Kleptocracy in America: Russian-style corruption, driven by global oligarchs, enabled by US elites

As Naomi Klein documents in her classic and seminal book The Shock Doctrine, disasters and upheavals are the bread-and-butter of global looters, who use the collapse of civil society or the default of debtor states to privatize state assets at pennies on the dollar, then milk them into further crises, which create more chances for looting -- but the collapse of the USSR was different, because the spies and strongmen who rode out that collapse ensured that public assets were only given to domestic looters, not off-shore oligarchs. Read the rest

Jared Kushner took home millions, paid little or no tax for years

Jared Kushner borrowed money to put down tiny down-payments on properties, paid himself millions from the rents generated by those properties, then used aggressive depreciation markdowns to declare an operating loss every year, meaning that he paid no tax at all from at least 2012 to 2016, and very little tax in the three years proceeding it. Read the rest

Simklept: Kleptocrat is a mobile game that uses real-world financial crimes to simulate being a tax-dodging one percenter

Kleptocrat is an Ios-only mobile game that challenges players to play as billionaire tax-dodgers, who construct ruses to hide their money from the tax authorities in the countries where the state guards their wealth, educates the workforce, and keeps everyone from dropping dead of infectious diseases. Read the rest

House GOP abandons plans to kill independent ethics office in favor of 1% tax cuts and taking away healthcare

A day after using an unannounced, after-hours, closed-door session to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, the House GOP has abandoned its plans, partly because President-Elect Trump told them that while he believed that the Office should be dismantled, doing so now would distract from the urgent business of slashing taxes for the wealthy and taking away healthcare from 20 million Americans. Read the rest

GOP senator who boasted about her family's self-reliance received $460K in federal subsidies

Iowa Republican senator Joni Ernst gave her party's official response to the State of the Union address by boasting self-righteously about her humble origins and how her self-reliant, heartland-state family pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, but conveniently failed to mention that her family's farm was the beneficiary of nearly half a million dollars in federal subsidies. Read the rest

Chinese corruption and looting on a vast scale: industry, government, and military

Here's a well-cited and pretty scary article describing the vast scale of corruption at the highest levels in China, and the extent to which "the success of 300m Chinese who live in western level prosperity depends on the continued exploitation and good nature of one billion people who live on an average of $5000 per annum." The author, Steve Keen (Professor of Economics & Finance at the University of Western Sydney) ranges widely over Chinese industry, government, and the military.

Zoomlion has an interesting business model, it is similar in many of ways to Caterpillar, except whereas Caterpillar report falling sales, Zoomlion reports astounding sales growth with a fivefold increase in revenue since 2007. Zoomlion customers sometimes buy ten concrete mixers when they planned to initially by one or two. They have a perverse incentive to buy more than they need because these concrete trucks are purchased via finance packages supplied by Zoomlion.

Then the machines can be garaged and used as collateral to borrow further funds from other lenders. Zoomlion continues to grow while cement sales have plunged. In May, cement output increased 4.3 per cent YoY, down from 19.2 per cent recorded last year. Zoomlion’s new debt of $22.5B buys roughly 900,000 trucks which could produce enough concrete (at six loads a day) to build over thirty Great Pyramids of Giza a day .

Every sector is infected with these kinds of perverse business practices, steel traders used loans meant for steel projects to speculate in property and stocks , it has been common (apparently) for steel traders to secure loans to buy steel then use this same steel as collateral to borrow funds to invest in property development and the stock market.

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"Piracy-stricken" Viacom CEO tops pay-raise charts

Philippe P. Dauman, CEO of Viacom, led the executive compensation raise chart this year with a $50.5 million raise that brought his total annual compensation up to $84.5 (much of the 148.6% raise came in the form of stock options). Meanwhile, Viacom continues to argue that it is in danger of capsizing unless radical changes are made, starting with taking away the right to privately share videos of our personal lives on YouTube. Read the rest