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Business vs. government: in his book The Big Ripoff, Timothy Carney blows away the deception that Big Business and the government are adversaries and that the government defends the average citizen.

The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money, by Timothy P. Carney, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, 285 pages, hardcover, $24.95. (For ordering information, see the ad on the inside back cover.)

It is probably safe to say that the majority of Americans accept the notion that ours is a free-enterprise economy, based on free-market capitalism. Probably all of us learned in U.S. history class that President Theodore Roosevelt led the progressive campaign against the so-called "robber barons" of Big Business and promoted the passage of federal anti-trust legislation during the early years of the 20th century. We were told that this legislation was necessary in order to prevent the development and perpetuation of monopoly capitalism and all of the evils that would grow from it. As a result, the average American leaves school generally believing that laissez-faire capitalism needs to be restrained and that a benevolent government is working to ensure that consumers, taxpayers, and small entrepreneurs are not being exploited by Big Business.

In his book The Big Ripoff, Timothy Carney makes a very convincing argument that nothing could be further from the truth. As the subtitle suggests, the author blows away the deception that Big Business and the government are in opposition and that the government is on the side of the average citizen. He accomplishes this by way of extensive documentation and persuasive examples.

Although this is Tim Carney's first book, he possesses an impressive background as a freelance investigative reporter, having worked as a reporter at Human Events and written for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, American Spectator, and numerous other newspapers, magazines, and websites.

Veteran political reporter Bob Novak described Mr. Carney as "the best political reporter among the outstanding young men and women who worked for me" over the past 25 years. So impressed is Bob Novak by the revelations in The Big Ripoff that he feels that Tim Carney should be put in the same category as Upton Sinclair, whose book The Jungle allegedly revealed the scandalous goings-on within the meatpacking industry more than a century ago.

However, unlike Upton Sinclair, Tim Carney is no socialist muckraker, for this book is not a novel, but an investigative report that reveals a dirty secret of American politics, namely, how Big Business works with both Republican and Democratic politicians to erode the freedom and economic well-being of consumers, taxpayers, and small businesses. While some critics may charge Mr. Carney with bias, given his background working for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit, anti-regulation group, the author correctly asserts at the outset, "My arguments and reporting deserve to be considered on their own merits, even if you have some skepticism about the organizations that have funded my research."

What You Aren't Supposed to Know

Because the information presented in The Big Ripoff came from government sources, corporate documents, and personal interviews, what Tim Carney reports are the sobering facts that politicians and large corporations would prefer to keep from public view. He begins by demonstrating how the conventional wisdom that the Republicans are the party of the rich and the Democrats are the party of the little guy is a myth. Carney's research reveals that the richest Americans, people such as billionaire George Soros, are the core of the Democratic Party. The top four contributors to the 2004 election, all giving more that $10 million, gave exclusively to Democrats. Also, in that same election year, the richest counties in the United States voted for Democratic Party candidate John Kerry; and Senator Kerry, along with Senators Graham, Kohl, Kennedy, and Rockefeller (all Democrats) are among the wealthiest members of that legislative body. In the 2000 election, 56 percent of voters identified as upper class voted for Democratic Party candidate Al Gore.

The Big Ripoff goes on to provide a brief but sweeping history of Big Business in America, and shows how it is also a history of Big Government, particularly over the past 100 years. That is followed by chapter after chapter of specific examples showing how government subsidies, regulation, and eminent domain are used to support uncompetitive industries, stifle competition, and take private land, not for public use, but for private development. One such chapter, entitled "You Get Taxed, They Get Rich," examines how former Virginia Governor Mark Warner pushed through the largest sales tax increase in his state's history during 2004. Warner's effort was helped by the state's largest real estate developers, mortgage brokers, and construction companies, who actually spent seven million dollars lobbying for higher taxes! This seems counterintuitive, until one looks a little deeper.

Because the expanding federal government drew hordes of government employees to the District of Columbia over the past few decades, housing costs skyrocketed within the District, making housing increasingly unaffordable for many newcomers. As a result, outlying areas were growing, which caused increasing traffic congestion in the area of Virginia around Washington, D.C. Real estate developers desperately wanted new roads because new roads would make any future housing developments more easily accessible and thereby drive up the prospective values of property and new housing. The big businesses that financially promoted the tax increase knew that they were going to get their money back. Sure enough, after the tax hike went through, big construction companies got lucrative government contracts for road building, big real estate developers got the roads that made their housing tracts more profitable, and mortgage brokers were able to get higher fees on the sales of higher-priced houses. The end result was that all Virginia residents were forced to subsidize what amounted to corporate welfare for a few big businesses in a small area of northern Virginia.

A Few Flaws

The various examples the author chose to support his thesis are from fairly recent history, apparently so that the reader can more easily relate to them. Unfortunately, by not going back further in time, Mr. Carney overlooks arguably the most significant example of collusion between Big Business and Big Government in our country's history: the creation of the Federal Reserve System.

The plan to create the Fed, the outcome of a secret meeting between Wall Street bankers and federal government officials in 1910, was enacted into law in 1913. The bottom line of the plan was that the politicians and the big banks entered into a partnership in which Congress received access to unlimited funding and could initiate a deceptive tax (monetary inflation) that went unrecognized by voters, and the banking system was given the privilege of creating money from nothing (by being able to legally loan more money than they had in cash reserves) and then charging interest on it. (The full story is related in The Creature From Jekyll Island, by G. Edward Griffin, which, like The Big Ripoff, is also available from American Opinion Book Services.)

A more significant flaw in the book is that, after painstakingly presenting his case, Tim Carney offers the reader no concrete plan to address the problem. In fact, in an interview with The American Spectator, Mr. Carney glibly stated, "The chance of changing things for the better? It's pretty low. I wrote this book and articulated the problem, but you'll notice I don't too much [go into] prescribing solutions. As a conservative, I am wary of 'solutions.'" Apparently, Mr. Carney believes that he has done his part by bringing the problem to the attention of the American public and that, if enough people read his book, voters will stop believing that government can solve our problems, push to limit the scope of the government, and then bring political pressure to bear for change.

Nevertheless, the book is worth a read by anyone who wants to know how the system really works. The power of Tim Carney's presentation far outweighs any weaknesses that The Big Ripoff may have.
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Author:Farmer, Brian
Publication:The New American
Date:Jan 22, 2007
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