We have all encountered the statement in the title of this post. Usually the statement comes when discussing something of substance with a person lacking in substance. The aforementioned person will often wink and smirk conspiratorially while stating: “Follow the money.” and then act as if the discussion is now at a close. That statement alone apparently says it all. Read into it what you will.
Now the use of that statement is usually meant to imply that there is an individual or small group of them secretly in control of whatever was the subject of the conversation whether that be in politics, religion, economics or the leadership of the local geranium growing society. Apparently if you follow the money, you will eventually get to the head of whatever nefarious conspiracy is at hand.
When something is difficult to examine or explain, many people simply like to explain it away with a pithy statement rather than explore the issue more deeply. Much like those who love saying “God works in mysterious ways”, many try to close discussion by demanding that one follow the money. Unfortunately these people rarely if ever take their own council and actually follow the path of money or they likely would not fire out that vapid statement so often.
I am going to “follow the money” in a few examples where these statements are common.
The left loves to imply that conservative leaning parties are secretly and massively funded and controlled by evil faceless corporations. Well, if one begins to follow the money through looking at the means of federal political contributions, they will first find that corporations have not been able to donate since 2004. While individuals may contribute up to $1,100 per year federally, it makes it rather tough for an individual to control a national party on that scale does it not?
The entire breakdown for federal contributions can be found here and with only cursory examination it will be found that the federal conservatives are being funded by thousands and thousands of small individual donors. No hidden shadowy figure in control of the party or gross corporate influence. It took me about 3 minutes to google that information though, that is indeed much more effort than would be required in simply saying “follow the money” in a cryptic manner.
Ahh, but what about provincial parties particularly in capitalist Alberta? Corporations can contribute up to $15,000 in Alberta so surely that collection of corporate lackeys within the Wildrose Party is terribly beholden to those faceless organizations! Alas, in following the money it has been found that while the Wildrose Party has been setting new records in fundraising; 75% of those funds still come from individual donors. Assuming that a party acts solely based on where they can raise funds the Wildrose Party is clearly beholden to a large number of individual Albertans rather than those dark-souled corporate interests. People can find all the financial political information in detail here. It is not tough to follow the money in Alberta if a person wants to dedicate a little time to it.
With modern resources, disclosure and transparency it is becoming easier than ever to follow the money indeed. Environmentalist conspiracy theorists often demand that we follow the money when decrying the actions of the productive in industry. What is fun though is turning the gun around and following the money flowing towards our green little friends. When thinking of environmental extremists, the Greenpeace corporation is the first and largest one that comes to mind. Yes, in following the money, it can be found that Greenpeace is a $350 million per year multinational corporation that provides some pretty massive perks to line the pockets of their senior management teams. I mean hey, power to them. Greenpeace need only be accountable to it’s donors. Let’s not try to live under the illusion that Greenpeace is some sort of altruistic organization though. Even the founders of Greenpeace are pointing out how the organization is little more than a well funded corporation with an extreme left-wing agenda (seems almost counter intuitive).
Let’s face it, when we follow the money we find that there are big bucks to be made in the environmentalist industry. Thanks to people following the money, it has been found that Tides Canada has been laundering and filtering some pretty big foreign bucks to some extreme Canadian activist groups. Some of those patchouli scented punks you see at virtually every protest are actually rather well paid to be there. Due to listening to them and following the money though, Tides may (rightly) lose it’s charitable status soon.
Thanks must be given to Vivian Krause who has worked so hard to follow the money and has exposed so many of the rather well heeled fiscal shell games going on under the guise of environmental activism.
But what about those evil corporations in themselves? Who is benefiting from those boardroom monsters? Who are those suited villains really serving? Who really owns those megacorporations?
The answer to the above questions once we follow the money is: ALL OF US!!!!
It is frustrating how quickly people jump up to decry corporations when they won’t actually follow the money and see at least the basics of how these places work. Sure there are some individuals who we read about who have unimaginable amounts of money and assets. These people when added up still only make up a tiny portion of the ownership of large corporations. When looking into corporate ownership, banks, mutual fund groups, financial management, insurance companies and capital companies tend to be predominant. Where do those companies get their money? Well these companies get their funds from pension plans, insurance premiums and private RRSP type investments. Government pension plans are heavily invested in these corporations too.
Do you pay any kind of insurance premium? Well, it is the money made through the investments of your premiums that keeps the premiums within affordability. Do you plan to collect from the Canada Pension Plan when you retire? Well, the CPP is a huge corporate owner (in other words you are). If you are a part of any kind of private pension or savings plan, you are a corporate owner and are benefiting from corporate profits. Do you enjoy the lack of sales tax in Alberta? Well the revenues from investments by the Alberta Heritage Fund are much of what helps keep our taxes low (though there certainly is room to improve there).
So many people howl about corporations yet never give a second thought to how their investments grow. What makes your RRSP (hopefully) get bigger? It is not a magical fairy out there that makes your money grow when it is out of your hands, it is corporate profits and you are a beneficiary of them.
Just for a little more fun in following the money, I always love exposing union hypocrisy. While unions love to claim solidarity forever and supposedly support each other, that goes out the window when it comes to padding their own pockets. Follow the money to the Ontario Teacher’s Union pension plan. Worth over $117 billion dollars, the OTPP is a major corporate player. The Ontario Teacher’s Union plan investments read like a who’s who of apparent evil corporate interests. The union invests billions in oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks and some very anti-union type organizations.
When one has over $100 billion in leverage, one could very easily control the actions of the company that one invests in. Why does the Ontario Teacher’s Union not wield that power for good? Why won’t the union come down on those vile corporations and make them clean up their ethical act? The answer is very simple; to do so would impact return on their investment. To put it in one word: hypocrisy
Yes, I finally listened to the left and followed the money. I think they may not like the conclusions. The next time somebody tells you to follow the money, may I suggest that you respond with another overused cliche: Be careful what you wish for…..