An investigation by eXiled Editor Yasha Levine helped The New York Press snag an award in the 2010 Better Newspaper Contest, hosted by the New York Press Association, for “Coverage of Business, Financial & Economic News.”
Levine’s article, “The Making of Manhattan’s Elite Welfare Farmers,” exposed the corruption of our $20-billion a year farm subsidy system, focusing on how wealthy Manhattanites, Wall Street traders and the Rockefellers are allowed to milk taxpayers for billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks just because they are rich and we are not. It was published almost a year ago, but it is no less relevant today. (more…)
The Kochs Give a Big Enron Fuck You to America
Last week, I wrote that Kochs Industries’ recent fight against financial regulation and aggressive defense of unregulated derivatives via the “Enron Loophole” was a clear sign that the company was using its position as a large-scale marketer of oil and other energy commodities to manipulate prices.
Well, thanks to recent reporting by Lee Fang, we now know this for a fact. Traders working for Koch Industries not only gave PowerPoint presentations outlining their plans to drive up the price of oil, but openly boasted about gaming the market in the business press. (more…)
Michael Dell: “I’m smiling because I force Lone Star peasants to pay my property taxes!”
A version of this article was first published by The Nation…
For all those feeling the pinch this Tax Day, rest assured America’s wealthiest one percent have no idea what you’re going through. Not only have they shaved over a $100 billion off their income taxes thanks to Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, but, thanks to misuse of agricultural tax breaks, many did not have to pay their property taxes, either.
Take Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers and the second-richest Texan, who qualified for an agricultural property tax break on his sprawling 1,757-acre residential ranch in suburban Austin and saved over $1 million simply because his family and friends sometimes use the land as a private hunting preserve to shoot deer. Or take billionaire publisher Steve Forbes, who got more than a 90 percent property tax reduction on hundreds of acres of his multimillion dollar estate in upscale Bedminister, New Jersey, just by putting a couple of cows out to pasture. They are not alone. All across the country, a huge number of America’s wealthiest are tapping into agricultural tax breaks—and none of them have to do any real farming to qualify. (more…)
People don’t seem that interested in talking about Wall Street’s unpunished and ongoing rape of America anymore these days. And that’s too bad. Because Koch Industries has a lot more in common with Wall Street than most people realize.
Here’s a hint to how deeply the Kochs are involved in the same shady financial machinations we usually associate with Wall Street scammers: an investigation just released by the Center for Public Integrity reveals that the Kochs were major players in the fight against financial regulation in 2009 and 2010, bankrolling an army of lobbyists who swarmed Congress and shredded the fin-reg bill. (more…)
So by now you’ve probably heard that Charles and David Koch are really really dedicated to libertarianism. They’re not just interested in screwing Americans with regressive 18th century economic policies, but also support noble positions that even far-leftists should be able to get behind. One of the big ones is: they are opposed to war and empire.
Well, at least that’s what libertarians say.
Charles Koch—Moms, keep him away from your kids!
It’s official: the Kochs pay social media PR companies to troll the Internet on their behalf.
According to Lee Fang over at ThinkProgress, an internal Wikipedia investigation revealed that a number of Wikipedia users making pro-Koch edits were actually sock puppets set up by employees at an Internet marketing company called New Media Strategies. After being outed, a New Media Strategies rep all but confirmed the findings of the Wikipedia investigation: (more…)
Why are American taxpayers forced to subsidize the billionaire Koch brothers’ massive campaign contributions to Republican Party politicians, the Tea Party movement, and policies that ensure greater subsidies to the Kochs, while cutting more public services to the taxpayers who fund the Kochs’ business and political activities?
It is an important question, but not one you’ll hear discussed much by our political class. Instead, right-wing pundits whinge endlessly about the public sector union bosses’ evil schemes to shake down taxpayers for union dues that eventually flow towards the Democratic Party. (more…)
I’ve been living in Venice Beach for the past few months, convalescing after almost two years of immersion-reporting out of Victorville, California–the front lines of California’s real estate meltdown. Life out in Victorville, a remote exburb on the edge of the Mojave Desert, might be lighter on the wallet, but it can be very tough on the body and mental health–especially if one isn’t careful with the, er, shall we call them “attention-deficit-disorder brain snacks.” I often wondered what the hell I was doing out there, what I’d done to myself, if it was all worth it–and, to be honest, I didn’t have the stomach to revisit it. I was there too long.
Then yesterday, Dylan Ratigan devoted an entire excellent segment of his MSNBC show to Victorville’s real-estate-market collapse and its aftermath, and he threw a shout out to my reporting for The eXiled Online for having inspired his segment. It was even kind of weirdly gratifying seeing Ratigan interview the new mayor of Victorville, whom I was never a big fan of, to put it lightly. (more…)
Posted: February 1st, 2011
Yes, the Kochs are everywhere. Even under our feet.
See that plush red and blue carpet cascading down the steps of the United States Capitol building, framing President Barack Obama as he makes his historic inaugural address? It’s made from material manufactured by a Koch Industries subsidiary called Invista.
Yes, that’s right. You heard it here first: Charles and David Koch made the carpet used in Barak Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. Liberals might have worshiped the ground Obama walked on, but the Kochs owned and manufactured the carpeting covering that hallowed ground. What makes it all so creepy is that just a month after that carpet was rolled up and Obama took his place in the White House, the Koch brothers launched the Tea Party revolt against their carpeting client. (more…)
Posted: January 27th, 2011
You didn’t hear this on Fox News or the Drudge Report, but on October 10 Venezuela seized and nationalized a massive fertilizer plant part-owned by Koch Industries. The media silence is a bit puzzling. You’d think that the seizure of property belonging to America’s second-largest private company, owned by one of the most powerful families in the country and the bankrollers of today’s libertarian/Tea Party revolution—the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch–would be considered newsworthy. But no, even though their Venezuela plant was nationalized a whole three months ago, other than a handful of short business-wire dispatches, this has yet to make the news. Even Koch Industries has been suspiciously silent on the matter.
One reason why the Kochs could be keeping the news under wraps is that the nationalization of the fertilizer plant may appear to be bad news for Charles and David Koch, but here’s the big surprise: the Kochs made hundreds of millions on every end of this deal…and even more surprising, bond markets cheered the nationalization. In other words, the free markets championed by the Kochs gave a big thumbs-down to Kochs’ negative influence on the value of the business, while at the same time, the free-market Kochs earned huge windfalls doing business with socialists. No wonder this story hasn’t made the rounds. (more…)
Posted: January 5th, 2011
This article was first published by AlterNet
“For the first time in the nation’s history, there is no longer an authoritative, public record of who owns land in each county.” — University of Utah law professor Christopher Peterson
There is an unbelievable scandal in the making that threatens to subvert our four-century-old method for guaranteeing a fundamental building block of the American republic—property ownership. The biggest reason why you probably haven’t heard much about it is that it involves one of the most generic and boring company names imaginable: Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., or MERS. It is a story of deception engineered at the highest level of power for short-term gain, and another epic failure of the private sector to uphold the laws and traditions of American society, even something as fundamental as property rights.
Created in 1995 by the country’s biggest banks, MERS quietly took control of and privatized mortgage record-keeping across the country and, in the span of a few years, scrambled America’s private property ownership records to the point where no one could figure out who owns what. This was no accident, and was done by design: MERS was a tool used by America’s top financial institutions to pump up the real estate market. Mortgage-backed securities, robo-signers, lightning quick foreclosures, subprime mortgages and just about everything else that went into feeding the biggest real estate bubble in U.S. history could not function without help from MERS. But unlike many of the Wall Street scandals, this one could blow up in the banks’ faces, with the little guy laughing all the way back to his free McMansion, and local governments seeing their empty coffers fill back up with the billions of dollars in unpaid fees that MERS circumvented. (more…)
Posted: December 16th, 2010
This article was first published on TruthDig.com
If tea party candidates were serious about stopping runaway spending and bringing fiscal responsibility to Washington, they would have to address one of the most egregious wastes of taxpayer dollars: federal farm subsidies. These handouts have become little more than taxpayer robbery, sending billions of dollars every year to wealthy “farmers,” even some who do not farm at all. It is not an opportunity the tea party is willing to take.
“Washington paid out a quarter of a trillion dollars in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009, but to characterize the programs as either a ‘big government’ bailout or another form of welfare would be manifestly unfair—to bailouts and welfare,” says Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog that tracks federal farm subsidies. “After all, with bailouts taxpayers usually get their money back (often with interest), while welfare recipients are subjected to harsh means-testing, time-limited benefits, and a work requirement. …”
Not so with farm subsidies. Forget about helping struggling farmers—this taxpayer-funded gravy train is skewed primarily toward the rich, paying out billions to “McRanches” and to businesses like Fidelity National Financial, a Fortune 500 company, which got $6.5 million over four years to not farm its land. (more…)
Posted: October 5th, 2010
This article was first published by AlterNet
Good news from the trenches of California’s water war: The cabal of billionaire farmers and real estate developers that has been engineering a stealth privatization of the state’s water supply is under attack. Two devastating lawsuits have been filed this summer in an attempt to claw back hundreds of millions (and possibly billions) of dollars in ill-gotten profits from a group of wealthy farmers and to bring one of the world’s largest water banks back under public control. The fallout could be monumental, but whatever the outcome, these suits will no doubt expose plenty of juicy, dark details that could lead to even more trouble for California’s water privateers. It’s taxpayer payback time. (more…)
An abridged version of this article was first published
in the New York Observer
Mainstream America is finally getting to know the billionaire brothers backing the libertarian movement, thanks to a pair of dueling profiles in New York and The New Yorker. Now that we’ve heard about their charitable giving, David’s 240-foot mega-yacht and role as patrons of the Tea Party movement, it’s time to ask a more serious question: How libertarian are they?
The short answer…not very.
Charles and David Koch, the secretive billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, the largest private oil company in America, have spent millions bankrolling free-market think tanks and pro-business politicians in order, as David Koch has put it, “to minimize the role of government, to maximize the role of private economy and to maximize personal freedoms.” But a closer look at their dealings reveals that for the past 35 years the brothers have never shied away from using government subsidies to maximize their own profits, even while endeavoring to limit government spending on anything else. Simply put: the Kochs have no problem with socialism — as long as they’re in on the action. (more…)
Posted: September 4th, 2010
This article was first published in the New York Press.
Wall Street bankers and retired hedge fund billionaires have been talking about fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, preparing the masses for austerity measures and cuts in social services—which we are told are regrettable, of course, but necessary nonetheless. Well, here is the perfect welfare program for the bailout queens to show off their fiscally conservative chops: Let’s see them cut federal farm subsidies, which funnel billions of dollars to the richest Americans, including notables like Ted Turner, David Letterman, Scottie Pippen, Paris Hilton’s grandpa, Charles Schwab, Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen and just about every single one of Sam Walton’s degenerate heirs. (more…)
For months people had been asking me if I’m still living in Victorville and if so, why I stopped writing about it. Some dumbshit even accused me of running back to live the big city life, as if I was too embarrassed to tell people “da trufe.” Well, I’m still here, still proud, still shooting and perfecting my aim. And I figure it’s about time for me to crack my knuckles and see if I still got what it takes to do a proper Victorville update. (more…)
First published on Alternet
Welcome to Gilded Age 2.0, a time when government has become an appendage to the super-rich, used by industrialists, financiers and corporate robber barons to monopolize the economy and strip regular citizens of power and money. One example of just how much corporate cash and oligarchical interests have corrupted America’ democratic institutions comes out of California, where a giant corporation is spending tens of millions of dollars to push through a law that would snuff out competition and enshrine its corporate monopoly in California’s State Constitution.
It sounds outrageous, but it is perfectly legal here in the Golden State, where a form of “direct democracy” introduced 100 years ago allows voters to write laws straight into the state constitution. All that is required is a ballot initiative and a two-thirds majority vote by the people. Ironically, direct democracy was introduced to the state by the Progressive Party as a direct response to the runaway corruption of the Gilded Age, a way to shift power away from corporate and moneyed interests that dominated the legislature and to give it back to the people. Hiram Johnson, California’s progressive governor from 1911 to 1917, said that it would “restore absolute sovereignty to the people” by allowing voters to trump elected politicians. (more…)
This article was first published on Alternet.org
“I would rather live under a bridge than live under socialism”
—tea bagger slogan
Everyone knows that Tea Party revolutionaries fear and hate socialism about as much as the Antichrist. Which is funny, because the Tea Party movement’s dirty little secret is that it owes its existence to the grandaddy of all Antichrists: the godless empire of the USSR.
What few realize is that the secretive oil billionaires of the Koch family, the main supporters of the right-wing groups that orchestrated the Tea Party movement, would not have the means to bankroll their favorite causes had it not been for the pile of money the family made working for the Bolsheviks in the late 1920s and early 1930s, building refineries, training Communist engineers and laying down the foundation of Soviet oil infrastructure. (more…)
Faced! Wheelchair-bound eXiled Editor Yasha Levine finds out that in Russia, provincial clubbing ain’t for cripples
Editor’s note: We reprint this eXile Classic, first published in The eXile on September 25, 2007, to commemorate Russia’s recent triumph in the Vancouver Winter Paralympics, in which it won more medals than any other country. And to think that just a few years ago, they weren’t letting cripples into IKEA. Authoritarian Russia sure has come a long way…
“In the USSR, there are no invalids.”
This was the official reason that the Soviet authorities gave for declining an invitation to hold the 1980 Paralympics in Moscow. If you’ve spent any time in Russia, you might think they were telling the truth.
Other than a few token amputee Afghan vets begging in the metro or haunting traffic during rush hour, disabled people are simply not part of the Moscow landscape. After three years in Russia, I can count the number of wheelchair-bound people I’ve seen on one hand.
Obviously, just because they’re not out in public doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. If anything, it points to how bad the handicapped have it. There are approximately 13 million people living with serious disabilities in Russia, according to Perspektiva, an NGO that fights for disabled rights. Out of a population of 140 million, about 10% of Russians are considered handicapped. (more…)
This story was first published on Alternet.org
“That, in your own backyard there, is the scariest place after New Orleans.”
—Geologist Nicholas Pinder’s description of the precarious situation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta after the hurricane Katrina disaster.
Imagine the devastating flooding of Hurricane Katrina multiplied by epic sandstorms, drought and economic collapse of the Dust Bowl. Now picture it happening an hour east of Apple’s headquarters in Silicon Valley and spreading all the way down to the Mexican border. It’s not as far-fetched as you think. A routine 6.7-magnitude earthquake would be enough to set it off, liquefying the decrepit levee system that walls off California’s main source of drinking water from the Pacific Ocean and triggering a deadly flood that would submerge roads, destroy homes, wipe out thousands of acres of farmland, snuff out countless lives and possibly cut over 20 million Californians off from their water supply for a year or more. (more…)