The Government Accomplice to Theft

Several years ago we had hay and straw stored in a barn a couple of miles away. Hans and I went over there to get some straw for the pigs and found that 600 bales of hay were missing. The sheriff came out and wrote on a notepad and looked at some tire tracks and said, “Hmmm.”

Todd Vincze, a 66-year old retired mechanic fled the flames in Paradise, California on his bicycle. He left behind his house, violins, guitars, guns, a Jaguar, a Lincoln, and all of his tools. He had his wallet.

Pacific Gas and Electric burned Todd’s belongings worth $380,000. The people who lost 85 loved ones can’t put a value on them. They were people. PG&E is a corporation. Todd suffers the double whammy of bankruptcy law and corporate law. Nobody is responsible.

While we individuals are expected to pay for what we receive from others, corporations are not. And if we individuals declare bankruptcy, we are not expected to pay either.

I recently wrote of Michael Moore’s disdain for corporations. I think Mr. Moore needs to go to the real source of the problem he has with corporations. It is easy to simply blame greedy executives when most of us have been cultivated by 12 years of school that teaches us to give up individual initiative to a perceived notion that bureaucrats know better. Corporations don’t violate the law, they take advantage of it.

The people who never paid for the timber we sold them nor the people who never paid for the pigs we sold them, were within the law to walk away from those debts. Bankruptcy law says government knows better than we do when an agreement holds water.

In Hampton a man formed a corporation and then walked away from his responsibility to maintain a building. Now the citizens of Hampton will pay $68,840 to clean up that mess.

I imagine these laws that shield thieves from prosecution were intended to stimulate economic activity by reducing risk. This is the same kind of thinking that goes into the concept of central banks that arbitrarily set low interest rates and FDIC (banking) insurance. Less exposure to consequences means poorly vetted business decisions.

What about Todd Vincze? What about those days Dawn, the kids, and I baled and stacked that hay? How about that night out at La Ambiguita that didn’t happen because the money went to tear down a building?

It is way past time for Grassley and Ernst and King to do their job and abolish all bankruptcy law and all corporate law. People should be required to uphold their end of an agreement. They should not be allowed to distance themselves through bankruptcy or corporate structures.

If the law simply prosecuted for fraud, contracts between all parties in business would be protected.

These changes would bring honesty to business. Hare-brained schemes would be discarded before they caused great harm. Power lines would be maintained to protect the livelihood of the managers.

The low electricity rates PG&E charged were the same as artificially low interest rates. They postponed costs and the prices paid later were disastrously high.

11 responses to “The Government Accomplice to Theft

  1. Perhaps your use of PG&E as the villain in California’s electricity and wildfire troubles is misplaced. Not to say that the utility’s management is stellar, because it probably isn’t (having had several opportunities to interface with Arizona’s Central Arizona Project — CAP — I learned quite a bit regarding how public utilities operate, especially pertaining to protections of their budgets), but I suspect that given the wrong-headed emphasis in California on so many unproductive, wasteful initiatives, PG&E likely focused to a grand scale on renewable energy programs to the detriment of required, everyday concerns.

    Too, California’s forestry management was taken over by environmental zealots who prohibited logging, suppressed controlled burns with byzantine application gauntlets and endless litigation, and turned California’s forests into tinderboxes. Not much PG&E could have done to stem the political determination of this lunatic fringe of environmentalism.

    Regarding the utility’s electrical usage rates charged to consumers, the (alleged) low rates that were “the same as artificially low interest rates.” (And where) “they postponed costs . . .”, was this a PG&E driven tactic, or was this the result of draconian control by California’s Public Utilities Commission?

    I would also suggest that the blanket criticism of “corporations” is a bit over-the-top.

  2. I didn’t say that at all. PG&E isn’t the villain, they abided by the law. The government’s enabling corporations to take advantage of their protection of executive mistakes is the problem. It would be silly for PG&E to forget business sense and act out of the goodness of their hearts when they don’t have to pay for their mistakes.

    I could go on blaming PG& for energy misdirected to renewables and especially silly diversity quotas. Tucker got in trouble for pointing that out. And there was an editorial in the WSJ about how much information they had on genders, races and such; while they had no idea where they stood on infrastructure condition. I would still blame the government for this, as government is now god to these companies.

    That most recent fire was started by a tree that fell on a power line. Maybe it’s different elsewhere, but here trees are trimmed or felled so they can’t reach a line.Hans was telling me about the Australian outback where a call to the fire department would be a ridiculous waste of time. They keep their eaves troughs clean and have steel roofs. Brush is cleared so it keeps fire away from structures.

    On “low rates,” you are probably right. Utilities have to get rates approved.

    We would all be safer in an anarchy.

    • PG&E executives make mistakes for which they don’t have to pay, owing to gov’t.protections? This is not blaming PG&E???

      When power lines are built, an area the width of at least a football field (or soccer pitch) is cleared of trees and shrubs below the power line structures. Thus, I don’t believe that a tree fell on a power line that caused the fire.

      Like California, Australia burns every year and it is correct to assert that, regarding the bush wildfires, little is done by Aussie fire brigades to squelch the flames. (My son-in-law was born and raised in Australia and states that every year, Aussies expect there will be wildfires and its no big deal.)

      Not sure how to address your animus toward corporations. Seems to me that competition and price-vs.-value would ultimately keep them in line. I will definitely concede that when corporation get caught at “skirting” the rules/regulations, that those rules are typically government mandated and probably have aren’t at all needed. With what would you replace the corporation?


  3. I see what you mean. I do blame young girls having kids out of wedlock even though it is the safety net clouds the consequences.
    I have no animus toward corporations. I wouldn’t replace them. I would simply make it so individuals were not shielded from the consequences of their actions. The people within PG&E who decided maintaining equipment was not as important as gender equity or whatever should be living in a cardboard box if one individual is not fully compensated for their losses due to that decision.
    I love corporations. I thank God every day for my warm house and my car and tractor and fuel.

    • ” . . .even though it is the safety net clouds the consequences.” Not so in black relationships.

      Do you have a link to that video of the branch hitting a power line? That would be a remarkable film, unless CCTV was in use.

      I agree about your last comment re: corporations and PG&E. Why does PG&E have to kowtow to the politically correct crowd? Why does the utility need to virtue signal to the world? I mean, they have a captive audience, aka “subscribers.” What alternatives are available to PG&E’s customers?

    • Thanks for the video. The video states that the power lines are “operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.” Does this let PG&E off the hook?

      The flash shown in the video, nothing confirms the allegation that the flash was the cause of the fire versus the fire already begun and the cause of the flash. Still an alleged caused without confirmation.

  4. From what Hans told me, I thought it would be more explicit. So all we have to go on is the mayor’s speech or whatever. Anyway, it has nothing to do with PG&E.
    I know there are a lot of places where trees are not cleared far enough away to avoid ever touching the lines.
    At any rate, the gist of the column was that people should honor agreements or contracts, and big government saying otherwise does not make it right.
    I just got this reply to the column:
    “huh… doesnt it say in the Bible that the people were given a chance to clean up their debts and start anew after 7 years.???”
    Well there you go, eh?

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