Sunday, December 7, 2014

Snake Oil Salesmen Gone Wild!

 The term snake oil has evolved in meaning:
(the term)comes from the 19th-century American practice of selling cure-all elixirs in traveling medicine shows. Snake oil salesmen would falsely claim that the potions would cure any ailments. now-a-days it refers to fake products.
In reality, when snake oil was first introduced in America in the 1800's, it actually worked:
Among the items the Chinese railroad workers brought with them to the States were various medicines —including snake oil. Made from the oil of the Chinese water snake, which is rich in the omega-3 acids that help reduce inflammation, snake oil in its original form really was effective, especially when used to treat arthritis and bursitis. The workers would rub the oil, used for centuries in China, on their joints after a long hard day at work. The story goes that the Chinese workers began sharing the oil with some American counterparts, who marveled at the effects.
In our capitalistic system, when something is popular, others try and replicate it.  The problem often is they can not do it as well or with the same effects.  Snake oil was no different as they did not have any Chinese water snake's handy so they used American rattlers.   The main person who did this was entreprenuer Clark Stanley, aka The Rattlesnake king:
This set the stage for entrepreneur Clark Stanley, aka The Rattlesnake King. In an 1897 pamphlet about Stanley's life and exploits, the former cowboy claimed he had learned about the healing power of rattlesnake oil from Hopi medicine men. He never publicly mentioned Chinese snake oil at all. Stanley created a huge stir at the 1893 World's Exposition in Chicago when he took a live snake and sliced it open before a crowd of onlookers.
Stanley's version of snake oil was so popular he opened up two seperate production facilities(a true "job creator").   As so often happens in our Capitalist society, short term profits trump people, and it turns out that the one ingredient that Stanley's snake oil did not have was - snake oil.   
As the saying goes"Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it"

In Wisconsin, we have our very own Clark Stanley's.   I recently chronicled some major changes that happened shortly after the election that were never discussed during the election cycle
Now we have a major issue that was actually discussed during the election, but not discussed very well.   
In September, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau told us to expect a $1,800,000,000 deficit when we start the new budget.   Mary Burke and the democrats seized on this of course:
“I agree, contributions are needed, what worries me is we are back to 1.8 billion dollar deficit,” said Burke.
“Again this is based on no growth, no change in expenditures. Our record has been every year we’ve been in office, we finished the year with a surplus. Going forward, every year I’m in office we’ll finish with a surplus,” Governor Walker said.
The Walker amen chorus even weighed in on this in this very paper:
From Law Professor Rick Esenberg, in a column ironically complaining about dishonest ads:
We don't have a budget deficit.
Christian Schneider even dedicated a whole column to it entitled "Mary Burke's Bogus Budget Deficit Snapshot"
Upon release of the numbers, Walker immediately boasted, that over the course of the year, that three-month $55 million number would become $220 million, which would come close to wiping out Burke's "$1.8 billion deficit" claim. This is also tenuous math, as it again assumes the economy will be cryogenically frozen for four years. But as long as Democrats are able to get away with such a bogus figure, why not use their own formula to defend yourself? The $1.8 billion figure was widely reported around the state; stories pointing out that the number almost has been eliminated have been harder to find than Kim Jong Un.
"Wisconsin does not have a deficit," Darling said in a news release, which was issued with GOP Rep. John Nygren of Marinette. "Thanks to Republican reforms, the 2014 budget will begin with a $443 million surplus."

It turns out now that everyone was wrong, and they were not really close with the $1.8 BILLION dollar deficit.   The reality is the deficit is $2,200,000,000 dollars.  
It was actually legislation, The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, not the free market,  that ended the masive fraud that Clark Stanley was pulling on the American people.  
As for what happened to Clark Stanley after it was found that his whole empire was based on a lie? He was fined $20 (that's about $429 in today's dollars) for violating the food and drug act and for "misbranding" his product by "falsely and fraudulently represent[ing] it as a remedy for all pain."
Stanley did not dispute the charges.
It appears there are quite a few people in Wisconsin, starting with the Governor who owes us $20.   I fear though, like Scott Walker's last budget, that it will be you and I paying the price instead.


  1. It was stupid the first time you posted it at Purple Wisconsin, Jeff. You should leave the writing to Capper.

  2. How did snake oil salesmen survive? By going to towns to fool rubes who didn't know better, and trick them by seeming authoritative. Plus, the townspeople were willing to try any easy fix to help alleviate their problems.

    Today, right-wing media does the same in Wisconsin for another group of desperate and uninformed/ misinformed rubes. The article is spot-on

  3. Nice job Jeff, but I'm afraid the Wisconsin folks are going to need a GW Bush kick to the balls before they believe it was only fake snake oil they signed up for.

  4. I trust our Governor and the legislators in power today to solve this. Millionaire Mary would have had to take two years off snowboarding whoops I mean a sabbatical from all the pressure from raising our taxes. Oh yah, just got my property tax bill, did a $26,000 addition to the house and my taxes still went down by 9%. 4 more years! 4 more years! I love saying that

    1. They should fix it. After all, they created it.