The Roman historian Tacitus made the observation that the more corrupt the Roman Senate became, the more laws that it passed. After 13 years observing the White House and United States Congress as the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) Washington Representative, I’ll update Tacitus. The more corrupt Washington, D.C. becomes, the less and less it enforces the laws. Old laws, new laws, it doesn’t matter. Congress passes — and Bush signs — new laws one after the other without ever enforcing the old ones. Or, enforce them just barely. Pass a law, hold a press conference, then forget about it. Just another day on Capitol Hill. This public relations process helps to assure the public that something is being done to address the many problems we face as a nation. It’s a lie.
As distressing as it is, this is nothing new. What is new, however, is the growing size and scope of the corruption and crimes being committed by Bush and his Republican allies. The problem is compounded by a weak and timid Democratic Party “opposition.” Most Democrats have utterly failed — or have barely tried — to do anything of substance to investigate or even seriously question the burgeoning wave of scandalous and illegal conduct. Bush and the Republicans do whatever they want, legal or not. President Bush and his Congressional Republican leadership have amassed a résumé of corruption, lawlessness, and brazen sleaze that will go down in history. Try these:
The unpunished crime wave of Bush and his Republican majority. . . .
- Iraq war launched on a pretext of lies and distortions.
- Refusal to deal with the 46 million people without health insurance coverage.
- Torturing prisoners and holding them — apparently — forever.
- Billions of dollars handed to companies for bogus “homeland security” schemes.
- Nothing done to stop the oil companies from robbing the people.
- Hundreds of millions of dollars in Katrina relief funds stolen by companies.
- Illegal spying by the government on millions of law-abiding citizens.
- Refusal to stop hundreds of companies from dumping their pension plans.
- Mind-boggling Medicare drug bill designed to enrich the pharmaceutical industry.
- Tax cuts on business and the rich that will double the national debt.
- Add your favorite_________________________________
I am frequently asked, “What’s wrong in Washington — why don’t the politicians ever get anything done?” They usually seem surprised when I tell them that nothing is wrong, and that lots of work is getting done. Big things happen every single day. These guys work hard. Bush works hard. His fellow Republican leaders work hard. The Democrats who support them work hard. They work hard serving the corporate forces who finance them and who increasingly direct their daily activities. Their corrupt and criminal behaviors — which sometimes look like incompetent or even stupid acts — are none of the sort. Practically everything that they do here in Washington, D.C. is clearly calculated to enrich some individual company a corporate sector, or some personal friend. Companies and operators are getting rich off the Iraq war. They are getting rich off the “homeland security” mania. They are getting rich off the oil crisis. They are getting rich off the Katrina fiasco. They are getting rich off the health care crisis, the Medicare drug bill, and the pension crisis. They are getting rich off the tax cuts and the national debt at the same time. They are getting rich off the immigration and border situation. They are getting rich off cost-plus federal contracts of every kind imaginable. This is as close to a “money for nothing” moment as we will ever get.
The White House and Congress are doing a fine job. They are following the plan quite well. The problem is, it’s their plan, and not our plan. As working people, we still view the government as a democratic mechanism to maintain order, provide a basic safety net of services, defend us from external attacks, and to protect us when companies break the laws and do us harm. Bush, his Republican pals, and a big section of the Democrats don’t see it that way. They view their role as being facilitators of a looting process where the goal is to systematically transfer all wealth — governmental and personal assets both — into the hands of the already super-rich.
These guys get a nice payday for their services. Everyone gets rich. It’s truly amazing. This is a city of overnight, almost instant millionaires. If you don’t believe me, just come to Washington, D.C. and take a look around. A teeming layer of super-rich lobbyists, functionaries, looters, and leeches are now buying up all the houses and condos in sight and creating new car/rich guy traffic jams. The nightclubs are full of these parasites. The over-priced stores that cater to this crowd are booming. They take their dogs to canine day care. Their immigrant under-the-table nannies take their kids to the private school and pick them up in the afternoon. Ever see someone actually driving around in a Rolls Royce? Come to Washington.
This is a great time to be a part of the other crime wave here in Washington, D.C. Common street thugs are rinky-dink compared to the exploits of this modern political plunderbund that is running riot — and running up a very big tab while they are at it. I laughed out loud a couple weeks back when the Washington, D.C. police chief declared a “crime emergency.” Crime? Here in Washington, D.C.? What’s new about that? I only live a couple miles to the south of D.C., and, during one recent weekend at my apartment house, we had several car thefts and break-ins, and a woman in my building was assaulted in her apartment and had to be hospitalized. While I was trying to rig up a way to secure our pickup truck after the lock was yanked out — after I got done looking at the detective’s picture book of rapists — Bush and his entourage were busy stealing another billion dollars or so.
The media amplified “crime emergency” has nothing to do with the Bush crime, the corporate crime, or the crime down where I live. This phoney emergency was manufactured because a very rich and politically connected tourist from the U.K. was brutally mugged and murdered in the super-rich Georgetown part of Washington. The poor guy was from the U.K., so the European newspapers were all over the story. News like this is bad for business, you know, so the “emergency” was concocted. Never mind that 15 other people were murdered in D.C. during the first two weeks of July. It’s a war zone.
Ah, life in our decaying Empire. Me and my neighbors will handle the crime down where I live. But I’m going to need your help when we (someday) slap the handcuffs on about 25,000 of these highbrow gangsters roaming Capitol Hill and the suites here in D.C. I look forward to cleaning up the other crime wave, the one that gets no attention at all. Book ’em.
Chris Townsend is the Political Action Director of the United Electrical Workers Union (UE).