Andrew Leonard of Salon interviewed Charles Ferguson (director of Inside Job, the documentary about the unpunished criminals who caused the current financial collapse) about his new book, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America
Corporate Criminals Gone Wild
Ferguson: I recently was at a dinner in New York City and one of the people there was a very, very successful man who is on the borderline between venture capital and private equity. And this guy went into an extended rant about how he was at a disadvantage because he had to pay 15 percent capital gains taxes. When I was first dealing with venture capitalists in a significant way, the capital gains tax rate was 28 percent, and nobody was complaining. Then they got them reduced to 20 under Clinton, and then later 15 under Bush. Plus, they got a rollover provision so if they took the proceeds of a venture capital investment and rolled it over into a new venture capital investment it was tax-free. At that point, we’ve reached nirvana, what more could there be?
But now we’re in this environment where this guy was loudly and aggressively complaining that he has to pay 15 percent to the government. And if that’s where you’re at, then of course you are going to complain about Dodd-Frank. You are going to complain about everything. If you have already got 96 percent of what you want, why not take the remaining 4? That’s where the culture of American finance is right now, and I think it’s really dangerous for the country.
Leonard: Do you find it alarming that even after this huge crisis and even with a lot of populist anger on both the right and the left focused on Wall Street, Mitt Romney is running for president while promising to further deregulate Wall Street and repeal Dodd-Frank, and the polls show him neck and neck with Obama?
Ferguson: That is true, but I don’t think that Romney is going to get votes primarily or even secondarily for that. Most of the votes he is going to get will be because he’s religious, he’s against gay marriage, et cetera, all of these allegedly “values” issues — things like that and wanting to reduce taxes. That’s why he is going to get a substantial fraction of the popular vote. The reason he says he wants to roll back Dodd-Frank is not to get votes, it is to get money.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects