Sunday, April 12, 2009

Washington Post: Lobbying Pays off Big on Capitol Hill

This article is a portrayal of how the lobbies have taken over Washington. It is they who dictate policy in America--not you. And until we wake up to that reality this country will die:

In a remarkable illustration of the power of lobbying in Washington, a study released last week found that a single tax break in 2004 earned companies $220 for every dollar they spent on the issue -- a 22,000 percent rate of return on their investment.

The study by researchers at the University of Kansas underscores the central reason that lobbying has become a $3 billion-a-year industry in Washington: It pays. The $787 billion stimulus act and major spending proposals have ratcheted up the lobbying frenzy further this year, even as President Obama and public-interest groups press for sharper restrictions on the practice.

The paper by three Kansas professors examined the impact of a one-time tax break approved by Congress in 2004 that allowed multinational corporations to "repatriate" profits earned overseas, effectively reducing their tax rate on the money from 35 percent to 5.25 percent. More than 800 companies took advantage of the legislation, saving an estimated $100 billion in the process, according to the study.

You want to know why you pay so much for medicine and healthcare?:
The largest recipients of tax breaks were concentrated in the pharmaceutical and technology fields, including Pfizer, Merck, Hewlett Packard, Johnson & Johnson and IBM. Pfizer alone repatriated $37 billion, representing 70 percent of its revenue in 2004, the study found. The now-beleaguered financial industry also benefited from the provision, including Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, all of which have since received tens of billions of dollars in federal bailout money.

The researchers calculated an average rate of return of 22,000 percent for those companies that helped lobby for the tax break. Eli Lilly, for example, reported in disclosure documents that it spent $8.5 million in 2003 and 2004 to lobby for the provision -- and eventually gained tax savings of more than $2 billion.

"There's always been speculation that lobbying is a lucrative area," said Stephen W. Mazza, a Kansas tax-law professor who is one of the authors of the study. "We've been able to come up with quantifiable returns and show that it really is the case."

Mazza added that the results are "troubling" because they show how large companies can distort tax policy to benefit their bottom line.

The NRA is another example of a powerful lobby that is literally helping to kill Americans:
THE anguish in Joe Biden's voice sounded genuine when the US Vice-President responded on behalf of the White House to the shocking gun massacre of 14 people at the New York town of Binghamton on the weekend.

"We've got to find a way to deal with this senseless, senseless violence," Biden told the nation.

Arriving at Binghamton that evening, New York Governor David Paterson framed similar sentiments in a question: "When are we going to be able to curb the kind of violence that is so fraught and so rapid we can't even keep track of the incidents?"

But missing from the vocabulary of either leader was any reference to gun control - the words so many US politicians are afraid to utter, even in the face of mass murder.

The lack of political resolve to take action against the appalling level of gun violence in the US is what really makes Binghamton, and the slaughter yesterday of three policemen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the great American tragedies they are.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, about 30,000 Americans a year die from a gun. That's about 80 a day, and of those an average of 32 are homicides.

In the past month alone, there have been five mass murders, claiming a total of 41 lives.

But confronted with such compelling evidence for tougher gun laws, the response of the US politicians is almost always along the lines of Biden and Paterson: words that share public grief and offer comfort when a tragedy strikes but which amount to platitudes and abdicate the public trust when read in the context of fixing the problem.

Such is the power of the gun lobby in US politics.

Brady campaign president Paul Helmke decided to go on the attack yesterday after friends of Pittsburgh's 23-year-old cop-killer Richard Poplawski revealed that he was angry over his belief the Obama administration was about to ban guns.

Describing the gun crisis as every bit as important as the economic crisis, Helmke accused the gun lobby of "stoking fear among gun owners with false claims about the Government".

"It is time for the gun industry to stop capitalising on those ginned-up fears to spread weapons of war among the public," Helmke said.

"The gun lobby's rhetoric has consequences. Today, we have seen how profound those consequences can be."