Of all the things I've figured out about life – by no means an extensive list – the lesson that took the longest to sink in is that wealthy people or people in the social "elite" however you choose define it do not have advantages for the reasons the rest of us usually think. People assume that Old Money or social status allow one to play The Game with any number of advantages like better preparation, more knowledge, or better connections. This is true for people playing The Game, to be sure. But the elites are not competing like the rest of us, with varying degrees of advantage over one another. They are playing an entirely separate game. They live, for all intents and purposes, in a different world.

It's certainly not an important news item given all that is going on in the world, but earlier this year Marc Mezvinsky's hedge fund shut down earlier this year. If that name seems familiar, it's Chelsea Clinton's husband. Bill and Hillary's son in law. But beyond the status he gained in marriage, his own mother was a Member of Congress (she of the infamous "Bye Bye Marjorie" vote to pass Bill's budget in 1994) and his father was a millionaire financier in addition to, obviously, also being a Congressman. Incidentally, he spent some time in the pokey for his financial dealings, but hey, nobody's perfect. So, to say Marc has and has had it all would be an understatement.

He garnered some attention during the Greek debt crisis by using about $25 million to buy Greek sovereign debt for pennies on the dollar despite the fact that the government was clearly indicating that it would default. Now, as far as investment ideas go this is not strictly an awful idea; he made a gamble that someone – the IMF, Germany, the EU, China, private banks – would bail Greece out at the last second. Had that happened, the notes he bought at something like $0.04 on the dollar would have paid off with a gain of thousands of percent. Seriously, it's not a strictly terrible idea. It was not totally implausible that someone would bail Greece out.
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The problem was that this isn't really "hedging" anything in the sense of what a hedge fund is actually supposed to do. This is more like betting on a three legged horse with 10,000:1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby. This was buying junk bonds and losing, essentially. The other problem is that Greece did in fact default and he was totally exposed. He lost $25 million overnight.

It is arguable that in the world of banking and finance, million is like 25 cents to the rest of us.
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But it represented a good portion of his fund's assets, and with their closure in February it is obvious that this fit into a pattern of big losses. The financial aspect of this story is uninteresting unless you happen to be very excited by financial wheeling and dealing. What strikes me about this single example is that this guy pissed away $25,000,000 and nothing happened to him. Nothing. He's not in legal trouble. The fund's investors aren't wielding torches and howling for his blood. He hasn't been ostracized by Wall Street. In his reality, this is maybe, at worst, cause for some good-natured ribbing from the fraternity of his fellow untouchables. He might get some grief after a couple drinks at exclusive charity events. Hey Marc, wanna buy some Greek magic beans? Hi-larious.

Think about that. He threw $25 million down the drain and nothing happened to him in a world in which a woman who is 10 minutes late for her minimum wage retail shift because the school bus didn't show up to get her kid not only gets fired but is confidently told that she deserves nothing better. This is a society where teachers get fired if parents complain about them, where people who do their jobs well and work hard are laid off or fired anyway because of *shrug* "Progress" But if you're one of the chosen, you cannot fail unless failing up counts. Flushed $100 million of venture capital down the drain at your startup? LOL bro, it's cool, here's more money to play with. Your last company fired you after you took over as CEO and ran them into the ground? Don't worry, another CEO gig awaits. There is no end to the number of mulligans these people give and receive within their exclusive circle of Old Money and Ivy Leaguers deemed worthy of admittance. The poor (or merely Not Super Wealthy) need discipline and punishment – one mistake and it's all over. The wealthy, though, need coddling and endless do-overs; how else will we encourage them to Create and Innovate, amirite?

The only profession in which a person can be demonstrably terrible yet continue to get rewarded over and over again is being a left-handed starting pitcher. And that's just a supply problem. There is no shortage of cocky Stanford-minted scions of the Old Money willing to play with, manipulate, and gamble other people's money, yet the same guarantees of lifetime job security and lavish compensation apply.

That's the different between the oligarchs and everyone else. It would be nice to live in a world with a gentlemen's agreement that no one can be permitted to truly fail, but I guess most of us would settle for one in which any job was available and maybe a few of them even had paid vacation days.

54 thoughts on “STRATOSPHERE”

  • "Flushed $100 million of venture capital down the drain at your startup? LOL bro, it's cool, here's more money to play with."

    What if it is 9 billion (Uber)? :)

  • Which understanding calls the question: Can these people be relied upon to address everyone else's problems? Can they even understand them in the first place?

  • With all the awfulness of Tr45's Presidency, an enduring consolation has been that the Clintons are finally done.

  • N. Bonaparte – I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation so much as the mystery of the social order. It introduces into the thought of heaven an idea of equalization, which saves the rich from being massacred by the poor.

  • Pingback: 1 – Stratosphere
  • "With all the awfulness of Tr45's Presidency, an enduring consolation has been that the Clintons are finally done."

    Right. So, you're white, christian, male? or just stupid?

    On her absolute worst day, Hilary Clinton couldn't begin to match the dumbshittery that passes for governance with Tumpligulamygdala and his cronies.

    Or is there something else going on? Cankles? Ballbustinbitch? help me out.

  • Yeah, even if this is supposedly the end of the Clintons and we're to believe that's the end of an era of corruption…

    We're only just getting started on the Trumps as a political dynasty instead of regular-stupidly-rich-folk levels of power. And that's got to be, by my rough calculations, roughly one billion times worse than the Clintons, and yes, I acknowledge there was a lot of cozy corruption within the Clinton dynasty.

  • white, christian, male? or just stupid?

    I'm guessing at least three of those four, plus one more important selector:

    It is ungodly depressing how many young people have internalized the RWNJ cariacature of Sec. Clinton, and regard it as axiomatic.

    Propaganda works.

  • It all brings to mind the old adage, "If you owe the bank $1,000, it's your problem ; if you owe the bank $1,000,000, it's the bank's problem."

  • define and redefine says:

    Thank you for this. It makes it more understandable when our local hospital has had record breaking profits, but at the same time pays our nurses quite poorly, cuts and/or freezes their overtime, and refuses to hire an adequate staff of qualified, experienced nurses.


  • skwerlhugger says:

    democommie– Here's what else is going on for me: I voted for HRC not unhappily, but cringing at the continuation and maybe even intensification of the previous 8 years of Republican squalor that was certain to come. Her daughter? No interest whatsoever. Why would I have any? That's Ed's point, yes? Sometimes life sucks, but the Clintons aren't exactly suffering. At this point there are many more worthy issues to suck the energy out of the commoners. As a MA resident, Martha Coakley comes to mind here. Please, just… enough. On the bright side, I suspect a lot of Republicans are looking at the Trump family and dimly getting the same feeling.

  • To be fair, Marc may have expected his mother-in-law, as President of the United States, to have a word with Mme. Lagarde over at the IMF. And then was as surprised as the rest of us when that didn't quite work out.

    (BTW, for LOTS more on Ed's topic, I HIGHLY recommend Matt Taibbi's The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. A kid in Chicago gets ten years for selling a couple of rocks and gets ten years; HSBC launders hundreds of millions of dollars in Mexican drug cartel money and gets a $1.92 billion fine (cheap!), and no one even has to admit culpability. )

  • Yeah, we sure dodged the bullet there.

    That lady who once gave a speech to Goldman Sachs might have gotten elected.

    (Instead of the one who staffed his cabinet with Goldman Sachs people)

  • @Skwerlhugger:

    Pretty much. I don't like, didn't like and won't like Hilary. I hated, hate and will continue to hate Le combo orange.

    As for Chelsea Clinton. She's not her husband.

    Martha Coakley is a horrible person. She has, afaia, continued to insist on the guilt of obviously demonized operators of the Fells Acre Daycare. And she's a shit politician as well.

  • This needs reposting, I see:

    DOVER, N.H. (MarketWatch) — I have a confession to make: I can’t keep up.

    Am I supposed to hate Hillary Rodham Clinton because she’s too left-wing, or too right-wing? Because she’s too feminist, or not feminist enough? Because she’s too clever a politician, or too clumsy?

    Am I supposed to be mad that she gave speeches to rich bankers, or that she charged them too much money?

    I’m up here in New Hampshire watching her talk to a group of supporters, and I realized that I have been following this woman’s career for more than half my life. No, not just my adult life: the whole shebang. She came onto the national scene when I was a young man.

    And for all that time, there has been a deafening chorus of critics telling me that she’s just the most wicked, evil, Machiavellian, nefarious individual in American history. She has “the soul of an East German border guard,” in the words of that nice Grover Norquist. She’s a “bitch,” in the words of that nice Newt Gingrich. She’s a “dragon lady.” She’s “Elena Ceaușescu.” She’s “the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock.”

    Long before “Benghazi” and her email server, there was “Whitewater” and “the Rose Law Firm” and “Vince Foster.” For those of us following her, we were promised scandal after scandal after scandal. And if no actual evidence ever turned up, well, that just proved how deviously clever she was.

    So today I’m performing a public service on behalf of all the voters. I went back and re-read all the criticisms and attacks and best-selling “exposés” leveled at Hillary Rodham Clinton over the past quarter-century. And I’ve compiled a list of all her High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

    Here they are:

    1. When she was first lady, she murdered White House lawyer Vince Foster and then dumped his body in a park.

    2. She drove Vince Foster to commit suicide through her temper tantrums.

    3. She was having an affair with Vince Foster.

    4. She’s a lesbian.

    5. Chelsea isn’t Bill Clinton’s child.

    6. She murdered Vince Foster to cover up that she once bought a tract of undeveloped land in Arkansas and lost money.

    7. She murdered Vince Foster to cover up her role in firing the White House travel department.

    8. After she murdered Vince Foster, she ransacked his office in the middle of the night and stole all the documents proving her guilt.

    9. When Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, she was a partner in the state’s top law firm, and it sometimes did work involving the state government.

    10. She once invested in commodities futures on the advice of a friend and made $100,000, proving she’s a crook.

    11. She once invested in real estate on the advice of another friend and lost $100,000, also proving she’s a crook.

    12. Unnamed and unverifiable sources have told Peggy Noonan things about the Clintons that are simply too terrible to repeat.

    13. The personnel murdered at Benghazi make her the first secretary of state to lose overseas personnel to terrorism — apart from Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, George Schultz, Dean Rusk and some others.

    14. Four State Department staff were murdered at Benghazi, compared with only 119 others murdered overseas under every secretary of state combined since World War II.

    15. She illegally sent classified emails from her personal server, except that apparently they weren’t classified at the time.

    16. She may have cynically wriggled around the email law by “technically” complying with it.

    17. She once signed a lucrative book contract when she was a private citizen.

    18. Donald Trump says she “should be in jail,” and he’s a serial bankrupt casino developer in Atlantic City, so he should know.

    19. Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay says his “law-enforcement sources” tell him she is “about to be indicted” — and if a man once convicted of money laundering and conspiracy doesn’t have good law-enforcement sources, who does?

    20. She’s a hard-left radical who wants to break up the nuclear family.

    21. She’s a conservative “mousewife” who refused to break up her own family.

    22. She’s in favor of single moms.

    23. She refused to be a single mom.

    24. When she was first lady of Arkansas, she pandered to conservative voters by dyeing her hair.

    25. Before that, she totally insulted them by refusing to.

    26. She’s a frump.

    27. She spends too much money on designer dresses.

    28. She has “cankles.”

    29. She has a grating voice.

    30. She yells into the microphone.

    31. She spent 18 years in Arkansas and some of the people she knew turned out to be crazy rednecks and crooks.

    32. She’s in the pay of the mafia.

    33. She’s in the pay of the Chinese government.

    34. She’s in the pay of the Wall Street banks.

    35. In order to suppress the billing records from her time at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, she cleverly packed them up and took them to the White House rather than shredding them.

    36. When she handed over the documents to public officials, they couldn’t find any evidence she’d committed any crimes, so she must have doctored them.

    37. Congress spent tens of millions of dollars and six years investigating her investment in the Whitewater real-estate project, and, while they didn’t actually find anything, they wouldn’t have spent all that money if there weren’t something there.

    38. By cleverly hiding all evidence of her crimes in the Whitewater affair, she caused Congress to waste all that taxpayers’ money.

    39. When she ran for senator of New York, she was still a fan of the Chicago Cubs.

    40. She once said the Clintons were thinking of adopting a child, and they didn’t follow through.

    41. She was photographed holding her hand near her mouth during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

    42. She’s got brain damage.

    43. She’s old.

    44. She’s really ambitious and calculating, unlike all the other people running for president.

    45. She secretly supported Palestinian terrorists, Puerto Rican terrorists and Guatemalan terrorists.

    46. She secretly supported a group that wants to give Maine back to the Indians.

    47. She’s a secret follower of “radical prophet” Saul Alinsky.

    48. She did her law degree at Yale, and it’s a well-known “socialist finishing school.”

    49. When she was young, she did things to build up her résumé rather than just for their own good.

    50. When Bill was president, she “allowed” him to keep people waiting.

    51. She’s married to a sex addict.

    52. She’s an enemy of traditional marriage.

    53. She didn’t divorce her husband.

    54. His philandering is her fault because she is too strong, and too weak, and too frumpy, and too fat, and too cold.

    55. She’s hostile to women who fool around with her husband.

    56. A divorced taxi driver in Florida told me that if Hillary is elected president, “women will take over everything.”

    57. She insulted Tammy Wynette.

    58. When they left the White House, she and Bill bought a big house in New York that they couldn’t afford.

    59. She sometimes calls her staff during dinner, even when they’re out at a restaurant.

    60. She claimed there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her husband, and it turned out there was nothing but a bunch of tycoons financing private investigators, and some fake think tanks and books and news sites and stuff.

    61. When she got married, she didn’t “stay at home and bake cookies.”

    62. She supported the Iraq war because she’s a secret foreign-policy conservative.

    63. She’s a secret foreign-policy radical with a plan to impose worldwide “radical social experimentation” through the World Bank.

    64. She is secretly plotting to let children sue their parents for making them take out the garbage.

    65. She looked bored during the Benghazi hearings.

    66. Oh, yeah — and she totally has a vagina.

    It’s clear: Hillary must be stopped. Hearings now!

  • @Katydid:

    And you just know that Mark the Moron is sitting in his mom's laundry room, reading this while washing down his Cheetos with some vintage Dew. Adam's apple bobbing, head nodding, clicking madly with one hand while the other is madly–well, you get the picture.

  • I'll say my piece on Hilary Clinton again; I don't dislike her because of the propaganda, or emails, or any of that trash. She ran with a 50% disapproval rating, and it is that hubris I can't forgive, because it gave us President Trump. I'm not a Sandarite or Berniebro or whatever we're calling it this week, but was O'Malley that bad? Anyone else? Why was/is the bench so short? What the hell was the DNC doing the past 8 years?

  • @Safety Man!:

    The DNC is fucked, no question. I see a large part of the problem being their scheming and jockeying for positions in administrations that don't exist to the extent that they WON'T exist.

    Another, perhaps equal, problem is that running against the GOP is not a thing that will go well for most genuine progressives or liberals.

    BernJilGar was NOT the answer. O'Malley had baggage as do all of the rest of the people who hang around the sewer that is U.S. electoral politics.

    Wish I knew the answer.

  • To be clear, I was just being a smartass about Marc and Mrs. Clinton (and Mme. Lagarde). She didn't win the election and he's fine anyway. (Also, $25 million is peanuts to the IMF.)

  • Your last company fired you after you took over as CEO and ran them into the ground? Don't worry, another CEO gig awaits.
    Here's your multi-million dollar golden parachute to tide you over until your next CEO gig.

  • seniorscrub says:

    I seem to remember when it came out that banks were using bailout funds to lavish end of year bonuses — in the year that these selfsame banks bobbed back up like that turd after a weak flush — on their top execs, they used the reasoning, "How will we be able to keep such top flight talent if we don't give them bonuses?? They'll go elsewhere."

  • Okay, so I am white and female and I hope the Clintons fade into the background forever, too. My animus has nothing to do with right wing propaganda, either. I wasn't fond of Bill–he gently guided the Democratic party further to the right and was at the helm when the Democratic party decided its interests were best served by the financial services sector. This is when the Democratic party started to take its base for granted. Hillary's positions on most policies were okay IMO–except she is too hawkish for my tastes. But the biggest problem with her was that she was tainted with the Clinton stink. She was NEVER going to win the presidency because WAY too many people believed the propaganda and WAY too many people hated her with the heat of a thousand suns. The fact that she was jammed down our throats because it was "her turn" just pissed me off–but hell yeah, I voted for her.

    Yeah, it sucks that her competency was completely cancelled out by bullshit and lies, but that was the reality we had to deal with. Plus, she just isn't a good candidate. Sorry, but she just isn't So why did the DNC insist on Hillary? It almost seems like they just don't care if they win elections anymore–it's all about making people within the party hierarchy happy. Now we have Donald Trump. Thanks a whole fucking lot, DNC. Thanks.

  • What was wrong with O'Malley? He was strong on women's, children's, and environmental issues as mayor of Baltimore and as governor of Maryland. He was a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. His personal life is very conventional–married, 2 kids, no scandals. Play(ed? s?) in a little local band. I was really hoping he'd get the VP nod.

  • Rudolph Schnaubelt says:

    Sadly, virtually this entire thread both misses the point entirely and simultaneously demonstrates why we are powerless.

    The OP posits the de facto establishment of an aristocracy wholly separate from our peasant existence. It presents a problem to be confronted.

    The thread wanders around the relative merits of past failed champions. Move on.

    We are hardly human to those aristocrats. Understand that they put our lives, health, and well being at risk for their own comfort & pleasure.

  • I was worried about Hillary Clinton running–not because I didn't think she'd make a great president (and my non-American friends thought so, too) but because of 30 years of anti-Clinton hatred and stupidity flowing from the rwnj's.

    In 1992 I took a moonlighting job at a small nonprofit, setting up their website and doing other techy stuff. The non-profit was started by and for an evangelical Christian group in Annapolis–one of those "your whole life is the church" place. I was their first non-church hire (and I was only a temp) because none of their folks was technically savvy. As I worked, I listened to all the anti-Clinton hatred flowing from these "good Christian" mouths–and man, was it ugly. They also spent a lot of time attacking 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton, calling her filthy names and proudly announcing that they were urging their kids on the cult-school's soccer team to "really cream her on the field".

    The spit-flying, foam-frothing derangement these people had toward the Clintons–which was egged on by their pastor right from the pulpit–was my clue that no matter what the Clintons did in the world, there were deranged lunatics that just flat-out hated them.

  • I mean, this post is literally exactly about how the oligarchy Borg has fully and completely assimilated the Clintons — that they have 100% worked for and married into the oligarchy,

    and everyone's still gotta rehash how that isn't true.

    Hint: there are no pictures of any of us palling it up with the Trumps at his nth wedding.

  • Michael; OMG! Rich people know each other?!??! There MUST be evil intent! (geeze, are you naive…)

  • "Sadly, virtually this entire thread both misses the point entirely and simultaneously demonstrates why we are powerless."

    And your comment makes precisely no sense without a decoder ring.

    "I mean, this post is literally exactly about how the oligarchy Borg has fully and completely assimilated the Clintons — that they have 100% worked for and married into the oligarchy."

    You and the fella who made the comment above yours in this box? Why are you here? To gloat? Certainly not to help, it appears.

  • charluckles says:

    I've a friend who works high up in HR – executive compensation at a fortune 500. He comes from a fairly modest background and has crawled his way up so get a few beers into him and the stories start to flow. There really are two completely different sets of rules. Things that had they been done by a non-executive employee would certainly have been handled with security frog marching them out the door to waiting police cars are instead in the case of executives handled with kid gloves and a hefty severance package.

  • Sorry to depart from the pro/con Clinton discussion, but as I read Ed's post about rich folks living life in their own swim lane, it occurred to me that this theme has a parallel in the internationalist types inhabiting Washington DC:

    "Failed to rearrange those rocks in [insert region name here] just the way you wanted to (yet again)? Well, don't worry, we'll let you have a fresh go at it as soon as we can scarf up another trillion dollars."

  • @Charluckes; it's not just at the most elite levels that this garbage goes on. I left a small start-up that was great when it was just the two guys who founded it and a handful of employees. Next thing you know, one owner pushed the other one out and hired his wife and son–the wife was a one-day-a-week "recruiter" (was not technical, couldn't understand the resumes she was getting so she simply stopped looking at any), the son rarely bothered to show up to work at all, but got to go on endless conferences to Las Vegas, Orlando, Bermuda, etc. This family weren't the elites you're talking about, but they certainly got their piece of the pie.

    I'm in an industry where the bosses routinely hire their kids/nieces/nephews anad inflict them on the IT workforce. The relatives have no technical skills, and the only mercy is that they're no longer expected to even pretend to be IT; they're now "communications experts" (who can't speak or write in Basic English, as exemplified by one princess who monopolizes a technical planning meeting by informing us such gems as "Me and her tooken the class". There are so many actually qualified people who can't seem to get their foot in the door, but the children-of are taken care of–"them that has, gets".

  • I'm sure Marc Mezvinsky saw in Greece what Paul Singer saw in Argentina when Elliott Capital bought billions of dollars worth of Argentinian debt for pennies on the dollar. What Marc lacked was pockets deep enough to wage a 15 year war with the Greek government to get them to make good on that debt.

    Live and learn.

  • Amateur socialist says:

    See also Corrine, Jon. Former governor and senator from New Jersey. CEO of MF Global for about a year. After $1.2B disappeared from client accounts he testified before congress he didn't know where it went.

  • schmitt trigger says:

    "So why did the DNC insist on Hillary? It almost seems like they just don't care if they win elections anymore–it's all about making people within the party hierarchy happy. Now we have Donald Trump. Thanks a whole fucking lot, DNC."

    My sentiments exactly.

    But getting back to the original thread discussion, it is a shame that well over 200 years after the French Revolution (and other follow-up revolutions), societies are sill divided between Nobility and Peasantry. By other names.

  • Hey guys, stay on target. Hillary is no longer running for President and has been reduced to making inane pronouncements on Syria (also, Hillary wouldn't be passing the AHCA, because she's not fucking insane, but that's sort of besides the point). The main point of the article is that the rich are corpulent and tasty and we should be eating them instead of letting them run the entire damn system. In this regard, the DSA are your friends (

  • c u n d gulag says:

    America's Dichotemy:
    Tax breaks, exponentially more than liveable wages, sick time, paid vacations, pensions, paid day-care, and other perks, are necessary for the rich folks in order to not only recruit great talent, and properly reward their effort(s), but to incent them to work harder.

    Tax breaks, anywhere near liveable wages, any sick time, any paid vacations, any pensions, any paid day care, and any other perks, only incent poorer (aka: minority/female/etc…) folks to live lives of dependency, and make them lazier and more slothful.

    Now, add a healthy portion of assorted bigotries, and you really do begin to understand why – AGAIN – we have in our post Civil and Voting Right's Acts America, a new "Cold Civil War" where – AGAIN – "a house divided which cannot stand."
    And should not be allowed to stand another minute.
    Unfortunately, not having Abraham Lincoln, but Dumb-'n-old t-RUMPLE-thin-sKKKin instead, to try to get through this, is s prescription for a fucking disaster.

    In our modern American version of the ancient fall of Rome, the Barbarians aren't at the gates.
    HELL NO!!!
    They're inside, and control the House and Senate, and have Orange Julius Caesar t-RUMPLE-thin-sKKKin under some form of control.

  • ChickenLady says:


    Instead of security frog-marching the offenders off to the loving arms of the police, I saw security-frog marching them out. Thanks for that!

  • Was thinking that the less the government does for us (have to give the rich their tax cuts) the more we the people will have to pay in fees and higher medical insurance premiums and copays etc.

    Isn't that really the same as a tax increase for us peasants? Money is fungible after all.

  • Can someone explain junk bonds and what it means for a government to default on a bond? Why couldn't Mr. -25 megabucks' firm just sue Greece or its central bank?

  • @Tom: Greece doesn't print its own currency, because it's part of the EU. So while it is a government in that it has taxing authority, it is a lot more like a US State or Canadian province than a full-fledged country like the US or UK.

    This was the core of the problem since Day One.

  • Honest question- Was the $25,000,000 truly pissed away or just traded to another oligarch for a spell, then it will be traded back? That's the part I'm still foggy on. Where does the money GO?

  • @mm: Not at all. Paying taxes is bad, but paying more to corporations is good, because Free Market!

Comments are closed.