Tag Archive: Corporations

Ohio Road Salt Scam: How to Steal Millions and Not Go to Jail

cargill salt

Pretend that I walked into First National Bank of Ney and robbed it, getting away $70 million. Ney’s equivalent of Barney Fife, eating at Marty’s Restaurant, heard the alarm, put a bullet in his trusty revolver, and ran to the bank. He saw me hurriedly leaving the bank and said, HALT in name of the law. Caught with $70 million, I surrendered to Barney.  Imagine my surprise when the Deputy said, Well, I hate to let you come away from this with nothing. Why Don’t you keep $60 million and I’ll return the rest to the bank. And, because you are a good citizen I wont even charge you with a crime.

Is there any place in the universe where the aforementioned story would end as I have told it? Yes, in John Kasich and Mike DeWine’s Ohio. According to the Morning Journal, the state of Ohio and local governments paid $54 a ton for road salt in 2011-12. In 2013-14, they paid $36 a ton. According to the Council of State Governments Knowledge Center, in 2013-14 Ohio used more than one millions tons of road salt. In 2011-12, the state used 731,547 tons and averaged over 630,000 tons over the previous decade.

Yesterday, (link no longer active) Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he had reached a settlement deal with Morton and Cargill over their anti-competitive practices in the road salt market. According to DeWine, Morton and Cargill divided up the state and agreed to non-compete, resulting in Ohio paying above-market rates for salt.  Denying all wrongdoing, both companies agree to pay a total of $11.5 million to the state, which would then be paid out to local governments.  The agreement covers 2008-10.

Remember the numbers I quoted above? Did a little third grade math on my Windows 8.1 calculator app and determined that the state of Ohio and local governments paid about $100 million for salt over  the three year period of 2008-10. Morton and Cargill paid little more than ten cents on the dollar in restitution and avoided any criminal prosecution. Can’t wait to hear Mr. Wall Street, John Kasich spin this deal.

Morton and Cargill criminally conspired to manipulate salt sales in Ohio. Like the story at the start of this post, John Kasich and Mike DeWine rewarded them for being good crooks. According to Cargill:

“From the time the suit was filed in 2012, we have emphatically denied the allegations. We have always acted ethically and in line with our guiding principles. The OAG accepts that there is no admission of guilt.”

Am I the only one who is tired of Mike Dewine and John Kasich’s unwillingness to go to the mat for Ohio taxpayers? Salt prices dropped $18 a ton from the period in question to 2013-14. While some of this could be market fluctuation, I suspect that a lot of the decrease is Morton and Cargill realizing that they have been found out. Why not take an aggressive approach to corporate malfeasance?  Not wanting to risk loss is a horrible excuse. Better to lose and expose Cargill and Morton than allow corporations to continue to pillage the coffers of state and local government.

Note

According to a 2010 State of Ohio Office of Inspector General report, Morton and Cargill’s scheme resulted in ODOT paying $47-59 million too much for salt over the previous decade.

In a Defiance Crescent-News article, Mark Kovac, the Statehouse reporter for Dix Communications, said that the Morton and Cargill cost state and local governments $70 million. (behind paywall)

What if Right Wingers Win the Same-Sex Marriage Battle?

 

american jesus

Evangelical, Mormon, and Catholic leaders and parachurch groups are in full-blown panic mode as the day the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage draws near. They rightly understand that if the Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage the culture war at the federal level is over. While there might be state and local battles to be won, on the federal level, the war is over.

Once gays are afforded the same civil rights and constitutional protections as the rest of us, Evangelicals will likely begin telling the faithful that we now live in a post-Christian world. Evangelicals, along with their fellow culture warriors in Catholicism and Mormonism, have lost their favored seat at the cultural table. No longer will appeals to God, the Christian Bible, the Law of God, etc. work. This is lost on those who are running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. From Ted Cruz to John Kasich to Rick Perry to Marco Rubio to well, whoever else is in the clown car, they seem oblivious to the fact that it is not 1950. Waving the U.S. flag and shouting I LOVE JESUS will not garner enough votes to put a Republican in the White House. The same white crackers, Tea Party lunatics, Patriots, and fundamentalist Christians will vote for the Republican nominee, but their ranks are literally dying, unable to attract young adults. Not only are they dying, but they remain a bastion of bigotry and racism. As the United States becomes browner,  the Republican party becomes less relevant. In time, there either will be a huge party split, with the rednecks and the Christian nation crowd starting there own party, or the current Republican Party will be forced to banish the wing nuts and broaden their tent.

Winning the same-sex battle at the federal level would be a big boon to the Republican Party. It will also embolden culture warriors, a reminder to them that God is still on their side. While it will certainly be a huge blow to liberals and supporters of same-sex marriage like myself if we lose, we will live on to fight another day. We know that we are in a generational battle for the future of the United States. Unlike the culture warrior with their five item menu, the liberal knows war must be waged on many fronts. Same-sex marriage is just one of those fronts. We must also work to:

  • Overturn Citizens-United
  • Reform voting and end gerrymandering
  • Turn back state abortion laws that are harmful to women
  • Neuter the military-industrial complex
  • Reign in the security-industrial complex
  • Provide a living wage for all
  • End the assault on evidence-based science
  • Shore up the wall of separation and church
  • Drastically reduce our global environmental footprint
  • Provide young adults with educational opportunities that do not saddle them with decades of debt
  • Rebuild infrastructure before the United States turns into one big pothole
  • End the war on drugs
  • Decriminalize and legalize marijuana use
  • Reestablish law enforcement as peacemakers
  • Empty the prisons of nonviolent offenders, especially those convicted of petty drug crimes
  • End capital punishment
  • Strip corporations of their power and influence over local, state, and federal government

The culture warriors, who overwhelmingly vote Republican, seem to have little interest in the things I’ve mentioned above. Guided by their literalistic interpretation of the Bible and the Constitution, they work to undo the social progress of the last 100 years. In their world, if women returned to the kitchen, gays to the closet, undocumented workers to the country they came from, all would be well. What they want is 1950. They want to return to the era of  McCarthy, a period of time when fundamentalist patriotism and Christianity ruled the roost. They want to return women to the days when they feared pregnancy and feared their husband. They want to return to the days when the hegemony of whites had no challenge. They want to return to the days when the United States had no equal and used its military and economic power to advance an imperialistic agenda.

For these reasons, and many others, I rarely can find common ground to work with Republicans. Their Party is overrun by nuts, cranks, corporate CEO’s, lobbyists and conspiracy theorists. While sane voices can be found on the left fringe of the Republican Party, their numbers are few and they seem unable to make their voice heard. When Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Jon Huntsman are your party’s voice of reason, you have a big problem on your hands. While I am willing to compromise and work towards a common good, I find it impossible to work with people who think that every social and political change is a threat to America, Christianity, and the American way of life. When the discussions starts with abortion is murder or America is nation chosen by God, it’s hard to find common ground. Truth is, I’d probably find more common ground in an insane asylum than I would some corners of the Republican Party.

The issues I have mentioned in this post provide readers with a glimpse into my politics and how I view the world. The aforementioned positions are not a complete list, but it does show readers the issues that I think are most important.

This post should not be taken as an endorsement of the Democratic Party. I am increasingly unhappy with Party and President Obama. Some days, I think both political parties are the same, especially when it comes to how corporations and money influence their decisions.