Dec 15, 2011

Why we're broke

I've been thinking about Newt Gingrich lately.  Maybe an undigested bit of beef?

Thinking about Newt, the Ghost of  Christmas Future, reminds me of George Washington Plunkett, a real man who helped run Tammany Hall, famous for defending "honest" political graft and for summarizing how he got rich ward-heeling in New York City:

"I seen my opportunities and I took 'em."

He boasted that he never shook down widows and orphans.

"Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

"I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

"Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. Or supposin‘ it’s a new bridge they’re goin’ to build. I get tipped off and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches. I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank."

That's at least candid, but it's remarkably crude by modern standards. Today Mr. Plunkett would leave his powerful political office and collect a few million or so giving strategic advice to the public titters of Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae.  And he could claim he wasn't lobbying.

If that don't beat the Dickens...

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