David Cay Johnston

The taxpayers’ burden

David Cay Johnston
Dec 4, 2011 01:38 UTC

The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Taxpayers have much at risk in the coordinated action that six central banks took this week to lower short-term interest rates and make it easier to issue dollar-denominated loans to cope with the European debt crisis.

The joint action on the last day of November is being characterized widely as buying time to deal with the European government debt crisis. But fears about whether the PIGS — Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain — can pay back their debts in full are just a symptom of a metastasizing economic disease that has been plaguing the West for three decades. That is where the risks to taxpayers come in.

The disease was man-made, a policy virus cooked up by the Chicago School, where leading theorists persuaded the world to cast aside four millennia of human experience in favor of their radical legal and economic ideas. They have achieved this by couching their plans in language that made them seem conservative when the theories were the antithesis of conservative, at least in the classic meaning of that word.

Among these ideas is that inflation is everywhere a government-created evil that must be fought at all costs, that financial institutions operate best with little to no regulation and that fraud laws are an anachronism in securities markets. In line with this, deflationary pressures are ignored and prudent investment houses become casinos charging hefty fees for derivatives that by their nature destroy wealth while frauds flourish in the form of mortgage securities perpetrated by banks and Wall Street.

The damage is now done. The price must be paid.


Who bears this price will determine whether we face the scary risk of inflation or the even scarier prospect of deflation. Will those who benefited from these policies bear the price? Or, as with the 2008 U.S. financial meltdown, will it be taxpayers?

In New York, gifts circumvent a ban

David Cay Johnston
Nov 29, 2011 16:26 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The opinions expressed are his own.

Taxpayers can expect ever more picking of their pockets by businesses with political clout thanks to the Nov. 21 decision by Judge Theodore Jones and four colleagues on the New York Court of Appeals.

At issue is $1.4 billion in state gifts whose primary beneficiary is a microchip maker, GlobalFoundries, a company controlled by Abu Dhabi’s hereditary ruler, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, one of the wealthiest people ever. The gifts, labeled economic development grants and made through a state-sponsored corporation, work out to about a million dollar subsidy per job at the plant near Albany.

The New York Court of Appeals said the 50 taxpayers who sued over the deal and over gifts to apple and wine trade associations have no standing to challenge the gift because it is proper.