Surveillance

The #FinCENFiles Shine a Spotlight on How Banks Are Ordered to Snoop on You

Why does media coverage conclude the problem is that the government hasn’t done a good enough job of spying?

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Did you know that major communications companies monitor all conversations to report suspicious activities to the government? By law, companies that facilitate the transfer of information are required to file what is called a "Suspicious Activity Report" (SAR) anytime a conversation veers in a direction the government doesn't like. It could be because the conversation includes words that suggest tax evasion or terrorism. The details are laid out in legislation like the PATRIOT Act. The government reviews these SARs to try to catch the bad guys.

But an investigative report into these SARs suggests that this system isn't even very good at flagging the kinds of communications as it is supposed to. A government whistleblower leaked hard evidence showing that the government rarely follows up on SARs indicating serious crimes, like trafficking, fraud, and terrorism. Meanwhile, the communications of millions of innocent people are subject to this surveillance program that doesn't even work. The media has thankfully drawn attention to this expansive and ineffective surveillance, demanding accountability and reform.

Sorry, I got all that mixed up. It's actually banks that need to file SARs, and they monitor all of our transactions for things that the government thinks are suspicious. It is part of the PATRIOT Act, but the roots of this program were laid with the similarly constitutionally questionable Bank Secrecy Act of 1970.

And actually, the media doesn't see much of a problem with this financial surveillance program at all. The issue for most commentators is that the banks aren't good enough government collaborators.

It's a bit strange that while Ed Snowden's revelations of major communications surveillance programs were met with mass outrage and years of discussion, these "FinCEN files" exposing our inefficient financial surveillance programs barely received mention. And when the media did discuss the FinCEN files, it was mostly to criticize banks for allowing these transactions to go through.

Let's back up a bit. Few people have heard of FinCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Treasury) or the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), but this agency and law have given banks broad mandates to surveil our financial system and share that information with the government.

The BSA was passed in 1970 in an effort to clamp down on crimes by cutting off financial channels. Banks were to be required to file different kinds of reports—including SARs—for transactions that seemed to indicate criminal activity. Government agents then review those SARs to determine whether and how a criminal investigation should proceed.

Unsurprisingly, the BSA triggered immediate constitutional challenge in 1974's California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz for clear First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment issues. The Supreme Court ruled that the BSA did not violate the Constitution, a decision that has been subject to much critique from legal privacy scholarship in the following decades.

Today, it is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of Treasury that mostly executes on the bank surveillance mandates laid out in laws like the BSA and PATRIOT Act. As the presence of the latter law indicates, the goals of these "anti-money laundering/know your customer" (AML/KYC) regulations have expanded to include other aims such as terrorist and cartel financing—previously introduced legislation also sought to include trafficking in arts and antiquities.

The so-called FinCEN Files are the product of a government insider leaking these SARs to journalists. Buzzfeed News, which broke the story, put the blame on banks for "feeding off the tragedy of people dying all over the world." The story highlights several serious crimes that our financial surveillance system failed to stop: HSBC moved $15 million related to a Ponzi scheme, Standard Chartered got caught up in Taliban finance and evading banking sanctions targeted at Iran, and basically every major bank processed millions in transactions for the Kazakh fugitive Viktor Khrapunov.

We are clearly dealing with some unsavory characters here. But this was also the case with the communications surveillance programs that received so much public scrutiny in the last decade. Did anyone get mad at AT&T for allowing suspected terrorists to continue calling each other?

The difference is that the US's financial surveillance programs require some form of proactive bank participation that programs like PRISM did not. Banks need to file SARs on transactions to remain compliant. But after they report the transaction to the government, their obligations pretty much end. If the government fails to investigate, the banks can just keep on processing the transactions. This is why the media is framing the FinCEN Files as a way for banks to "profit off of illegal transactions." Since they filed the SARs, the banks must have known that the transactions might have been illegal. Therefore, the fact that these banks kept on financing these customers means they are complicit.

It should not have surprised anyone to learn that banks can be unscrupulous in how they do business. Before this story broke, different banks have been caught time and again moving money for some really terrible people. And the criticism that SARs are mostly done as a compliance and liability-waiving exercise is not a bad one. But really, do these journalists want to empower banks to act as a kind of extrajudicial private law enforcement agency?

Either way, it has been disappointing to see just how little attention has been paid to the problems with the larger financial surveillance system. To Buzzfeed's credit, the story does spare some words for a privacy expert to point out that "the SAR program became more about mass surveillance than identifying discrete transactions to disrupt money launderers."

But when the authors turn to discuss solutions, they suggest "arrest[ing] executives whose banks break the law." Of course, this assumes that there is the political will to actually stop this problem. And it does nothing to fix the sprawling and ineffective system of financial surveillance that ensnares millions of innocent people in its web. After all, two years ago, it was none other than Buzzfeed News which broke the story that FinCEN data was being used to spy on Americans.

It is a sad fact of life that powerful groups can bend or break the law with impunity. Does anyone think that if a criminal enterprise with enough intelligence or other dark support needed financing, it wouldn't find some way to get it? In the meantime, the surveillance programs ostensibly put in place to stop such financing don't impede these power-backed deals but they do sacrifice the privacy of millions of innocent people along the way. That should be the real lesson of the FinCEN Files.

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  2. Oh, come on, thanks to the third party doctrine you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in anything you do with anybody else at all. In fact, given the ubiquity of spying on people, do you really have any reasonable expectation of privacy at all?

    1. And if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about, right?

  3. On September 20th, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) –the reporters who brought us the “Panama Papers” and the “Paradise Papers” — released the “FinCEN Files,” in collaboration with Buzzfeed News.

    The FinCEN Files are the result of a U.S. leak of 2,100 “Suspicious Activity Reports” (SARs) –covering over 18,000 transactions — filed by banks when they believe a transaction may involve fraud, corruption, or other criminal activity. SAR reports are not public. A former U.S. Treasury official leaked the documents to expose corruption.

    The public should be concerned about the volume of suspect bank transactions that are the tip of the iceberg in terms of illicit funds, money laundering and tax dodging. The U.S. has become one of the largest global destinations for illicit funds and tax dodging due to weak disclosure laws –with states like Delaware that do not require corporations to disclose their true beneficial owners.

    Over the 18 years between 1999 and 2017, banks moved $2 trillion in funds that they considered suspicious, generating substantial fees in the process. Some of the biggest global banks involved included Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, Barclays Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon. Almost half the $2 trillion in suspicious loans were made by Deutsche Bank, a bank that has paid substantial fines for past money laundering activities.

    The Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) showed that banks often moved funds for companies registered in offshore tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, where the identity of the owner was not known. Banks could have refused these transactions. But in many cases they allowed the transactions to proceed and then filed a SAR report to cover their reporting obligations.

    The Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality has monitored anonymous luxury real estate transactions that disrupt local affordable housing markets. Our reports about luxury real estate in Boston and Seattle reveal the large percentage of luxury property purchased by shell companies. The IPS Inequality Program has advocated for national FinCEN oversight of cash transactions in real estate over a certain value and has pressed for release of FinCEN data on the City of Boston.

    The FinCEN Files provides a window into one aspect of the movement of illicit funds. If I’m a narco-trafficker looking to launder my ill-gotten treasure, I may take funds from an offshore account and use them to purchase, often with cash, real estate in the United States. At some point, I’ll need the services of a bank to facilitate the transfer of funds.

    FinCEN oversight alone has been a deterrent to some suspicious activities. In early 2016, FinCEN imposed a temporary transparency rule on Miami-Dade and Manhattan to crack down on dark money transactions. Purchasers of real estate with cash over $1 million were required to disclose beneficial ownership. After the implementation of these rules in March 2016, Miami-Dade saw an immediate 95 percent drop in cash real estate purchases by shell companies and anonymous corporations. An academic study found that the threat of greater transparency enforcement led to a 70 percent decline on all-cash purchases nationwide.

    Some of the well-know figures exposed in the FinCEN Files include Isabel dos Santos, the Angolan billionaire accused of looting that country in a previous ICIJ disclosure, the Luanda Leaks.

    Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was named in over 33 SARs covering over 620 suspicious transactions. Manafort was a key figure in Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election and was sentenced to 7.5-year prison term for fraud and tax evasion.

    Many of the major banks covered by the FinCEN Files claim that they have changed their practices in recent years. HSBC told Reuters that “all the information provided by ICIJ is historical” and that as of 2012, “HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime across more than 60 jurisdictions.” Government oversight officials have expressed concern that the leaks may have a chilling effect and serve as a setback to transparency efforts.

    A key part of the solution to the illicit funds and tax dodging is full disclosure of beneficial ownership of corporations, revealing the individuals responsible for a company’s behavior. A growing number of sectors, including the Chamber of Commerce, are calling for greater ownership transparency. Join the growing effort to press for ownership transparency, including legislation currently pending in the U.S. Senate.
    Source: ips-dc.org

    1. Right but drugs, and thus the associated money, should be fully legal.

    2. A key part of the solution to the illicit funds and tax dodging is full disclosure of beneficial ownership of corporations, revealing the individuals responsible for a company’s behavior.

      This sounds like a lawyer’s dream, and a compliance nightmare.

      1. Not to mention something that can easily be selectively enforced. For unfavored groups, you’ll have to somehow prove that someone is not the beneficial owner, but for favored groups, even overt violation will appear fine and not be worth prosecution.

        1. Selective enforcement is the best kind of enforcement. How else do you expect the politically connected to reward their friends and punish their enemies?

    3. The bots have really stepped up their game.

      So, with all of this oversight, organized crime must be a thing of the past, huh?

    4. “banks moved $2 trillion in funds that they considered suspicious,” Did the banks consider them suspicious or did they meet government reporting guidelines that banks must follow?

  4. But really, do these journalists want to empower banks to act as a kind of extrajudicial private law enforcement agency?
    Yes. They would love to cut off financing to opposition groups.

    1. ^This^

      It never crosses their simple little minds that these laws could be used against people they like, such as whoever is funding BLM/ Antifa.

      1. Don’t give authority to a friend that you wouldn’t give to an enemy.

  5. SARs are only part of the FinCEN arsenal. Don’t forget CTRs and the associated structuring crime.

  6. Tucker had Rod Dreher on last night, and the two of them had a pretty good discussion about how corporations are the agents of a new soft totalitarianism. This doesn’t mean that the government isn’t part of the problem, but at some point, conservatives and libertarians are gonna have to stop scrambling to defend big business interests. Frankly, if higher taxes for the rich mean that the poor and the middle class get to pay less, I’m fine with that. And honestly, given the extent to which Wall Street has supported the rioters who’ve spent the past four months destroying small businesses, it deserves to be punished.

    1. Libertarian populism is the only way forward. There is no appetite for Beltway libertarianism. Less William Buckley, more Theodore Roosevelt (minus the Spanish-American War stuff).

      1. Roosevelt was a progressive not a libertarian.

        1. I know. But he understood that individual liberty should never be conflated with corporate freedom.

          1. He understood no such thing. He believed in government of the elite, for the elite, by the elite, with the propaganda of helping the little people, who were too damned stupid, naive, and gullible to help themselves. He was a damned Progressive from start to finish.

            1. Actually, being a trustbuster is a good thing.

    2. The issue is that regulations and convoluted tax systems are exactly what big corporations want, so this “punishment” will turn out to be anything but that.

      1. Depends on what regulations you’re talking about. I doubt Twitter wants to be told not to censor stuff. As for convoluted tax systems, I agree. Simplify the tax system, cut taxes for the poor and the middle class, and place more of the burden on the rich. Taxation is bad, but if it’s going to exist, the rich should shoulder more of the burden.

        1. I doubt Twitter wants to be told not to censor stuff.

          It doesn’t, but given regulatory capture, I’m pretty sure they can make those rules work out for them (and against competitors, further entrenching their position). I believe the results of public choice economics pretty much preclude the dream of using the state to reign in big corporations. It simply has no incentive to do that.

          1. How about this? Until Twitter stops censoring stuff, it doesn’t receive another penny in government aid.

        2. Or we could spend less while cutting 90% of what governments do.

    3. “higher taxes for the rich mean that the poor and the middle class get to pay less, I’m fine with that”

      Welcome to Team Blue.

      1. LOL. And this is why libertarians fail. They are fundamentally incapable of not defending the rich. Keep simping for the very elite class that wants to keep you down, bro. I’m sure Jeff Bezos will keep you in his thoughts as he cuts another check for BLM.

        1. The rich come in two flavors: (1) those that get rich through government and (2) those that get rich through offering useful stuff in free markets.

          You and the Democrats want to create more of (1) and destroy (2). We want to create more of (2) and destroy (1).

          Why do you think people like Bezos, Gates, Smith, Jobs, etc. after in bed with Democrats?

          1. I think we agree more than we disagree. I cannot tell you how many libertarians I have seen defend people like Bezos and Gates as products of a free market. But they became wealthy as a result of taxpayer-funded subsidies, bailouts, and special tax exemptions. That’s precisely why they should be taxed more. It doesn’t help that Bezos underpays his workers and then expects us to pay for their food stamps.

            So, yeah. Punish the crony capitalist class. The issue is that many conservatives and libertarians insist those people are free market success stories.

            1. So, yeah. Punish the crony capitalist class. The issue is that many conservatives and libertarians insist those people are free market success stories.

              See, this is where you go off the rails. Bezos and Gates are the inevitable product of bad government policy and we both may share a strong dislike of these characters. But you have failed to articulate any kind of effective policy for changing things by “punishing the crony capitalist class”. How do you even identify those people and distinguish them from free market successes?

              Any attempt to “punish the crony capitalist class” that has ever been made has made crony capitalism worse, not better.

              They only way to fix crony capitalism is to stop the government policies that are responsible for it: stop subsidies, stop regulations, stop free education, stop redistribution, stop stimulus programs, etc.

              1. It’s obvious at this point that you oppose any punishments for oligarchs (most of them liberal Democrats) who game the system to their benefit.

        2. And this is why you are a statist. You cannot help defending the government and its central planning at the expense of individuals making choices for themselves. You do not believe in markets or spontaneous organization. You only believe in the elite telling the unwashed masses what to do and when.

          1. I’m not the one defending the “rights” of corporations like Amazon, Google, and Twitter, stupid. If you think my ideology is incompatible with the notion of small government, that’s on you. Take it up with Tucker Carlson.

            1. You call for “punishing the crony capitalist class”; since that punishment is at the hands of government, you are calling for bigger government, not smaller government. You’re making the same error fascists and socialists have always made: you try to address a problem with government by regulating and punishing private institutions (who happen to benefit from government handouts).

              The only long term fix to the crony capitalism that Amazon, Google and Twitter have benefited from is to end the government handouts and to strongly reduce government interference in the market.

              1. I support ending those handouts, but if you think there shouldn’t be any government intervention in the market, then you’re sadly mistaken. I don’t claim to be a libertarian, BTW. But I think that regulating corporations is distinct from infringing upon individual liberty. Higher taxes for wealthy elites (most of them liberal Democrats) are a good thing if it means everyday Americans pay less.

                1. What makes you think that taxing the wealthy at higher rates will reduce the taxes for everyday Americans? I would never trust a politician making such a promise. To get the 16th Amendment passed, politicians promised to only tax the wealthy, yet here I am paying 30% of my paycheck to the federal government alone. That does not include all of the other taxes and fees that I have to pay as well.

                  Also, are you familiar with a Laffer Curve?

                2. I support ending those handouts, but if you think there shouldn’t be any government intervention in the market, then you’re sadly mistaken.

                  I think there should be government intervention in markets; for example, we shouldn’t have free trade with enemy communist regimes. Where we differ is that you think that government intervention in markets benefits everyday Americans economically; it does not.

                  Higher taxes for wealthy elites (most of them liberal Democrats) are a good thing if it means everyday Americans pay less.

                  Those wealthy elites are Democrats and support higher taxes because it doesn’t affect them. When you call for “higher taxes for wealthy elites”, what that means in practice is higher taxes for everyday Americans, with a good deal of economic destruction thrown in.

                  I don’t claim to be a libertarian, BTW.

                  You clearly are not. You’re pushing a progressive agenda.

        3. I think Strazele is actually Team Blue and thinks he has a convert.

          I think you misunderstand libertarians and why they fail. They fail because most people aren’t buying what they are selling. I think you are right that there is some blindness to the type of corporate shenanigans and power you complain about. I’ve been guilty of it, I’m sure.
          But if you think Bezos and other high profile ultra-rich people who basically own monopolies are representative of “the rich”, you are oversimplifying as well.

        4. Envy is a very powerful emotion and taking someone’s stuff at the point of a gun is a whole lot easier than working for it yourself.

      2. Team Blue.

        As in Blue in the Face, holding your breath like children until you get what you want.

        As in Blue Balls, because your anti sex league womyn don’t put out.

        As in Blue Moon, once in a while a blind democrat finds a nut and gets elected

        As in Blue Dog democrat, an extinct creature that once was a fuel governor on the burned out car of the criminally insane left

        As in Blue is the warmest color, which was just eurotrash porn

        As in Blue your mood on November 4th when you realize you lost once again.

        1. I’m not a Democrat, bro. I think Trump will win re-election. Also, BITWC was an excellent movie.

      3. >>mean that the poor and the middle class get to pay less

        in some other universe maybe. not here.

        1. See? I told you I’m not a Democrat. They want everyone to pay more. I don’t.

          1. Democrats don’t want everybody to pay more; they want the rich to pay more, just like you.

            Europeans tried what you suggest and it didn’t work. The only way to have a European social welfare state is to follow the European model: double taxes on the middle class.

    4. Frankly, if higher taxes for the rich mean that the poor and the middle class get to pay less, I’m fine with that.

      Even if such reprehensibly casual attitude towards theft and violence doesn’t make your skin crawl, fact is that it doesn’t work.

      Higher taxes “on the rich” don’t increase revenue, they just decrease investment and make the lower and middle classes poorer.

      1. “Even if such reprehensibly casual attitude towards theft and violence doesn’t make your skin crawl, fact is that it doesn’t work.”

        LOL. Libertarians are the only group of people I know who bust out the violin for rich people. That’s what’s really pathetic.

        I don’t believe in government, but government exists. If taxation is going to exist, the rich should shoulder more of the burden than the poor, because they have more to give. Taking from them hurts them less. And frankly, given the extent to which so many rich people and corporations have spent the past four months cheering on the BLM riots (which overwhelmingly hurt small businesses), they deserve to be punished.

        1. You sure as hell do believe in government. Government knows better than individuals what do do. The elites know how to run everybody’s lives, and you think you are one of those elites.

          Fuck off, slaver.

          1. You’re the one simping for Amazon. And you have the audacity to call me a slaver for wanting to punish the elites who supported the BLM riots.

            1. What you want is irrelevant; what matters is what the consequences of your proposed policies are. Your attempts to “punish the elites” simply gives the elites even more power and more money. You’re pouring gasoline on the fire. You’ve fallen into the traditional trap of socialism/fascism, namely that the solution to a government created problem is more government, more punishment, more taxes.

              The only way to reduce the power of elites is to cut spending, cut taxes, and cut the size of government. This means that Bezos and Gates will keep their ill-gotten gains, but that’s the price we have to pay if we ever want to get out of this mess. People like you keep dragging us down.

              1. Good luck cutting spending. Republicans don’t want to cut defense, which is the single deadliest expression of government power (that and Planned Parenthood). Democrats don’t want to cut anything. If you want to cut taxes and cut spending, then the only way to bail out the Americans impoverished by the lockdowns and the current recession is to print more money. Taxing the rich to pay for those bailouts is preferable to hyperinflation.

                1. Good luck cutting spending. Republicans don’t want to cut defense, which is the single deadliest expression of government power (that and Planned Parenthood). Democrats don’t want to cut anything.

                  Well, so Republicans are happy to cut everything but defense according to you? That seems like a good start. Trump also wants to cut defense spending, even better.

                  Taxing the rich to pay for those bailouts is preferable to hyperinflation

                  Wealth largely consists of investments. If you “tax the rich”, all that does is lead to fire sales of those investments. You‘d get a small fraction of the nominal net worth in dollar values. But those dollars would be worth even less because taxing people doesn’t create new goods; the pool of goods they compete for would be no larger than before. You would, however, kill growth and future investments.

                  And for all that trouble, even if you completely disowned the rich, you’d not even pay for this year’s deficit.

                  That’s what you’re seriously proposing as public policy!

            2. Rich people don’t really care that much about income taxes. Many of them are asking for higher taxes.

        2. LOL. Libertarians are the only group of people I know who bust out the violin for rich people. That’s what’s really pathetic

          I’m not “busting out the violin for rich people”. Rich people, people like Trump, Pelosi, Bezos, Gates, etc. will never pay a lot in taxes, no matter what you do. Higher taxes mostly hit middle class professionals, people trying to save for a good retirement.

          And those people aren’t the problem in the first place. The institution responsible for crony capitalism isn’t the people taking the money, it’s the people giving the money: government. The only way to end that is to reduce the amount of money government hands out.

          If taxation is going to exist, the rich should shoulder more of the burden than the poor, because they have more to give. Taking from them hurts them less.

          People like you transform countries into fascist/socialist shitholes.

          1. If you’re unwilling to have a libertarian society with some measure of government regulation, then you’re gonna have either a socialist society or a fascist society. Socialism is on the rise precisely because libertarians are too stubborn to appeal to the working class. If they were to support smaller government while placing heavier burdens on the elites, they might be able to win votes.

            1. If you’re unwilling to have a libertarian society with some measure of government regulation

              I’m perfectly happy with many forms of government regulations.

              What I oppose is your idea of government intervention to take from “the rich people” and give to the poor people, for the simple reason that it doesn’t work; you can’t improve the lives of the poor that way.

              If they were to support smaller government while placing heavier burdens on the elites, they might be able to win votes

              Even if you could tax elites more (and the top tax rates in the US are already very high), it’s a logical impossibility to have “smaller government while placing heavier burdens on the elites”.

              then you’re gonna have either a socialist society or a fascist society. Socialism is on the rise precisely because libertarians are too stubborn to appeal to the working class.

              Socialism in its various forms is on the rise because there are large numbers of people like you who don’t understand even the basics of economics.

        3. No one is busting out the violin. This isn’t an emotional appeal. It’s basic libertarian principle. I think you are right that certain corporations do have too much power and influence today. But the solution to that is not obvious. Taxing the rich more is not it.

    5. This doesn’t mean that the government isn’t part of the problem, but at some point, conservatives and libertarians are gonna have to stop scrambling to defend big business interests.

      It means that government is the entire problem. Big business would not be a danger if it didn’t have government backing it and/or making small businesses so unprofitable that they can’t survive long enough to be a competitive threat to big business.

      At some point, government apologists and central planner wannabes are gonna have to stop scrambling to defend government and its mercantilist wet dreams.

      1. I’m not defending big government. But if you think corporations are incapable of authoritarianism independent of government, you’re an idiot. It’s not the government forcing Amazon to peddle neo-Marxist trash and force its employees to attend anti-racism seminars. It’s not the government forcing Twitter to censor people’s tweets.

        Also, corporations that leech off the public are just as guilty of wrongdoing as the governments that redistribute wealth upwards.

        1. If you think big business doesn’t do plenty of evil things without government assistance, there’s no helping you. The multinational corporations that supported the BLM riots did so independent of the state, and they deserve to be punished for doing so.

          1. If you think big business is not the result of government tipping the scales for their cronies, you haven’t been paying attention.

            1. Government is part of the problem, but if you think big business is incapable of evil independent of government, then you’re a naive child.

              1. Corporations are capable of all sorts of evil, but doing evil is not a good business strategy and is generally illegal.

                The massive evil some corporations currently commit is the result of government subsidizing it. The solution to that is to end subsidizing evil in the first place.

                1. How is the government responsible for Twitter’s censorship practices? Is Trump asking Twitter to put disclaimers on his tweets? What about Amazon? Is the government asking Amazon to support BLM?

                  1. How is the government responsible for Twitter’s censorship practices? What about Amazon? Is the government asking Amazon to support BLM?

                    Companies like Twitter and Amazon wouldn’t have the massive market power they do without government regulations and indirect government subsidies (education, research grants, etc.).

                    These companies predominantly operate in Democrat-run states and they have to comply to the political demands of their state and local legislatures and officials.

                    The employee pool they draw from is either foreign, or indoctrinated into social justice ideology by US public schools; government is responsible for both of those as well. And these companies cater to the wishes and political ideology of their employees.

                    Those are just some examples.

                    1. See, I agree with much of what you said. The difference is that you want to confront government power. I want to confront government power *and* corporate power. You seem to believe that because the private companies that benefited from the government dole are well-established, they shouldn’t be punished, because that’ll lead to Big Government.

                    2. These companies operate lawfully under the incentives that government created for them, given the human resources and infrastructure government provided for them.

                      What specifically do you want to punish them for?

                      Punishment is done to change behavior; if operating lawfully under US government incentives and regulations results in “punishment”, what do you think those companies will do?

                      Finally, those companies are publicly traded, so any punishment would primarily hurt their shareholders: retirees, retirement portfolios, etc. What exactly is that supposed to accomplish?

        2. Amazon peddling neo-Marxist trash isn’t “authoritarianism”. And Amazon is peddling neo-Marxist trash in the first place because politicians want them to.

          Also, corporations that leech off the public are just as guilty of wrongdoing

          No, they are not. They are merely taking advantage of the legal and economic framework government has created. They don’t have a choice either: if they don’t, they’ll disappear.

          as the governments that redistribute wealth upwards

          The US has massive downward wealth redistribution via the government.

          I’m not defending big government

          People like you are the cause of big government, the cause of crony capitalism, and the cause of the neo-Marxism sweeping the country. The fact that you fool yourself into believing that you oppose it doesn’t change that fact.

          1. Dude, you’re the one who conflates regulations on large corporations with fascism. I’m proposing an alternative to the socialism of Bernie Sanders and the fascism of certain figures on the New Right. If you want to live in a free society, you’re going to have to win votes. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are going to make you freer. Libertarians aren’t going to win by shilling for open borders, LGBTQIA+ rights, and big business. They’ll win by making concessions to the working class.

            1. Dude, you’re the one who conflates regulations on large corporations with fascism. I’m proposing an alternative to the socialism of Bernie Sanders and the fascism of certain figures on the New Right.

              The alternative to socialism is that instead of nationalizing large corporations, you keep them in private hands put them under strict government regulation and taxation so that they operate in the interest of workers and are prevented from committing evil through regulations.

              They’ll win by making concessions to the working class.

              Congratulations: you have literally rediscovered the path from socialism to fascism that Germany and Italy went through a century ago. You even want to appeal to the same voters; that’s why they called it the “NSDAP”, the National Socialist Workers Party.

              1. I don’t want to nationalize those companies, genius. I want to regulate them so that they can’t peddle neo-Marxist trash. At the moment, corporations are pandering to an imaginary audience of woke morons who are offended by Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, characters in blackface, and the like. How many streaming services are pulling TV episodes that might contain content they deem offensive? If the choice is between allowing that sort of censorship to become normalized (“IT’S NOT THE GOVERNMENT THAT’S DOING IT”) or punishing corporations that push for soft totalitarianism, I’m fine with the latter.

                And if you don’t want to appeal to working class voters, then you can forget about putting a small-government party in power. If you think taxing corporations is a dealbreaker but allowing corporations to continue pushing neo-Marxism is fine (because you can always start your own social media platform), then you’re out of luck.

                1. *working-class voters
                  *small government

                2. I don’t want to nationalize those companies, genius. I want to regulate them so that they can’t peddle neo-Marxist trash

                  You do. And as I was saying, that’s the essence of fascism: regulate instead of nationalize. In a milder form, it’s the essence of Democrat and progressive policies for more than half a century, and the working and middle class have stagnated under them.

                  And if you don’t want to appeal to working class voters, then you can forget about putting a small-government party in power

                  Neo-Marxism itself fails to appeal to working class voters because it’s not about class anymore; that’s why so many white working class voters have voted for Trump.

                  And what you propose won’t appeal to working class voters either because it doesn’t work. The predictable effect of what you want to do is reduced investments, lower wages, and more unemployment.

                  you can forget about putting a small-government party in power

                  Putting a small government party in power won’t lead to small government. The only way government gets smaller is when both major parties recognize that that is what voters overwhelmingly want. And the only way that is going to happen is to expose the kind of big government nonsense people like you advocate for what it is.

    6. Ironically, more government in the form of a comprehensive privacy framework such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation may be the only viable solution to the “soft totalitarianism” that Rod described on Tucker’s show and that he has discussed a few times recently in his OpEds in The American Conservative.

      1. The EU’s GDPR is a form of hard totalitarianism, because it places all data collection in the hands of government. Meaning, instead of Google serving you puppy ads, the German and French governments will be digging for keywords in every one of your E-mails.

  7. “But really, do these journalists want to empower banks to act as a kind of extrajudicial private law enforcement agency?”

    Of course they do.

  8. >> these journalists

    the ones you’re not?

  9. Why does media coverage conclude the problem is that the government hasn’t done a good enough job of spying?

    Perhaps you’re just confused on where the media’s sympathies lie.

  10. The issue for most commentators is that the banks aren’t good enough government collaborators.

    There are people who may be hiding a dollar from the IRS who’s the rightful owner. This is about social justice.

  11. When a story starts with two long detailed paragraphs saying something, and then the third paragraph says the first two paragraphs were just a joke, I lose interest.

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