FTX Fraudster Bankman-Fried Made $40 Million in Midterm Political Donations Which Mostly “Went to Democrats and Liberal-Leaning Groups”

(p. A1) FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried oversaw one of the biggest financial frauds in American history, a top federal prosecutor said in charging that the former chief executive stole billions of dollars from the crypto exchange’s customers while misleading investors and lenders.

. . .

(p. A6) Mr. Bankman-Fried is also accused of defrauding the Federal Election Commission starting in 2020 by conspiring with others to make illegal contributions to candidates and political committees in the names of other people.

He and his associates contributed more than $70 million to election campaigns in recent years, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. He personally made $40 million in donations ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, most of which went to Democrats and liberal-leaning groups.

For the full story, see:

Corinne Ramey, James Fanelli, Dave Michaels, Alexander Saeedy and Vicky Ge Huang. “FTX Founder Is Charged With Fraud.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 14, 2022): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 13, 2022, and has the title “FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried Charged With Criminal Fraud, Conspiracy.”)

Jack Welch’s Protégés “Were Just Cost Cutters”

(p. 8) . . . in more than 100 conversations for “The Man Who Broke Capitalism,” my new book, from which this article is adapted, a broad range of people said some version of the same thing: While it has been more than two decades since Mr. Welch was C.E.O. of G.E., his legacy still affects millions of American households.

. . .

For a time in the early 2000s, five of the top 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average were run by men who had worked for Mr. Welch. “That’s why they got hired,” said William Conaty, G.E.’s longtime chief of human resources. “Because they had the playbook. They had the G.E. tool kit. And boards back then thought that was the answer.”

. . .

The Welch protégés who struck out on their own rarely fared well. At Home Depot, Albertson’s, Conseco, Stanley Works and many other companies, the same story seemed to repeat itself ad infinitum.

A G.E. executive was named C.E.O. of another company. News of the appointment sent the stock of that company soaring. The incoming leaders were lavished with riches when they took their new jobs, signing multimillion-dollar contracts that ensured them a gilded retirement, no matter how well they performed. A period of job cuts usually ensued, and profits sometimes rose for a few quarters, or even a few years. But inevitably, morale cratered, the business wobbled, the stock price sank and the Welch disciple was sent packing.

“A lot of G.E. leaders were thought to be business geniuses,” said Bill George, the former C.E.O. of Medtronic. “But they were just cost cutters. And you can’t cost cut your way to prosperity.”

For the full essay, see:

David Gelles. “Jack Welch and the Rise of C.E.O.s Behaving Badly.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, May 22, 2022): 1 & 7-8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated June 27, 2022, and has the title “How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from Gelles’s book:

Gelles, David. The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America―and How to Undo His Legacy. New York: Simon & Schuster 2022.

Nonprofit Hospitals Get $60 Billion in Annual Tax Breaks in Order to Aid the Poor, but Often Use High-Pressure Opaque Tactics to Collect Full Payment

(p. A1) Nonprofit hospitals must have financial-assistance policies for needy patients, under federal requirements tied to an estimated $60 billion in annual tax breaks.

They often make that aid hard to get. Hospitals put up obstacles, delay checking eligibility and sometimes press for payments that aren’t refunded even if a patient eventually gets qualified for assistance.

That is according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of thousands of nonprofit hospital policies in filings to the Internal Revenue Service and posted by hospitals, as well as thousands of pages of internal documents from government hospitals obtained through public-record requests and the experiences of dozens of advocates and patients who have (p. A9) applied for aid.

. . .

An earlier Journal analysis of Medicare filings highlighted how little of nonprofit hospitals’ billions in revenue goes toward financial help for low-income patients. The new analysis uncovered the barriers many hospitals place in the way of patients who should qualify for assistance—even under the hospitals’ own criteria.

Under tax laws, nonprofit hospitals are set up to function as charities benefiting their communities. Government facilities, whose policies the Journal also looked at, are also intended to serve the public, though they aren’t subject to all the same IRS requirements as private nonprofits. The Journal found that many of these hospitals act like for-profit businesses in their efforts to get paid, even by those who can’t afford it.

. . .

Separate from the analysis of nonprofit hospitals’ IRS documents, the Journal also obtained internal documents on patient-billing procedures from large state and local government hospitals, including academic medical centers, through public-records requests. These hospitals share a similar mission with private nonprofits to serve communities.

The thousands of pages of procedures, scripts and other training material for hospital staff give an inside look at how some hospitals routinely push patients toward payment, including through installment plans that may come with interest. The guidelines often play down or don’t raise the option of financial assistance. Adding to the pressure, these tactics are often deployed before the patient gets care.

In a document titled “Collections Scripting for Non-Emergent Visits,” used by Georgia-based Augusta University Health System, staffers are supposed to start by requesting the entire amount due from the patient, saying, “How would you like to take care of that today?”

For the full story, see:

Anna Wilde Mathews, Andrea Fuller and Melanie Evans. “Some Hospitals Skimp on Aid.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 18, 2022): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 17, 2022, and has the title “Hospitals Often Don’t Help Needy Patients, Even Those Who Qualify.”)

“Woke” Bankman-Fried’s FTX Played “Dumb Game” of Virtue Signaling

(p. A17) There was a time when people engaged in doing good addressed problems that, so to speak, you could get your arms around, such as improving school performance, providing potable water or preventing malaria. But at some point, the impulse to do good transformed into a combination of moral tendentiousness and grandiosity.

. . .

. . ., inside the Bankman-Fried fairy tale rests a smaller tipping point, which suggests his generation senses that their preachy elders may have led them down a moral garden path.

In an exchange with Mr. Bankman-Fried, a writer for Vox asserts, “You were really good at talking about ethics.” He replied that “I had to be” because of “this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.”

He is describing what has come to be known in our time as virtue signaling, . . .

For the full commentary, see:

Daniel Henninger. “WONDER LAND; The Moral Vanity of FTX.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, December 1, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 30, 2022, and has the title “WONDER LAND; The Moral Vanity of Sam Bankman-Fried.”)

Corrupt and Bankrupt FTX Got Higher ESG Rating for “Leadership and Governance” Than Exxon Mobil

(p. A14) Crypto dark knight Sam Bankman-Fried may have deceived investors, customers and various journalists and politicians. But now the FTX founder is at least telling the truth about a few things. Lo, he says that environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is a fraud, and so was his progressive public posturing.

. . .

“Problems were brewing. Larger than I realized,” he tweeted. “In the future, I’m going to care less about the dumb, contentless, ‘good actor’ framework,” he added. “What matters is what you do—is *actually* doing good or bad, not just *talking* about doing good or *using ESG language*.”

Mr. Bankman-Fried is also acknowledging that he genuflected to regulators and Democratic lawmakers to win political protection. ESG ratings company Truvalue Labs even gave FTX a higher score on “leadership and governance” than Exxon Mobil, though the crypto exchange had only three directors on its board.

For the full editorial, see:

The Editorial Board. “Sam Bankman-Fried, ESG Truth-Teller.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 18, 2022): A14.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the editorial has the date November 17, 2022, and has the title “Sam Bankman-Fried Becomes an ESG Truth-Teller.”)

New Technology Creates More Jobs Than It Destroys

(p. 3) The pessimist’s basic mistake is to focus too much on what is lost to competition and technology, and too little on what is gained. Over the past 25 years, as McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, has pointed out, about a third of the new jobs created in the United States were types that did not exist or barely existed 25 years ago.

. . .

In New York City the car replaced the horse carriage within the first 15 years of the 20th century, killing off the carriage trade and giving birth to the taxi trade — as well as to highly paid auto mechanics. Uber threatens the taxi trade, and the self-driving car threatens the Uber driver. But it has also brought multimillion-dollar signing bonuses for self-driving-car engineers and created new opportunities for mechanics. People tend to find a way to work with and profit from new technology.

. . .

In most cases, an industry without enough workers to meet customer demand would simply hire more, or at least raise wages to attract them.

Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, neither of those things happened last year. The number of pharmacists employed in the United States dropped about 1 percent from 2020 to 2021. On balance, employers did not raise wages — in fact, median pay fell slightly, even without adjusting for inflation.

. . .

. . . there is no evidence so far to support forecasts of a nearly jobless future. If robots threatened human labor, human joblessness would be growing. But it’s not. In fact, since 2008, job growth has been strongest in countries like Germany and Japan, which deploy the most robots.

For the full commentary, see:

Ruchir Sharma. “No, That Robot Will Not Steal Your Job.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, October 8, 2017): 3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 7, 2017, and has the same title as the print version.)

During December 2022, Kindle Version of McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality Is Only $2.99

The long, but wonderful, third volume of Deirdre’ McClokey’s Bourgeois trilogy, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, is on offer from Amazon during the month of December 2022 in eText Kindle version for only $2.99.

Initially Socialist Israeli Kibbutzim Gradually Embraced Entrepreneurial Capitalism

(p. C4) Today, in a break with . . . [its] communal past, Ms. Barnea’s kibbutz is farming for profit, and its main cash crop is medical marijuana. She recently retired from managing the greenhouse that grows the drug.

The shift at Kibbutz Beit HaEmek is just the latest sign of how much Israel’s kibbutzim are changing, as both Israel and the kibbutz movement move away from their socialist roots to become more entrepreneurial and profit-driven.

“We have to survive,” said Ms. Barnea, now 64, walking around the greenhouse as the smell of marijuana wafted past.

. . .

Facing a bleak financial future, young people abandoned the kibbutzim in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Israel’s vibrant technology sector took off, providing an additional pull away from the communes.

To reverse the exodus, Israel’s kibbutzim dismantled much of their socialist model. In 1995, Kibbutz Merom HaGolan became the first to go through a so-called privatization process, paying members salaries on a scale.

Today, most kibbutzim have undergone some form of privatization. Many members now earn salaries outside the kibbutz but pay taxes for the community’s upkeep. New members can take out mortgages with banks and buy land on the kibbutz for their homes.

. . .

Only about 40 kibbutzim still share resources and give equal allowances as envisioned in the original model. Most of these communities had created successful businesses that helped them maintain the communal way of living.

One such community is Kibbutz Sdot Yam, on Israel’s central coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa. In the 1980s, the kibbutz opened a factory that constructed quartz surfaces for tables and floors. Despite that venture’s success, the kibbutz is now considering whether to allow members—most of whom work outside the community—to earn their own salaries, rather than sharing them with the commune, said Doron Stansill, a 47-year-old member.

For the full essay, see:

Rory Jones. “The Kibbutz in a Capitalist Israel.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 ): C4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the essay has the date Oct. 13, 2017 , and has the title “The Kibbutz Movement Adapts to a Capitalist Israel.”)

Chinese Communist Party Archives Reveal Contradictions, Confusion, and Corruption in “Reform” Policies

(p. C3) Up until the Covid pandemic, I spent years traversing the country to explore the Chinese Communist Party archives from the reform period. Access was at times surprisingly easy, and my findings were eye-opening.

. . .

The archives suggest that officials were aware of reform’s contradictions from its earliest days. Remnants of the command economy combined with what one economist called “selected, pasteurized, partial, truncated, restricted and disjointed pieces of market and private property policy.” The outcome, said Liu Guoguang, a professor of economics and alternate member of the party’s Central Committee, was “a confused economic system.”

Private ownership of intellectual property had no place in this system, and its theft was actively encouraged throughout the party hierarchy. Two government ministries jointly circulated a directive on counterfeiting in 1983, noting that due to the country’s legal obligations, it was necessary with such goods to “change the name of the product.” As one report noted, “We need a unified approach towards copying” so that “the quality of the copied equipment can be guaranteed.”

The counterfeiting of computer technology assumed particular importance after Zhao Ziyang, the country’s premier from 1980 to 1987, read “The Third Wave,” by the American futurist Alvin Toffler. The book predicted that, in the wake of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, a third revolution would be based on the computer. In October 1983, Zhao proposed skipping the second wave altogether: “Time and tide wait for no one, opportunity knocks but once,” he pronounced. To leap into the digital era, China would need to imitate and reverse engineer foreign products.

But the copying wasn’t limited to computer technology. By 2001, China was awash in fake pharmaceutical products and pirated Hollywood movies on DVD. China’s accession to the WTO that year led to a bonanza of copying, for which few consumers paid more than ordinary Chinese: Electric kettles blew up, brake pads failed. Spices contained paraffin wax, noodles used a red dye that caused cancer, and rice wine was made with cheap industrial-grade alcohol. In 2007, the government estimated that one-fifth of the food and consumer goods it checked were substandard or tainted.

China’s financial system rested on similarly shaky foundations. By the summer of 1988, the pace of growth led to double-digit inflation, and state banks were unable to pay villagers for their contractual deliveries of grain, cotton and other essential products. Protests in 1989, in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere across the country, were as much about economic as political discontent. About a fifth of the files in the party archives deal with debt—lending to solve the debt, further debt due to the lending, more lending to solve an even larger debt.

. . .

The image that emerges from the archives is very different from the impression that many have of today’s China. From a distance, the country’s gleaming cities may resemble an impressively shipshape tanker, with the captain and his lieutenants standing proudly on the bridge, but below deck, sailors are desperately pumping water and plugging holes to keep the vessel afloat.

For the full essay, see:

Frank Dikötter. “China’s Economic Miracle That Wasn’t.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 19, 2022): C3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 17, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from Dikötter’s book:

Dikötter, Frank. China after Mao: The Rise of a Superpower. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2022.

Russian Soldiers See Free Ukrainians Flourish

(p. A18) In early April [2022] I walked into Andriivka, a village about 40 miles from Kyiv, with my battalion in the Ukrainian territorial defense forces. We were among the first Ukrainian troops to enter the village after a Russian occupation that had lasted about a month. . . .

The Russians killed civilians in Andriivka, and they ransacked and looted houses. The locals told us something else the Russians had done: One day they took mopeds and bicycles out of some of the yards and rode around on them in the street like children, filming one another with their phones and laughing with delight, as if they’d gotten some long-awaited birthday present.

A few days earlier we were in Bucha, a suburb northwest of Kyiv that was subjected to an infamously brutal occupation. The people there told us that when the first Russian convoy entered the town, the troops asked if they were in Kyiv; they could not believe that such idyllic parks and cottages could exist outside a capital. Then they looted the local houses thoroughly. They took money, cheap electronics, alcohol, clothes and watches. But, the locals said, they seemed perplexed by the robotic vacuum cleaners, and they always left those.

One resident, who told me that she was taken hostage by the Russian soldiers in her house, said they could not get over the fact that she had two bathrooms and kept insisting that she must have more people living with her.

This war is Vladimir Putin’s fatal mistake. Not because of economic sanctions and not because of the huge losses of troops and tanks but because Mr. Putin’s soldiers are from some of the poorest and most rural regions of Russia. Before this war, these men were encouraged to believe that Ukrainians lived in poverty and were culturally, economically and politically inferior.

. . .

Ten years ago Ukrainians could drink beer with Russians after the European Championship soccer matches, but we didn’t realize then that Ukraine was moving forward and Russia was moving in the opposite direction. Ukraine was trying to build a path to freedom, and Russia was building a path back to the Soviet Union with Kremlin TV and petrodollars.

For the full commentary see:

Yegor Firsov. “Russian Troops See That Ukrainians Live Better Than They Do.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022): A18.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 23, 2022, and has the title “Ukraine’s Russian ‘Liberators’ Are Seeing That We Live Better Than They Do.”)

Miami Mayor Welcomes Private Enterprise with Public Safety, Low Taxes, and Few Regulations

(p. A15) On one side, we have the socialist model: high taxes, high regulation, less competition and declining public services with government imposing itself as the solver and arbiter of all social problems. On the other side, we have the Miami model: low taxes, low regulation and a commitment to public safety and private enterprise. The models present a stark choice on issues ranging from personal freedom, economic opportunity, public safety and the role of government.

. . .

In Miami, many residents have personally experienced the socialist model along with its symptoms of hyperinflation, class resentment and stagnant growth. Four years ago Miami residents elected me to pursue a different path. We reduced taxes dramatically, and our revenue base doubled. We invested in our police, and our crime rate dropped. And last week we reduced taxes to their lowest level in history—cutting costs for residents and promoting economic growth.

Miami is a place where you can keep what you earn, invest what you save, and own what you build. We are meeting the high demand of rent costs by encouraging public-private partnerships, activating underutilized land through zoning reforms, and harnessing free-market forces to build more. It works, and our new residents from New York and California can confirm it.

For the full commentary see:

Francis X. Suarez. “Miami Takes On the Socialist Model.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Aug. 22, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 21, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)