Jarrod's Reviews > Outrage: How Illegal Immigration, the United Nations, Congressional Ripoffs, Student Loan Overcharges, Tobacco Companies, Trade Protection, and Drug Companies Are Ripping Us Off . . . and What to Do About It

Outrage by Dick Morris
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's review
Jan 04, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in January, 2010

Outrage is useful in describing how specific Congressional abuses of power help special interests at the expense of the average American. Highlighting the bribery, campaign promises, and compromised morals of our political leadership provides a public need for such information. Everyone intuitively knows that politicians are crooks, but the Morris/McGann team exposes exactly who is doing what and how. They deserve credit for this service. They also expose the blatant corruption of Jacques Chirac of France and Gerald Schroeder of Germany and how that corruption effects America via the UN.

However, this rather muddled composition disappointingly failed to live up to expectations. Dick Morris always lays out a clear case in an eloquent and succinct manner when he speaks on television. His mistress, err, co-author, Eileen McGann, must have written most of this book. I know Dick Morris's hot bod, oddly shaped mouth, and provocative first name would tempt any woman, but Eileen really should have polished this puppy up and given us a thesis, theme, or leitmotif. Hell, even a consistent system of logic would have been nice.

The problem comes in trying to find an overarching theme, philosophy, or solution. Each chapter is cobbled together as a discrete unit. Tax money used to support illegal immigration costs more in services than we save in lower wages, the United Nations is a corrupt organization where officials are bribed or paid off by people like Saddam Hussein, trade protection helps certain people at the expense of everyone else, and Congressmen charge numerous expenses and receive countless goodies from special interests in exchange for their votes. None of this is new. The question is what to do about it. Outrage is long on complaints and a little short on solutions. The answer seems to be simply to write our representatives and tell them not to vote for special interests. If we are ignored, we are to vote for someone else or something.

Obviously. The problem is that special interests have the money and the interest to influence how representatives vote on specific issues. And the representatives have to get reelected before they can make any legislative changes or scaling back of government. A critical point ignored in Outrage is that the politicians are behaving rationally to the incentives placed before them.

The better solution, conspicuously unmentioned in Outrage, is to limit the power of representatives and government in general. Very few people are immune from the temptation of the immense wealth offered Senators and Congressmen for a little vote that most people won't pay attention to or that they can spin their way out of if necessary. For this reason, over time, corruption will always infest the process of doling out government largess. The only long-term solution is to remove the ability of government to make such decisions and dole out such largess. Company A is pushing for tax loophole Y while company B is pushing for tax loophole Z? Company A and B will invariably join forces and support each other's loopholes, pay off the necessary politicians, and screw everyone else. The solution is not to try to prosecute the companies or the politicians or regulate campaign financing. The solution is to remove all tax loopholes, implement a national retail sales tax that applies equally to everyone, and prevent anyone from having the ability to create special perks for special people.

Outrage gets it right in its bipartisan complaints of our public servants serving themselves first. It totally strikes out on solutions. The authors want to tie Congressional pay and the estate tax to the minimum wage, I have no idea why. They suggest that the estate tax should be repealed only if the minimum wage goes up. Why? They don't tell us. The two are completely unrelated but can behave as political footballs or tokens to be traded, which, as previously stated, is exactly what allows special interests to slip into the process and the corruption to begin. Outrage is so frustrating in its unwillingness to see such an effective solution: minimize government's role in everything. The correct course of action would be to eliminate both the estate tax and the minimum wage, not haggle and trade and compromise over their level.

Other egregiously idiotic positions taken by the authors include expanding the FDA's jurisdiction to cover cigarettes, removing all private companies from the student loan industry and centralizing it into one federal government program, and putting price controls onto pharmaceutical drugs sold to Medicare and Medicaid. Oh, and they repeatedly speak of "profits" with disgust and condescension. Cigarettes are unhealthy. Everyone knows that and some choose to smoke anyway. That's how a free society works. Tobacco companies are not evil or bad and certainly don't need more regulation. Adults must choose how to live their own lives and suffer the consequences. Private companies shouldn't be removed from the student lending industry, the government should be. Competition amongst private businesses in pursuit of profit--yes, profit--will provide the needed service in the most efficient and, thus, the least costly way. As Dean of Virginia Law School Paul Mahoney once told me, "There is no basis in theory or evidence in fact that I know of to suggest that price controls have ever worked." Price controls will not save people's lives, it will kill them by stifling innovation and ensuring misallocations of scarce resources.

The authors' positions are all the more ludicrous when juxtaposed with their other, reasonable positions on eliminating trade protections including sugar and other farm subsidies, allowing competition into the public schools in the form of vouchers, and in their words, "In an ideal world, we might insist that Fannie Mae just sever its ties with the government and operate as a wholly private entity." I can't for the life of me figure out the consistency in wanting to contract Fannie Mae but expand Sallie Mae. Both are perfect examples of the problems with crony capitalism--the joining of private interests with government monopoly of power--and should be eliminated.

The authors get it right when they condone limiting and removing government powers. They are naive when they talk about reforming existing government powers and better regulation--how did the regulation go awry in the first place? They are completely wrong when they espouse expanding government powers.

Morris's expertise is in political persuasion and winning elections. Perhaps that's why he doesn't indulge the luxury of a consistent ideology.

Memorable quotes:

"Tho we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations; and there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers." - Benjamin Franklin

"When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of schoolchildren." - Albert Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers

"[John Bolton:] formed a coalition of fifty nations that contribute 87 percent of the UN's budget (led by the United States, the largest donor, supplying 22 percent). But his reforms met opposition from a group of seventy-seven nations who contribute only 12 percent of the UN's revenues--a group that dismissed Bolton's reforms as unnecessary measures that would hamper the organizations effectiveness."

"The costs of the [Oil-for-Food:] program--of the aid itself and the UN supervision--were to be paid by a 2.2 percent commission on each barrel of oil sold, with an additional .8 percent collected to finance the UN weapons inspection program in Iraq. Almost from the start, then, the UN had given itself an incentive to permit Iraq to sell as much oil as possible. Over the life of the Oil-for-Food Program, the UN collected $1.9 billion in commissions on the sale of Iraqi oil."

"Saddam was given the right to negotiate his own contracts to sell Iraqi oil and to choose his own foreign customers. He was also allowed to draw up the shopping lists of humanitarian supplies--the 'distribution plans'--and to strike his own deals for these goods, picking his foreign suppliers. The UN also granted Saddam a say in the choice of the bank that would mainly handle the funds and issue the letters of credit to pay these suppliers; the designated institution was a French bank now known as BNP Paribas."

"The [Oil-for-Food:] program was to be overseen by the Security Council, in practice by its five permanent members. As subsequent investigations would reveal, however, three of the five--France, Russia, and China--were deeply involved in promoting Iraq's oil industry, and its officials were heavily implicated in the kickbacks that flowed from the program. Indeed, Saddam assured lax oversight by the Security Council by awarding $19 billion in oil contracts to Russia and another $4.4 billion to France."

"Oil-for-Food = Bribery. Kojo Annan (son of Kofi): $10 million contract to Cotecna (his employer). Alexander Yakovlev of Russia, senior UN procurement officer: $1 million. Benon Sevan (administrator of the Oil-for-Food Program): $150,000."

"It is a regrettable, yet widely recognized fact: repressive governments seek membership on the [Human Rights:] Commission to escape scrutiny and censure. In 2003, the commission was chaired by none other than Libya--one of the most repressive governments in the world. Its other members included Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba, notorious human rights violators. Even the Sudan, now perpetrating the Darfur genocide, became a member...In 2001, the General Assembly had the audacity to vote the United States off the Human Rights Commission--on the same day that Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Sudan were voted on!"

"Positions Available Members of House of Representatives and Senate. Salary: $162,500 (plus annual cost-of-living increase). Extraordinary benefits: short work week, generally 2-3 days; health care; pension; 4-6 months paid vacation; opportunity for free travel with family; possible additional related employment opportunities for spouses and/or children."

"The fastest growing category of government spending is 'earmarks.' The current budget contains $64 billion in earmarked appropriations for 12,852 items inserted by members of Congress to benefit special claimants among their constituents. As late as 1998, only 4,219 such projects graced our budget, costing $28 billion."

"Congressman Alan Mollohan was the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee--until he had to quit because he found himself under FBI investigation! Punch line? He was reelected in 2006...Mollohan's assets, as revealed on the intentionally vague disclosures required by Congress, rose from less than $500,000 in assets in 200 to at least $6.3 million in 2004...on a salary that even now only runs $165,200 a year."

"One New York City teacher cannot be paid more, or less, than any other teacher at the same level of seniority, regardless of the particular teacher's talents and effort or the difficulty of recruiting a teacher for a hard-to-find position such as math or science. School administrators can't ask a high school teacher to teach more than 3.75 hours a day. Principals cannot hire, fire, or promote teachers, nor may they determine their pay, work hours, assignments, requirements, or expectations. The right to hire or not hire a teacher is limited by teachers' 'transfer rights,' which give them first choice on a place in another school. By union contract, administrators can't ask teachers to supervise a lunchroom or study hall, help special education students on or off the bus, help college applicants prepare their transcripts, score city-wide tests, or write truant slips."

"Total per-pupil spending: 2005 $9,062. Reading scores among fourth and eighth graders have gone up only 1 percent in the last 13 years! Math scores went up a bit more...4 percent for eighth graders. And to think that during this same period we've given our schools increases of more than $200 billion a year! What a dismal return!"

"Tax money generates 39 percent of all health care dollars in the United States--through Medicare and Medicaid."

"As CEO of Fannie Mae, Franklin Delano Raines 'earned' $90 million in compensation over six years."

"Fannie Mae's good deal: low interest rates because of implicit government guarantees, exempt from SEC regulation, no state or local income taxes, U.S. Treasury buys their debt, less stringent capital requirements."

"The subsidy to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is worth about $11 billion a year. How much of that benefit does Fannie Mae pass along to the consumer? The budget office found that for every three dollars of the subsidy that the company passes on to the homeowners, it keeps almost another $2 for its stockholders and executives."

"More than $15 billion in federal flood insurance payments have gone out in the wake of Katrina."

"The sectors where costs have soared--such as health care and higher education--are ones where there is no foreign competition. By holding down inflation, in other words, those cheap foreign imports which Lou Dobbs derides make it possible for every American to have a higher standard of living."

"Take sugar as an example. Because the United States imposes quotas on sugar imports from other countries--usually the poorest of our neighbors to the south--American consumers have to pay $1.8 billion more for everything from soda to candy bars to cakes to muffins to all other manner of sweet things. And how many jobs are saved? 2,261! That comes to a cost-per-job-saved of $826,104!"
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy "There is no basis in theory or evidence in fact that I know of to suggest that price controls have ever worked."

You got a conservative dean up there? I'm glad to know we aren't all Keynesians.

message 2: by Josh (new)

Josh Hanke In the "Congressman Alan Mollohan" you're missing the last digit of the year 200.

Thanks for posting a good review.

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