ZenMasterThis (29 comments total)
Classic Stossel. Great libertarian mouthpiece with salient points-- too bad he comes across as such a whiner.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:42 PM on April 5, 2004

stossel needs to look into who consumes 50% of us budget and the money out of each our pockets: defense ... and all the military-industrial complex piglets sucking greedily at the teets.
posted by specialk420 at 12:52 PM on April 5, 2004

Good point, old news. I saw this report three years ago. Give me a break.
posted by norm at 1:03 PM on April 5, 2004

as much as i dislike the demorats and their socialist tripe, ive come to loath the republitards even more. They've lost all claim to being spend thrifts and being for small and limited government.

400 billion on the pentagon... in-fucking-sane.

........If you really want to fight the powers that be, find out how to take advantage of all the programs you can. Milk it. Then start working under the table. Avoid paying taxes. Tanks aren't free.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:06 PM on April 5, 2004

"My employer -- Disney, which owns ABC -- got tax money to create better fireworks at Disney World. Really."
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:11 PM on April 5, 2004

I like the "Biggest Piggie" section on ADM. It's definitely good sound-bite-usable stuff. Unfortunately, Tryptophan's point is the best lesson to learn from this sort of thing: exploit the loopholes. Awful.
posted by crazy finger at 1:18 PM on April 5, 2004

Tryp, you were wondering the other day about why people get so exercised about monopolies---the sugar "industry" is an oligarchy. It's exactly this sort of bait-and-switch deal that ADM has going between sugar and corn syrup that give monopolies their bad name.
posted by bonehead at 1:41 PM on April 5, 2004

To make this more concrete, sugar prices are the reason Hershey's makes all their candy in Canada (Just down the road from me, in fact). Monopoly action by ADM (and the rest of the sugar cartel) lead directly to job loss in Hershey, PA.
posted by bonehead at 1:44 PM on April 5, 2004

Its another example of the Get-Mine mentality. Hey, if everyone else is looting the coffers then I might as well do it too or they'll get all the goodies and I'll just be left here with my ethics and a crappy car.

And I'm firmly reminded of the old adage, it takes money to make money which could be restated here as, it takes money to keep taking money.
posted by fenriq at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2004

The guy talks about many many interesting points, but he does that superficially probably only to derail the whole discussion into an hell of "anti-govt" "anti-liberal" "anti-republican" blah blah of no value. Or maybe he just doesn't get it.

Such victories against the awful advantages that government loves to grant to the wealthy and well-connected are possible.

Oh Gawt, Government is NOT an abstract entity as much as market is NOT an abstract entity ; some people make govt, some make market. One must go after the people doing the damages, not after fantasies like "the big evil gubt" or "the big evil market".

But to see more of them will require a great deal of diligence on the part of citizens -- and the news media. If we want to live up to the old saw that the press should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," the TV cameras need to spend more time focused on the ugly realities of welfare for the rich

Ugh and who's rich , who's poor ? Go for the facts dammit go for the facts ! Did politician X receive $ from industry ? Expose that ! Did industry Y drop a dump of chemicals in a schoolyard ? Expose that !!

Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media

Sweet Jebus, get over the stupid idea of "liberal media" or "republican media" or "martian media" ! There are as meny media as words, for instance the evil "Mefi Media" and the abominable "Kuro5hin media" not speaking of the k12 brain "Freerepublic Media". It's just labeling used by spindoctors.
posted by elpapacito at 1:48 PM on April 5, 2004

Mike Davis has a great book, Ecology of Fear : Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, which describes how taxpayers through FEMA endlessly subsidise the rich follies in Malibu to be rebuilt after every predictable, natural firestorm while allowing the poor areas and infrastructure of Los Angeles to decay without much intervention. It also details how the frequent tornados in the LA Basin are usually reported as "extreme wind conditions".
posted by meehawl at 2:41 PM on April 5, 2004

Never thought I'd agree with Stossel, but I think you ultimately need to trace legislation like this to its roots. I imagine you'll find laws with a once-reasonable rationale distorted and expanded by the lobby of the industry that most stands to profit.
posted by micropublishery at 2:54 PM on April 5, 2004

The eminent domain point Stossel talks about was a hot issue in my city the last election. My apartment building was labeled as a 'blighted tenement' in the hopes that eminent domain would be used to turn my home into a Crate & Barrel. It was defeated by something like 39 votes. Otherwise a few hundred families would have gotten the boot.
posted by sciurus at 3:11 PM on April 5, 2004

But Vera Coking was lucky enough to get media attention -- and to have a public-interest law firm, the Institute for Justice, take her case to court. In 1998 a judge finally ruled against Trump and the government, finding that taking the property would benefit Trump, not the public. Vera Coking got to keep her home. She still lives there, surrounded by Trump’s hotel.

I've been wondering about that house for years, ever since I saw it down a side street in Atlantic City. I was just thinking about it yesterday and now I finally know the story. Thanks!
posted by Alison at 3:11 PM on April 5, 2004

elpapacito: Government is NOT an abstract entity as much as market is NOT an abstract entity ; some people make govt, some make market.

It is obvious that human institutions and entities are given a fleshed-out shape by real, countable people, but that does not automatically mean that contemporary flaws are a byproduct of contemporary office holders. These positions are highly desired and the people who succeed in securing them, despite competing pressures, inevitably show some characteristics, which we are prone to see as avoidable and certainly undesirable. I'm just not sure, that without an overhaul and redefiniton of basic human values, they are indeed avoidable.
posted by Gyan at 3:20 PM on April 5, 2004

Well said, Gyan.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:21 PM on April 5, 2004

bonehead - Yeah, i understand that. Government sanctioned monopolies ::shiver::

government officials + corporate executives = the most evil fucking bastard ever to shove its dick into the american people.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 4:51 PM on April 5, 2004

gyan: but that does not automatically mean that contemporary flaws are a byproduct of contemporary office holders

Indeed it's not implicit, but the person that at a moment T in time takes charge of the office is supposed to know what was going on in the office in a previous moment T-1 and if he doesn't he's supposed to learn about the past actions and the present powers of the office. With help from support staff a decision maker can at least attempt do that.

As much as ignorance of law doesn't excuse the lawbreaker, ignorance on the topic you're handling is not an excuse as well, as you're supposed to know wtf you're doing. And if you're in charge and you can't prove you couldn't _possibly_ know about the problem, say bye to your position (unless you solved more problems then problems you omitted, assuming they're commensurable)

Some of today politicos are well aware about the problems cited by the author of articles ; but given that they're not being menaced enough by their voters they simply don't give a flying ; neither they feel the need to justify carefully their decisions, hiding behind the cover of being elected and therefore only politically guilty of their decisions if these are discovered.

This is conductive to the blame shift game .." you're guilty of the-powers-that-be errors and cheating because you don't control them enough or react swiftly, therefore shutup".

Hell no ! Indeed many suffer the consequences of errors made by others because they didn't react, but the source of error is not _always_ in the ones who suffer the consequences.

Some even swallow the enormous lie of being guilty of being born, because for some religion you're guilty of being born because of some original sin and need to be purified by some complicated ritual ! Otherwise you're going to hell !! Religious blame induction 101.
posted by elpapacito at 5:39 PM on April 5, 2004

elpapacito, I think we're thinking along different lines here. Well, not quite so much. You seem to be assuming that politicians, more or less, are sincere people, who due to their position, are compelled to serve special interests. I'm saying, that's not a "flaw" of the particular office holders, but a fundamental characteristic of authoritative systems in diverse human societies. The people who make it to these positions, are by definition, flawed. That's because the process that gets you at the top, weeds out the others.

Some of today politicos are well aware about the problems cited by the author of articles ; but given that they're not being menaced enough by their voters they simply don't give a flying

Indeed they don't. Most politicians want to continue being one. Once you factor that in, their behavior can be predicted to an extent. If the voters don't care or are made not to care, then the politicans are competing for favors from people who do guide the public's perceptions. If office holders ignore these special interests, politicians who don't, get a leg up.

What you need for the desired human utopia are two things: 1)a population (and as individuals) that tolerates immediate unpleasant decisions, in lieu of a greater perhaps unapparent good. 2)politicians that sincerely and competently try to effect that greater good. Those changes relate to basic human nature and societies and not just political structures du jour.
posted by Gyan at 6:05 PM on April 5, 2004

Stossel reminds me of the investigative reporters for the Daily Show, only less insightful.

Stossel: "they claim they are 'poor,' and yet they have CABLE TV!!!!!!!!! Outrageous!!!!"
posted by boltman at 6:57 PM on April 5, 2004

gyan: if I got your right what you're saying (just rephrasing) is that unless the basic psycology "id beast" (sometimes called ego, I guess improperly) switches from individual immediate satisfaction at any cost, to -community- future satisfaction with the cost of giving up today satisfaction , the utopia is not going to happen.

To complete the process one also needs another self-contained id who sees the long term payoff and implements it accurately, resisting other unruly ids.

Now, it seems that to some extent humans are able to restrain their ids today for future payoff ; or that at least they were able to do so in the past, not necessarily by external restrain but, maybe, by realization that cooperation was going to give a bigger payoff then individual action, even if not competitive.

If we take for granted that id is a part of human beings that can't be changed, but only externally restrained or self-restrained, then the desiderable outcome for cooperation to appear is that of inducting self-restrain and realization of bigger payoff.

But we still have the problem of having the payoff effectively delivered to partecipating people ; for that to happen I can't imagine anymore more effective that mass realization that cheating happens and the next one to be cheated, if you condone it, will be you.

Maybe the method is that of showing off the effects of cheating (exposing who dumped the chemical in your backyard, why he did it and why if you don't stop it it will never stop by itself).
posted by elpapacito at 7:15 PM on April 5, 2004

Slightly OT: This American Life did a feature about ADM and price fixing.
posted by shoepal at 7:17 PM on April 5, 2004

If you think the Defense budget is bad, medicare is even bigger. In the end health costs will do us in before defense spending. It is a global problem rising health costs and is IMO the number one threat to industrial nations this century as the population ages.
posted by stbalbach at 7:17 PM on April 5, 2004

elpapacito, getting close, but not quite there.

Not only must community satisfaction be placed above individual immediate satisfaction, it has to be placed above individual satisfaction itself. Politicians are humans who have their own desires and ambitions. Working sincerely for the community could mean foregoing those desires. In essence, you need someone who's passionate about the community, but not passionate about their own desires. Now, to an extent, one can reconcile the two, by making community satisfaction your desire and exclude any other competing desire. But apart from the personal constraints of human nature preventing that, the problem is that the community doesn't have a collective common goal.

The word 'community' is a label which demarcates a population that exhibit a common symptom (anyone with a legitimate clinical practice or residency is part of the "medical community"). But ultimately all interests and goals are distinct and varying at the individual level. So, these goals by segments of the community compete with each other. Also, individuals change alongwith their environments. So do their goals. The perfect decision at time T might have undesired consequences at time T+N. So, the best a sincere politician can do is choose a favored segment, and incrementally steer the ship in the face of prevailing conditions, and hope their decisions don't prove to be too burdensome for later decision-makers. So, I don't see the utopian model I proposed earlier, fundamentally implementable, let alone pragmatically. The best hope is for the basic human values to be overhauled. To realistically define what one wishes to extract from life, in face of what seems possible. If the human race ever gets that far, politicians won't matter anyway.
posted by Gyan at 7:44 PM on April 5, 2004

Well, all I can say on the whole ADM thing is that it is one of the increasingly fewer things that have kept Decatur, IL, my current residence afloat.

Not to say I would let them date my daughter, by any means, but several people here jumped on the anti-ADM bandwagon without stopping to look what benefits they do grant.

The loss of both Zexel and the much-maligned Decatur Firestone plant seriously staggered the local economy. The only real industrial base here, other than the railroad, is ADM, Staley's (both sweetener companies, among other things), and a much reduced Caterpillar plant.

Of course, they're all evil, rapacious bastards, consuming all, and producing nothing...
posted by Samizdata at 11:50 PM on April 5, 2004

gyan: let see. If I got it (rephrasing) you say that

1)given that individual desire toward X goal is not a constant, and can not be realistically imposed if not by physical restriction (which we deem undesiderable)

2)therefore desires of a group K of individuals can be occasionally coincident for an amount of time [T,T1] therfore a group can occasionally desire X in [T,T1], but there's no guarantee [T,T1] is long enough to obtain X because the group can just change its "collective mind" before X it's obtained or a subset of group K splits from K and antagonizes K or leaves the group without enough support.

3) given that even representatives of groups, being individuals, can change their mind and occasionally antagonize the very same group they were representing in [T,T1] because it is against representative best interest.

4) therefore for the desidered X outcome to be obtained, individuals must value X above anything else, including their desires, at least for an amount of time sufficient to achieve the goal ..or forever if the goal cannot be made permanent.

Basically as you say we should collectively change values, maybe from an individual-above-all mindset to a bees hive mindset, but that's unlikely because we simply aren't bees.
And even imitations of bee hive mentality are unstable because they're not supposed to be enacted by humans.

What other values do you think we should go for ?
posted by elpapacito at 7:08 AM on April 6, 2004

Basically, the utopian model of governance doesn't fit within human experience, not just pragmatically, but fundamentally. It's a classic case of a metaphor applied to a paradigm that doesn't support it. If people adopted a Buddhist like approach to life, we would be more at peace.
posted by Gyan at 7:50 AM on April 6, 2004

Ever since Stossel fabricated data and lied on camera regarding organic food on 20/20, I can't bring myself to give him one moment of my attention.

That one "report" of his, first aired four years ago and inexplicably repeated since, has caused me real financial harm. My state's Department of Agriculture has prevented me from doing things conventional growers can do because my organically-grown produce "makes people sick" -- a view they hold because of that one story and the publicity it received.
posted by ewagoner at 8:22 AM on April 6, 2004

so, if fructose is more likely than sugar to be converted into fat, how long before someone sues ADM in a "mcdonald's made me fat"-type suit?

honestly, it's kind of obnoxious that we end up paying more for stuff because some company paid a bribe to some politician. they work for money, right? well, how much do they get paid for doing thier job? a senator's paycheck is like, what, $160,000 annually, for two years? that's over $300,000 per two-year term. that's three times as much as the $100,000 donations that these companies put towards re-election. so if the US taxpayers are paying these people 3 times as much as one donation from a big corporation, why don't they do what we want them to do? they work for us. well, they're supposed to, anyway. they generally work for re-election more than anything else. well, it takes money to get re-elected; the least we can do is check where the money is coming from and vote accordingly.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:13 AM on April 6, 2004

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