Our federal government is almost recession-proof. Unfortunately. While private companies across the country are letting workers go, Uncle Sam -- fueled by February’s massive “stimulus” bill -- plans to add tens of thousands of employees. Once retained, these bureaucrats will remain on the public payroll for decades, long after the current economic difficulties are over and forgotten.
That brings to mind another growth industry in the nation’s capital: lobbying.
On the campaign trail last year, candidate Barack Obama declared that lobbyists “won’t find a job in my White House.” And one of his first acts as president was to sign an executive order that would supposedly crack down on lobbying. Government service is “not about advancing yourself or your corporate clients,” he told his staff in January.
Then he nominated William Lynn, a lobbyist for Raytheon, to be Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Obama’s problem is he’s fighting lobbying on the supply side, when the problem is on the demand side. As long as lobbying pays, there will be lobbyists. And lobbying pays. Big.
For example, researchers at the University of Kansas studied a one-time tax break approved in 2004 that allowed companies to bring home profits earned overseas at a reduced tax rate. More than 800 companies acted, earning themselves some $100 billion. The study shows this was a 22,000 percent return on investment, since companies earned $220 for every dollar they spent lobbying for the tax change.
Lobbying is already a $3 billion per year business. And “corporations are pouring more and more money into lobbying every year,” Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, told The Washington Post. “Clearly, they understand it has a very good rate of return.” And that goes for people, too.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, for example, is a multi-millionaire. How’d he earn his fortune? After he “served as a Clinton senior adviser,” CNN’s Alina Cho reported recently, Emanuel left the government “to work in finance, made more than $16 million in two-and-a-half years, and is now back at the White House with assets totaling between $4 million and $11 million.” Good work if you can get it.
Fellow Clinton aides George Stephanopoulos and Dee Dee Myers also cashed in, going from five-figure White House salaries to “make much more in the private sector,” Cho reported. Then there’s the Clintons themselves, rising from Arkansas obscurity (the couple’s 1990 gross income was $268,646) to unparalleled post-presidential wealth ($109.2 million of income from 2000-2007).
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