Friday, August 15, 2008

Follow the Money: David Cay Johnston

A recent email from a friend that cited a NY Times article on corporate theft via tax evasion has prompted me to write about a crusader that is long overdue. I mentioned David Cay Johnston last year, but the truth is he is deserving of special mention, so here we are.

In 2005, I saw a very in-depth interview with Johnston on CSPAN's Book TV upon the release of his then just released Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else. The interview was fascinating because Johnston - a seasoned, Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist formerly with the LA Times and now with the NY Times - was so far-reaching in his assessment, finding connections in ways that are revelatory as to how the system of American capitalism really works to the ultimate benefit of the rich few. It also helps that he's well spoken, with examples galore of corporate theft via the tax system and how that was aiding and abetting the system of funneling money from the majority underclass to the minority economically privileged.

I highly recommend watching the 6 part series of his vids on Youtube regarding his latest book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill). Once again, Johnston exposes how corporations, wealthy individuals and government collude in a perfect storm of thievery.

And lest anyone think that Johnston is a wacko liberal expounding weird conspiracy theories, I heard him with my own ears say that he's a registered republican. I don't forget things like that.

For all of my mudpeep friends, here's a guy that not only talks shit but backs it up with hard investigative journalism and good old fashioned research. Although he doesn't address race explicitly, he gives peeps of color plenty of ammo to fight with, because what he's really talking about is classism. But in fact, in that aforementioned 6 part series of Youtube vids, he comes very close to talking about the ways poor (mudpeeps) are screwed over by the system. The difference maker is that Johnston is a surfeit of facts, knowledge and research, and in the best Columbo-esque fashion, he makes connections explicit that the power elite and their co-horts would prefer remain hidden behind the wizard's curtain.

One example stands out: How home alarm companies are related to youth crime, the driver of course being economic imperative. On a side note, Johnston said that the profit margin for the home alarm company services is over seventy percent!

And that's what's so fascinating about Johnston's work: its range. He even cites in the Moyers interview below how George Dumbya Bush's wealth was founded upon the bilking of the American public. He then cites professional sports, which is how Dumbya came upon his wealth, and the system of American funding of pro sports that enables the rich to get richer at the expense of tax payers. In fact, without taxpayer subsidies, professional sports would LOSE money. Perhaps even worse, he further cites how Dumbya (and I imagine his scumbag lawyers) used eminent domain to steal private property to build a new stadium (for his then Texas Rangers). It's clear: Dumbya's no great entrepreneur; he's a connected thief, who was directly responsible for wreaking havoc on innocent people, the American public and caused arguably more damage as one person than any Mafioso. All for profit.

I haven't read Free Lunch yet, but I can tell you that reading Perfectly Legal, while jaw-dropping is an exhausting exercise. I have this habit of placing Post-Its in my books where I like passages; Perfectly Legal got to the point where I literally ran out of Post-Its! As it is, I left the book half-unread because my head exploded from the outrage.

He even relates all of this corporate malfeasance to sustainability, specifically, local communities and their economic well being. In a Johnstonian analysis, this shit is out of control; healthcare, retailing, sports, impact on local communities... He gives new meaning to Watergate's infamous "Deep Throat" dictum: "Follow the money." Johnston's that hardcore, that good.

I put him right up there with Stephen Jay Gould. Seriously, the guy ought to be nominated for the Nobel in econ, he's that much of a complete badass. As a journalist, he embodies the best of America. And he puts these twits who write that distractive "freakonomics" and "tipping point" crap to shame. His work needs to be in schools.

Oh yeah, Lou Dobbs loves him. (Vid quality not the greatest)
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Here's an interview he did with Bill Moyers upon the release of Free Lunch. He trashes Dumbya here. Some vid dropouts here, but the audio holds up.
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And here's interview clips with the Progressive Book Club. (Very good vid quality)
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If I get time, I'll post DCJ's aforementioned 6 part Book TV interview; you can find it for now on Youtube. I wish Stern would interview him - this guy needs to reach a wide audience.