The billionaires who own the media – Part 2

George Soros

Besides their age – 89 – George Soros (born Schwartz György) and Warren Buffett, profiled here last week (see Part 1), have much in common:

Both are billionaires. Both attempt to avoid publicity. Both have media empires.

George Soros

But, to borrow from the late JFK, Soros is no Warren Buffett.

The lovable Buffett is described as the “Oracle of Omaha” and promises to will nearly all his wealth to charity.

Soros almost destroyed the Bank of England and the Pound Sterling with his plotting in 1992.

Buffett is an investor. Soros is a hedge fund manager.

But regardless of differences, both have at least one thing in common – their major power in the publishing world and ability to wield political power with both Democrats and Republicans.

Soros is a giant in the influence control world. Since 2002 his donations to think tanks and action groups total some $18 billion.

“Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire,” explains Soros’ media obsession from when his early career interests were “history or journalism or some form of writing.” He was “editor-in-chief and publisher of his own newspaper, “The Lupa News.” From this small venture, Soros has grown his interests into an influence empire.

Soros supports organizations that are so-called sources for journalists, as well as non-profit newspapers.

In addition, he funds groups like Moveon.org, but those organizations are not included in the following list of Soros-funded members of The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN):


 

The billionaires who own the media – Part 1

Warren Buffett

BH Media Group serves communities in 10 states. We own and operate 30 daily newspapers along with their digital sites. BH Media also publishes 47 paid weekly newspapers and 32 other print products.

If you ever wondered what billionaires do with their money, besides buying 600-foot yachts and $100 million NYC penthouses – think media and the power it offers to often otherwise shallow money-grubbers.

Warren Buffett

A certain exception to the stupidity charge is Warren Buffet, 89, who has managed to keep a low-key public image and enjoy a relatively modest personal life. What Buffett does with his money is accumulate power by investing in our largest corporations.

When it comes to rich folks owning your company, you can bet employees are not only grateful for their jobs, but also willing to suspend belief and think they agree with the owner’s whims and even political stances.

Nobody wants to make the boss unhappy, not even editors of newspapers and producers of tv shows.

Which brings me to newspapers and Buffett’s holdings.

Buffett has long been a big shot in the publishing world, and his Berkshire Hathaway (BH) owned 1.7 million shares in Graham Holdings, the Washington Post’s parent company. In 2013 the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, bought the Post, and made a deal with Buffett, the third richest man in the world, to divest BH shares.

Buffett then bought Media General (MG), a newspaper group with influence in political swing states like Virginia (30 papers) and nine papers that cover the “mid-south,” which includes Florida. All together, he has 77 newspapers in the MG group.

Other newspapers in the Buffett stable include the Buffalo News and Omaha World-Herald.

While all owners of newspapers say their staff has “editorial independence”, even a NYT Opinion Page writer is smart enough to know that an expose of the boss’ affair with the head of the press room, will not help your career and dismissal is a matter of when, not if.

Editors and reporters toe the line and “consult” with owners before even thinking of humiliating the person who pays their salary.

So, what Buffett believes is important because he is a publishing and corporate powerhouse.

Son of a Congressman, Buffett established the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after his late wife, and has donated heavily to liberal groups:

  • Planned Parenthood: $289 million
  • Marie Stopes International: $211 million
  • National Abortion Federation: $85 million
  • DKT International: $78 million
  • Engender Health: $32 million
  • Guttmacher Institute: $29 million
  • NARAL: $24 million

Regardless of where you stand on the parameters of abortion, the media has been very careful not to involve Buffett in the controversy, despite his huge financial contributions to one side of the issue.:

Out of the 545 stories and interviews with Buffett on ABC, CBS and NBC since 2001, the networks only mentioned his abortion funding once, and even that was only a passing reference to his wife’s support of Planned Parenthood. Not once did the networks mention how much money Buffett poured into the abortion industry. – Media Research Center

Buffett is sincere in his abortion stance:

Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was only legal in California, so Buffett sponsored the Ecumenical Fellowship – a so-called “church” that would arrange the abortions for women from other states, and plan their travel arrangements. Eventually, the Ecumenical Fellowship merged with the Los Angeles chapter of Planned Parenthood. – Live Action

Not only are newspapers he owns influenced by his politics (he supported Hillary Clinto against Barack Obama), but he may have the most influence on many of America’s leading corporations, their executives and their major shareholders.

Only a fool would like to disagree with an investor, who owns millions, even billions of dollars in their company stock.

There’s no simple way to end the power of the rich over the companies where we work and the newspapers we read – unless we tax the very rich enough to keep them just “medium” rich.

The following are Berkshire Hathaway minority holdings in companies, their stock shares owned by BH & value of Buffett investments ($100 million cutoff):

Apple 255,300,329 $40,271,000,000
Bank of America 918,919,000 $22,642,000,000
Wells Fargo and Co 449,349,102 $20,706,000,000
The Coca-Cola Company 400,000,000 $18,940,000,000
American Express 151,610,700 $17,777,870,682
The Kraft Heinz Company 325,634,818 $10,609,182,370
U.S. Bancorp 146,346,999 $6,688,000,000
JPMorgan Chase & Co. 50,661,394 $4,946,000,000
Mondelēz International 24,669,778 $4,659,627,669
Bank of New York Mellon Corp 84,488,751 $3,977,000,000
Moodys Corp 24,669,778 $3,455,000,000
Delta Air Lines, Inc. 65,535,000 $3,270,000,000
Goldman Sachs 18,784,698 $3,138,000,000
General Motors 72,269,696 $2,715,895,176
Verisign Inc 12,952,745 $2,509,335,289
Southwest Airlines Co 47,890,899 $2,226,000,000
DaVita Inc. 38,565,570 $2,020,064,557
Charter Communications, Inc. 6,789,054 $1,935,000,000
United Continental Holdings 21,938,642 $1,837,000,000
Visa Inc 10,562,460 $1,687,986,733
American Airlines 43,700,000 $1,483,615,000
Liberty Sirius XM Group Series 31,090,985 $1,224,984,809
Mastercard 4,934,756 $1,210,544,994
PNC Financial Services Group 8,263,062 $1,090,228,400
Costco Wholesale Corporation 4,333,363 $1,055,043,890
Phillips 66 11,895,842 $1,020,068,452
Amazon 483,300 $904,000,000
Travelers Companies Inc 5,958,391 $845,078,596
Sirius XM Holdings Inc. 137,915,729 $787,498,813
Red Hat Inc. 4,175,792 $771,059,993
Synchrony Financial 20,803,000 $715,623,200
Axalta Coating Systems 24,264,000 $630,378,720
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries 43,249,295 $625,817,299
Store Capital Corp. 18,621,674 $617,680,927
Liberty Sirius XM Group Series 14,860,360 $582,526,112
Restaurant Brands Int. 8,438,225 $565,445,457
Torchmark Corporation 6,353,727 $553,663,771
Liberty Global A Class 19,791,000 $520,305,390
StoneCo Ltd. 14,166,748 $392,277,252
Suncor Energy Inc. 10,758,000 $347,913,720
Liberty Global C Class 7,346,968 $188,229,320

And these are Berkshire’s wholly owned subsidiaries

Acme Brick Company
AltaLink
Ben Bridge Jeweler
Benjamin Moore & Co.
Berkadia
Berkshire Hathaway Assurance
Berkshire Hathaway Automotive
Berkshire Hathaway Energy
BoatUS
Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry
Brooks Sports
The Buffalo News
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation
Business Wire
Cavalier Homes
Central States Indemnity
Charter Brokerage
Clayton Homes
CORT Business Services
CTB Inc.
Dairy Queen
Duracell
Ebby Halliday Companies
Fechheimer Brothers Company
FlightSafety International
Forest River
Fruit of the Loom
Garanimals
GEICO
General Re
Helzberg Diamonds
H.H. Brown Shoe Group
International Metalworking Companies (IMC)
Johns Manville
Jordan’s Furniture
Justin Brands
Kansas Bankers Surety Company
Kern River Pipeline
Larson-Juhl[41]
Louis Motor
Lubrizol
Marmon Group
McLane Company
Medical Protective
MiTek
National Indemnity Company
Nebraska Furniture Mart
NetJets
NetJets Europe
Northern Natural Gas
NV Energy
Omaha World-Herald
Oriental Trading Company
PacifiCorp
Pampered Chef[63]
Pilot Flying J
Precision Castparts Corp.
Precision Steel Warehouse, Inc.
RC Willey Home Furnishings
Richline Group
Russell Brands
Scott Fetzer Company
See’s Candies
SE Homes
Shaw Industries
Star Furniture
TTI, Inc.
United States Liability Insurance Group
Wesco Financial
WPLG-TV
XTR

Hiring ICE agents is bonanza for foreign contractor!

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could employ 75 recruiters full time to work on hiring 7,500 agents in a year. At $80,000 each staff employee, that’s $6 million total.

Each of the 75 would work with 100 applicants a year – not a day or week, but a year!. That’s about one every three days. Plenty of time for holidays, afternoon golf, surfing where available, Facebook at work, calling the wife or mistress or hubby or fitness coach, and tweeting all your friends.

Cost per new agent under my plan would be $800.

Bureaucrat Beaver

When ICBP actually needed 7,500 more agents, it didn’t hire 75 recruiters, or use its own “overworked” administrative staff (bureaucrats are such busy beavers).

Instead, it concocted a way to make a private foreign company – Accenture – even richer by outsourcing the same task a million companies perform themselves every day – hiring new employees.

Senator Claire McCaskill is one of many honest folks unhappy with the $297 million contract to Accenture to hire 5,000 Border Patrol Agents (BPAs), 2,000 Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers, and 500 Air and Marine Interdiction Agents.

McCaskill said CBP claims it is too busy to hire agents and needs Accenture, to do the job, but the Senator is not happy with that explanation.

In a letter to CBP she blasted the contract already awarded:

Under the Accenture contract, it will reportedly cost almost $40,000 to hire each new law enforcement officer… this is almost equal to the amount made by an entry level Border Patrol Agent, or CBP Officer

Sen. Claire McCaskill

Most BPA salaries on the USAJOBS website range from between $41,000 to $90,000 per year

The ICE hiring draft solicitation appears to make a molehill hiring process into a mountain of effort, insight and wisdom to justify an outlandish per-hire price tag.

McCaskill wanted an explanation of “why is CBP’s Office of Human Resources Management unable to hire additional CBP personnel without assistance from a contractor?”

She also asked the agency to “please explain how CBP determined whether this cost was reasonable.”

Not only is the $40k exorbitant, but McCaskill said it doesn’t even cover many of the major costs of bringing on a new agent:

Despite the high cost, that amount will still not cover all the expenses of hiring.

While the contract covers (only) the entrance exam, the pre-qualification, the medical exam, the physical fitness test, the initiation of the background questionnaire, the background investigation, the coordination of interviews the polygraph, and the drug test, (and) the lineal adjudication of most of these stages will be performed by CBP officials.

McCaskill is on target. The entrance exam seems a small part of the process, as demonstrated in the following chart:

To understand why we are paying so much for so little, let’s examine the recipient of the largess.

In October 2002, the Congressional General Accounting Office (GAO) identified Accenture as one of four publicly traded federal contractors that were incorporated in a tax haven in Bermuda.

In May 2009 its board of directors unanimously approved changing the company’s place of incorporation from Bermuda to Ireland and it would become Accenture plc.

In 2012 it was revealed Accenture was paying only 3.5% in tax in the United Kingdom, compared to the average rate of 24%, as well as 0% corporate income tax to the United States.

In December 2014, Accenture won a $563 million contract to provide ongoing maintenance, software development and technology support for HealthCare.gov through 2019.

Accenture is most proud of its global stature for outsourcing American jobs.

Are you wondering how the $40,000 per hire program went?

“The DHS Office of Inspector General in December 2018, said Accenture had been paid $13.6M through the first ten months of the contract”, Wikipedia reported.

They had hired two agents against a contract goal of 7,500 hires over 5 years. The report was issued as a ‘management alert’, indicating an issue requiring immediate attention, stating that “Accenture has already taken longer to deploy and delivered less capability than promised.

Forget $40,000 to employ an agent.

Taxpayers paid $13.6 million total, or $6.58 million for each one.

STEM grad still living at home? Amazon and the other tech giants save billions by hiring foreigners, thanks to an ICE ripoff.

Last year, Amazon revenues were $232,000,000,000 – the same total amount as all the combined 2018 budgets of the following U.S. federal departments:

Small Business Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Treasury Department, Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, State Department, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, and Department of Education

Amazon’s corporate filing reveals that, far from paying the newly-lowered 21 percent tax rate on its immense U.S. income in 2018, the company received a federal income tax rebate of $129 million.

Not satisfied with no corporate income tax, Amazon and other firms are avoiding FICA’s employer/employee 15.3% levy for Social Security and Medicare. Here’s how the scheme works, and why it can hurt your family:

The major tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, all benefit from a deal that allows them to hire tens of thousands of recent graduate software engineers, programmers and other STEM students for up to three years with renewals, and even longer if approved for a work visa.

The scheme is the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which exempts non-citizen workers from paying both FICA and Medicare taxes. Employers are also exempt from their matching share.

OPT’s lost taxes represent money that should be funding Social Security and senior health insurance – Medicare. While deficit hawks say these programs are underfunded, they are also the same politicians who have promoted OPT and its no-tax loopholes.

The exemption works this way, for example. An American, who earns $80,000 total a year, nets $73,888, vs. the OPT worker’s net of the full $80,000. In addition, the company saves $6,120 in payroll expense.

Meanwhile, universities are also pushing for even more OPT workers, because it allows them to exclude American candidates in favor of higher-tuition foreign students. This is especially true in graduate schools.

The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) said: “the fate of the optional training program could be critical for universities. International students make up about 80 percent of full-time graduate students in the United States in electrical engineering and computer science, and faculty rely on them for research assistance.”

The foundation is run by leadership associated with CATO Institute, a pro immigration group funded by the Koch foundations.

Some questions for NFAP? Why aren’t 80% of the positions taken by Americans, rather than vice-versa? Does this surplus of foreign grads, versus citizens, also account for the relatively low pay for workers with advanced degrees in the STEM disciplines?

Author Hillary Gamm was recently interviewed on SiriusXM, and she explained how OPT started. Gamm is author of Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and The Road Map to Change.

OPT started … in the Bush administration and then what Obama did … was he went from creating something that allowed foreign children studying in the United States to work for like six months or a year to instead be able to work three years and then get a renewal for up to five to six years.

So what’s happening today is you’ll have children that are American citizens, where parents have basically bankrupted themselves to send their kids to these American universities and they’ll be sitting alongside their foreign friends who are … earning the same degree. And those foreign children will have a job offer in hand when they graduate and the American child will not have even gotten an interview for that same company.

Tech giants employ thousands of OPT foreign workers annually, instead of American STEM graduates. In 2017 alone, Amazon placed nearly 2,400 OPT foreign workers into white-collar STEM jobs that should have gone to Americans.

Gamm said OPT is not a visa. It is actually administered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which exempts the employer and employee from FICA taxes.

Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS, (R-AZ) has introduced legislation – the Fairness for High-Skilled Americans Act– to end the OPT program abuses and decrease foreign job competition for our STEM graduates.

The bill passed the House, 385-65. Corporate lackeys will kill it in the Senate.

As an aside, one game played in Congress is for House members to vote on bills they want killed, gaining positive publicity, but knowing that the bill will never pass the Senate, so their vote was just fake to get votes.