Liars and Cheaters

It’s been a bad week for the reputation of big business and its captains of industry.  Trump and Fiorina, those shining examples of the species, lied their way through the debate, and Fiorina’s unremitting failure at business has started to attract appropriate attention.  Trump’s incompetence as a businessman, and his lies about that, have not been sufficiently noted, despite this two-week-old analysis.  Ehrenfreud notes that the passive-investment model doesn’t include living expenses. Fair enough: if he had put his money into an S&P index fund in 1978 and taken out walking-around money starting at $3m and ending at $16m a year, he would have $4b today.  All his wheeling and dealing, and the money he took from sucker investors and lenders through his bankruptcies, didn’t even beat Harold Pollack’s index card. Neither of them can pass the Hyman Roth test  (“Your father [Vito Corleone] always made money for his partners”).  Is this the best Republicans can put up as sound business leaders?

Mark has pretty well toasted VW, but he neglected to mention the damage this piece of schweinerei has done to the market potential of diesels, the actually (not mislabeled-as) clean of which are an important element of reducing the global warming effect of transportation.  I am not too surprised by this story, though no less outraged, because I remember the decades in which GM, DuPont and Standard Oil conspired to sicken and stupefy millions and millions of Americans because, while ethanol was a perfectly good octane enhancer, it couldn’t be patented. Making engines require tetraethyl lead to keep their valves from burning was like runaway slot machine for them.  And we got a crime wave from it, to boot.

I realize one reason I am simply beside myself about this is personal.  I am a good non-partisan (at least I was before the Republicans became crazy and hateful) teacher; whatever students say, I try to make them think twice, consider another perspective and more facts, and like that.  At Berkeley,  part of my job is to stay somewhat to the right of my students. My Introduction to Policy Analysis course is beginning an economics unit, and in the usual way, we get into market failures starting from the virtues of the market when it works properly. These incompetents and criminals have put me in an especially difficult position for class Monday.

[The Reality-Based Community]

Michael O’Hare

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.