In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, Congressman Jim Matheson said he has many problems with the global warming bill currently in committee. The bill is Henry Waxman’s creation, and is already under fire from his fellow Democrats.
But it’s no shocker that Matheson is one of the first suits to screech at the bill, since he receives over 20% of his campaign donations from energy, natural resource, transportation, construction, and agribusiness industries. Such industries normally aren’t on the forefront of asking Congress to cap their own emissions.
During opening statements, the Utah Democrat detailed 14 big problems he had with the bill, and told me later that if he hadn’t been limited to five minutes, “I might have had more.”
I’ll bet. Matheson is one of 10 moderate Democrats (see: Blue Dog Democrats, or what they call themselves so people stop confusing them with Republicans) who are all worked up over Waxman’s bill. Strassel calls the bill “liberal overreach.”
Really. Strassel doesn’t bother to then explain why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest climate report states the following:
- “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to human activities has increased by 70% between 1970 and 2004.
- Continued GHG emissions “at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.”
Considering a bill that would stem these awful trends is “overreaching,” according to Ms. Strassel. Of course, she doesn’t mean “overreaching” in the sense that caring for the planet isn’t important. She means “overreaching” in the sense that it could cost politicians like Mr. Matheson their donors. Strassel writes:
Design a bill that socks it to all those manufacturing, oil-producing, coal-producing, coal-using states, and say goodbye to the very Democrats necessary to pass that bill.
Yes, it could cost poor Mr. Matheson over 20% of his donations. But on the upside, it could save the planet. Strassel taps into a very important issue here. Obviously, most politicians aren’t going to bite the hands of their donors. We’ve seen this trend extend from debate over the financial bailout, which was ripe with cronyism and corruption, to the debate over how to deal with our warming environment.
Corporate money corrupts, absolutely. During the bailout, politicians with close ties to the financial industries were put in charge of the bailouts, including the Senate Banking committee Chairman, Chris Dodd. Dodd receives most of his campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry, and two of his biggest donors are Citigroup and AIG. The problem is systemic as we see in the environment debate with “Democrats” like Mr. Matheson. He won’t be voting against his corporate donors anytime soon. Daddy needs his sweet, sweet corporate cash, or as Strassel puts it, Matheson is “championing energy diversity and his state’s fossil fuels” i.e. tearing up and selling everything that isn’t nailed down.
Other Democrats standing in the way of Waxman’s bill are Baron Hill (IN), Rick Bouche (VA), Gene Green (TX), Charles Gonzalez (TX), Charlie Melancon (LA), Mike Doyle (PA,) many of whom are quite publicly in the pocket of the oil industry. This isn’t some kind of scandalous secret. Most of their corporate donors are visible on public websites like OpenSecrets.org.
The scandal is that writing about such things is considered a platitude, an utterly banal thing to point out. The future of the planet is at stake, and pointing out the dirty money pouring from Washington politicians’ pockets evokes an eye roll from the mainstream press. Journalists like Strassel write about dirty donations as though she were reporting on the weather.
Politicians, who are reliant upon donations from industries that poison the environment, cannot be trusted to then form legislation to protect the planet. At the risk of publishing more liberal “overreach,” such conflicts of interest (the financial bailouts, and now the energy/environment debate,) are both excellent examples of why publicly financed elections are so important. If corporate money isn’t permitted to infect politics, then bills that could potentially save the planet may have a fair chance of surviving committee.
Strassel, Matheson, and company will surely roll their eyes at such a naive statement, but that’s to be expected. If you spend your life swimming in pig shit, after a while, you’ll swear it doesn’t smell.
I made some ownership charts to accompany Andrea Whitfill’s excellent Alternet piece, “Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Brands? Take Another Look — They May Not Be What They Seem.” Corporate ownership can be very convoluted (especially when dealing with international corporations,) so I’ve found it’s helpful to post the corporation logos to aid in memorization. I tend to instantly forget company names, but I’ll remember their respective logos for years.
Many organic brand names are owned by huge conglomerates with questionable human rights and environmental records. Believe me, I was not happy or smug constructing this chart. I love Puffins cereal. The peanut butter Puffins? C’mon, I’m only human.
So to all my hippy friends, trying their best: I’m sorry.
Note: Corporations aren’t inherently evil. However, they are very large businesses that have large quotas, so the emphasis is always placed on speed, efficiency, and consumption – not human rights, the environment, and morality. Hence, corporations are prone to immoral behavior, and sometimes, human rights violations.
There are way more checks on corporations now than there were in the past. That’s not to say corporations are perfect. Far from it. In fact, some are still quite evil (Coca-Cola: I’m looking your way.) But, many corporations are trying to enter the Green Zone because their consumers are demanding they clean up their environmental records. Clorox and GM are two examples of corporations that have tried to mend their environmental records.
As consumers, it’s important not to let the occasional corporate environmental endeavor distract us from a business’s larger model. Some corporations put out one green product to provide cover as they pollute or violate human rights in other sectors of their business. I’m not accusing Clorox or GM of doing this, but it’s important to remain engaged consumers and not blindly yank products off the store shelf without giving thought to where the products come from, who makes them, and what toll they take on the environment.
Also, don’t drink Coke. Coca-Cola is evil.
Mark Ames (h/t Alternet)
The killing spree in Alabama fits a well-worn pattern of workplace-driven massacres that we’ve seen since the “going postal” phenomenon exploded in the middle of the Reagan revolution.
In spite of the fact that these killings have gone on unabated for over 20 years, most of the country doesn’t want to know why they’re happening — least of all the people in power.
If we study the motive for Michael McLendon’s shooting rampage Tuesday, which left 11 bodies across three towns in southern Alabama, and we look at the bizarre way that the causes of the shooting are being hushed up, you begin to understand why this uniquely-Reaganomics-inspired crime started in the United States, and continues to plague us.
But of all the inexplicable circumstances surrounding the murder spree, one of the oddest has to be the way Alabama authorities went from focusing hard on solving the shooter’s motive to suddenly dropping the issue like a hot potato and running away from the scene of the crime, as if they didn’t like what their investigation produced.
On Wednesday night, investigators announced that they had discovered the motive, and they would reveal it to the world on Thursday morning.
Investigators close in on motive of Alabama gunman
by Donna Francavilla
SAMSON, Ala. (AFP) — Alabama investigators said they were closing in on a motive for the U.S. state’s deadliest-ever shooting, in which a man killed his mother, grandmother and eight others before taking his own life. The Alabama Bureau of Investigations said there had been “very recent developments that we believe may direct us to a motive” for the grisly rampage, but ABI was quick to dismiss earlier reports that a hit list had been found in the house of the gunman, identified as Michael McLendon.
But then something funny happened on Thursday. Alabama investigators completely reversed themselves: They were now claiming there was no way to find out the motive for the killings, and in fact, no motive ever existed in the first place.
“There’s probably never going to be a motive,” Trooper Kevin Cook, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said Thursday.
Even the list that provided so many obvious clues as to what sparked the shooting is now no longer the “hit list” or list of people who had “done him wrong,” but rather, “the kind of list you’d put on a magnet on the refrigerator door,” according to Cook.
Which is odd, because just the day before, Cook told reporters, “As to motive, what we do know is that his mother had a lawsuit pending against Pilgrim’s Pride.”
Why the bizarre about-face? We may never know, because Alabama investigators abruptly closed the investigation at noon on Thursday, sending home almost the entire team. Nothing to see here folks, keep moving along.
This raises a new question: What was it about McLendon’s motive that officials wanted hushed? Or better yet: What did Pilgrim’s Pride do that could have incited a man described by all as nice, quiet and respectful to unleash a bloody killing spree?
On the surface, the horrific details seem to suggest a straightforward case of a lone psychopath unleashed: Michael McLendon, 28, shot and killed execution-style his own mother and four dogs, then set their bodies on fire before driving to other relatives’ houses and killing them; he killed a deputy’s wife and baby, along with bystanders; and like so many rampage massacres over the past 20 years, he ended his life inside of his former workplace: Reliance Metal Products, in the small town of Geneva, Ala.
Authorities say they discovered a list — presumably a hit list — of people and companies whom McLendon felt had done him wrong. Popular culture tells us that the hit list and his grievances are themselves signs that he suffered from a persecution complex, like so many Charles Mansons. No need to actually look into who was on that hit list and why — the mere discovery of such a list should be enough to indict him, case closed.
But nothing’s solved, nothing’s closed; and if we’re serious about understanding the “why” of this massacre, as everyone claims to be, then that list is the best place to start.
As with so many of these rage massacres from the past 20 years, the more you look at Tuesdays’ killing spree, the more you see that the system we’ve been living under since Reaganomics conquered everything has created all kinds of monsters and maniacs, from the plutocrats who’ve plundered this country for three decades straight, down to the lone broken worker — McLendon — who took up arms in a desperate suicide mission against the beast that crushed him.
So far we’ve learned that McLendon’s hit list names the three companies he had worked for since 2003 — Reliance Metals, which makes construction materials; Pilgrim’s Pride, the nation’s number one poultry producer, where his mother also worked, until she was suspended from her job last week; and Kelley Foods, a smaller family-owned meat-processing company from which McLendon apparently quit just last week.
Even more striking to someone who has studied these workplace massacres, it appears that McLendon was bullied and abused at work. One clue as to why he’d end his spree at Reliance, where he hadn’t worked since 2003, could be that he was trying to kill the source of the pain: workers at Reliance used to taunt him incessantly, giving him the nickname “Doughboy.” Which basically means “fatso” and “faggot” combined: McLendon was 5 feet, 8 inches tall, but he weighed roughly 210 pounds.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but “Doughboy” is the exact same nickname that workers at Standard Gravure, a printing plant in Louisville, Ky., gave to a guy named Joe Wesbecker back in the 1980s.
Like McLendon’s case against Pilgrim’s Pride, Wesbecker also was locked in an ongoing labor dispute with his company, whose top shareholders had gone on an eight-year plundering spree, leaving little for the workers; the government backed Wesbecker’s case against Standard Gravure, and he “won” his dispute, but it was irrelevant.
By 1989, the culture had changed, all power went to the CEOs and major shareholders. Standard Gravure’s senior executives ignored the arbitration rulings and continued to treat Wesbecker however they felt, slashing his pay under a different pretense, which would require a whole new round of arbitrations.
Joe “Doughboy” Wesbecker finally cracked: on Sept. 14, 1989, he unleashed America’s first private workplace massacre, pitting aggrieved worker against vampiric company, borrowing from the numerous post office shootings that had erupted a few years earlier. The result: seven killed, 20 wounded, and the death of the company that drove him to the brink. And an unending string of workplace massacres by “disgruntled employees” ever since.
Next time any asshole calls a kid or a co-worker “Doughboy,” put the bully and the bullied on the top of your next Ghoul Pool list. Bullying in the workplace, like bullying in the schoolyard, is only now being recognized as a serious problem, with devastating psychological consequences — and the occasional rampage massacre.
Conventional wisdom used to say that victims of bullying should “deal with it” since it was “just the way things are”; nowadays, after all the workplace and school shootings, anti-bullying laws and codes are becoming increasingly common.
Frank Rich, NYT
BARACK OBAMA must savor the moment while he can. It may never get better than this.#mce_temp_url#
As he stood before Congress on Tuesday night, the new president was armed with new job approval percentages in the 60s. After his speech, the numbers hit the stratosphere: CBS News found that support for his economic plans spiked from 63 percent to 80. Had more viewers hung on for the Republican response from Bobby Jindal, the unintentionally farcical governor of Louisiana, Obama might have aced a near-perfect score.
His address was riveting because it delivered on the vision he had promised a battered populace during the campaign: Government must step in boldly when free markets run amok and when national crises fester unaddressed for decades. For all the echoes of F.D.R.’s first fireside chat, he also evoked his own memorably adult speech on race. Once again he walked us through a lucid step-by-step mini-lecture on “how we arrived” at an impasse that’s threatening America’s ability to move forward.
Obama’s race speech may have saved his campaign. His first Congressional address won’t rescue the economy. But it brings him to a significant early crossroads in his presidency — one full of perils as well as great opportunities. To get the full political picture, look beyond Obama’s popularity in last week’s polls to the two groups of Americans whose approval numbers are in the toilet. There is good news for Obama in these findings, but there’s also a stark indication of the unchecked populist rage that could still overrun his ambitious plans.
The first group in national disfavor is the G.O.P. In the latest New York Times/CBS News survey, 63 percent said that Congressional Republicans opposed the stimulus package mostly for political reasons; only 17 percent felt that the Republicans should stick with their own policies rather than cooperate with Obama and the Democrats. The second group of national villains is corporate recipients of taxpayer money: only 39 percent approve of a further bailout for banks, and only 22 percent want more money going to Detroit’s Big Three.
The good news for Obama is that he needn’t worry about the Republicans. They’re committing suicide. The morning-after conservative rationalization of Jindal’s flop was that his adenoidal delivery, not his words, did him in, and that media coaching could banish his resemblance to Kenneth the Page of “30 Rock.” That’s denial. For Jindal no less than Obama, form followed content.
The Louisiana governor, alternately smug and jejune, articulated precisely the ideology — those G.O.P. “policies” in the Times/CBS poll — that Americans reject: the conviction that government is useless and has no role in an emergency. Given that the most mismanaged federal operation in modern memory was inflicted by a Republican White House on Jindal’s own state, you’d think he’d change the subject altogether.
But like all zealots, Jindal is oblivious to how nonzealots see him. Pleading “principle,” he has actually turned down some $100 million in stimulus money for Louisiana. And, as he proudly explained on “Meet the Press” last weekend, he can’t wait to be judged on “the results” of his heroic frugality.
Good luck with that. He’s rejecting aid for a state that ranks fourth in children living below the poverty line and 46th in high school graduation rates, while struggling with a projected budget shortfall of more than $1.7 billion.
If you’re baffled why the G.O.P. would thrust Jindal into prime time, the answer is desperation. Eager to update its image without changing its antediluvian (or antebellum) substance, the party is trying to lock down its white country-club blowhards. The only other nonwhite face on tap, alas, is the unguided missile Michael Steele, its new national chairman. Steele has of late been busy promising to revive his party with an “off-the-hook” hip-hop P.R. campaign, presumably with the perennially tan House leader John Boehner leading the posse.
At least the G.O.P.’s newfound racial sensitivity saved it from choosing the white Southern governor often bracketed with Jindal as a rising “star,” Mark Sanford of South Carolina. That would have been an even bigger fiasco, for Sanford is from the same state as Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the junior high school student who sat in Michelle Obama’s box on Tuesday night and whose impassioned letter to Congresswas quoted by the president.
In her plea, the teenager begged for aid to her substandard rural school. Without basic tools, she poignantly wrote, she and her peers cannot “prove to the world” that they too might succeed at becoming “lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president.”
Her school is in Dillon, where the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, grew up. The school’s auditorium, now condemned, was the site of Bernanke’s high school graduation. Dillon is now so destitute that Bernanke’s middle-class childhood home was just auctioned off in a foreclosure sale. Unemployment is at 14.2 percent.
Governor Sanford’s response to such hardship — his state over all has the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate — was not merely a threat to turn down federal funds but a trip to Washington to actively lobby against the stimulus bill. He accused the three Republican senators who voted for it of sabotaging “the future of our civilization.” In his mind the future of civilization has little to do with the future of students like Ty’Sheoma Bethea.
What such G.O.P. “stars” as Sanford and Jindal have in common, besides their callous neo-Hoover ideology, are their phony efforts to portray themselves as populist heroes. Their role model is W., that brush-clearing “rancher” by way of Andover, Yale and Harvard. Listening to Jindal talk Tuesday night about his immigrant father’s inability to pay for an obstetrician, you’d never guess that at the time his father was an engineer and his mother an L.S.U. doctoral candidate in nuclear physics. Sanford’s first political ad in 2002 told of how growing up on his “family’s farm” taught him “about hard work and responsibility.” That “farm,” the Charlotte Observer reported, was a historic plantation appraised at $1.5 million in the early 1980s. From that hardscrabble background, he struggled on to an internship at Goldman Sachs.
G.O.P. pseudopopulism ran riot last week as right-wing troops rallied around their latest Joe the Plumber: Rick Santelli, the ranting CNBC foe of Obama’s mortgage rescue program. Ann Coulter proposed a Santelli run for president, and Twitterers organized national “tea parties” to fuel his taxpayers’ revolt. Even with a boost from NBC, whose networks seized a promotional opening by incessantly recycling the Santelli “controversy,” the bonfire fizzled. It did so because — as last week’s polls also revealed — the mortgage bailout, with a 60-plus percent approval rating, is nearly as popular as Obama.
The Santelli revolution’s flameout was just another confirmation that hard-core Republican radicals are now the G.O.P.’s problem, not the president’s. Rahm Emanuel has it right when he says the administration must try bipartisanship, but it doesn’t have to succeed. Voters give Obama credit for trying, and he can even claim success with many Republican governors, from Schwarzenegger to Crist. Now he can move on and let his childish adversaries fight among themselves, with Rush Limbaugh as the arbitrating babysitter. (Last week he gave Jindal a thumb’s up.)
But that good news for Obama is countered by the bad. The genuine populist rage in the country — aimed at greedy C.E.O.’s, not at the busted homeowners mocked as “losers” by Santelli — cannot be ignored or finessed. Though Obama was crystal clear on Tuesday that there can be “no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis,” it was telling that he got fuzzy when he came to what he might do about it. He waited two days to drop that shoe in his budget: a potential $750 billion in banking “asset purchases” on top of the previous $700 billion bailout.
Therein lies the Catch-22 that could bring the recovery down. As Obama said, we can’t move forward without a functioning financial system. But voters of both parties will demand that their congressmen reject another costly rescue of it. Americans still don’t understand why many Wall Street malefactors remain in place or why the administration’s dithering banking policy lacks the boldness and clarity of Obama’s rhetoric.
Nor can a further bailout be easily sold by a Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, whose lax oversight of the guilty banks while at the New York Fed remains a subject of journalistic inquiry. In a damning 5,600-word article from Bloomberg last week, he is portrayed as a second banana, a timid protégé of the old boys who got us into this disaster. Everyone testifies to Geithner’s brilliance, but Jindal, a Rhodes scholar, was similarly hyped. Like the Louisiana governor, the Treasury secretary is a weak public speaker not because he lacks brains or vocal training but because his message doesn’t fly.
Among the highlights of Obama’s triumphant speech was his own populist jeremiad about the “fancy drapes” and private jets of Wall Street. But talk is not action. Two days later, as ABC News reported, the president of taxpayer- supported Bank of America took a private jet to New York to stonewall Andrew Cuomo’s inquest into $3.6 billion of suspect bonuses.
Handing more public money to the reckless banks that invented this culture and stuck us with the wreckage is the new third rail of American politics. If Obama doesn’t forge a better plan, neither his immense popularity nor even political foes as laughable as Jindal can insulate him from getting burned.
WASHINGTON — Intent on blocking organized labor’s top legislative goal, corporations are quietly contributing to lobbying groups with appealing names like the Workforce Fairness Institute and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.
These groups are planning a multimillion-dollar campaign in the hope of killing legislation that would give unions the right to win recognition at a workplace once a majority of employees sign cards saying they want a union. Business groups fear the bill will enable unions to quickly add millions of workers and drive up labor costs.
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a federation of 500 business groups, ran a full-page advertisement on Wednesday that sought to discredit the legislation, called the Employee Free Choice Act. The advertisement said that if secret ballots were good enough to elect Barack Obama then they should be good enough for union members, too.
Richard Berman, a Washington lobbyist, has created a business-backed group, the Center for Union Facts, that is planning to run millions of dollars’ worth of television spots over the next few months to pressure moderate Democrats to oppose the bill.
During last fall’s presidential campaign, groups opposing the legislation spent more than $20 million on television commercials in Colorado, Maine, Minnesota and other states in an effort to defeat Democratic Senate candidates who backed the bill.
At a confirmation hearing set for Friday, Republican senators are expected to challenge Representative Hilda L. Solis of California, President-elect Obama’s choice for labor secretary, over her support for the legislation.
Business leaders denounce the bill because it would largely eliminate secret-ballot elections to determine whether workers want a union. (The union win rate has traditionally been far higher through majority signups than elections.)
“If you know anything about politics, it is a game changer,” said Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada. “It is a total game changer for the next 40 to 50 years if the Democrats are able to get this legislation that eliminates the right to a secret ballot. We are fighting it hard.”
Senate Democrats have not decided when to bring up the measure. Given its divisiveness, it will not be one of the first bills they bring to the floor. But the legislation has the strong backing of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, who is expected to bring it up once Democrats are confident they can overcome any filibuster.
In 2007, the House passed a similar bill, but it failed in the Senate on a procedural vote.
Republican leaders and business lobbyists say the Democrats do not have the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. But union leaders voice optimism, noting that Mr. Obama has endorsed the bill and that Democrats have close to 60 seats in the Senate, though two remain in dispute. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who once was a co-sponsor of the bill, has not decided whether he would support it this time, an aide said.
Whether it is Wal-Mart or the National Restaurant Association, many companies and corporate groups financing the opposition fear that their companies and industries will be among labor’s earliest organizing targets should the bill become law.
Labor leaders say they are setting their sights on several industries, like banks and big-box retailers like Wal-Mart or Target, where unions have had virtually no success.
“We’re going to organize in the basic industries of our unions: construction, hospitality, health care, retail, food production and manufacturing,” said Tom Woodruff, director of strategic organizing for Change to Win, a federation of seven unions that includes the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers. “Those are jobs that are going to stay in the country. The question is whether those jobs are going to be decent middle-class jobs.”
Mark McKinnon, a media adviser to the presidential campaigns of John McCain and George W. Bush, is a spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute. Mr. McKinnon said the institute was focusing on drumming up grass-roots support from business. He would not say which companies are financing the institute, founded by several longtime Republican operatives.
“This issue has really become very high on the radar screen,” he said. “Businesses are hearing about it, and they are ready to riot in the street about it.”
The measure “is the most radical rewrite of labor legislation since the 1930s,” Mr. McKinnon said. “It is a political nightmare and a public policy disaster.”
Opponents fear that the legislation will enable labor to become a wealthier and more powerful political force. Union leaders see the bill as crucial for reversing labor’s long decline — unions represent just 7.5 percent of private-sector workers, down from nearly 40 percent a half-century ago.
John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that if Wal-Mart’s United States work force of 1.4 million were unionized, that could mean $500 million in additional union dues collected each year — tens of millions of which might be used to support Democratic causes and candidates.
Acknowledging that Wal-Mart presents a formidable challenge, labor leaders say they hope to unionize up to 100 of Wal-Mart’s more than 4,000 United States stores for starters, which might add 30,000 members.
“We are against any bill that would effectively eliminate freedom of choice and the right to a secret ballot election,” said a Wal-Mart spokesman, David Tovar. “We believe every associate” — Wal-Mart’s term for employees — “should have the right to make a private and informed decision regarding union representation.”
Labor leaders say they do not oppose secret-ballot elections, but rather the bitter two-month management-versus-union campaigns that often precede elections. Union leaders say those campaigns are usually unfair because corporations often fire union supporters and press their anti-union views day and night in one-on-one sessions and large meetings while union organizers are prohibited from company property.
Labor leaders said that last month they won one of the biggest unionization victories in years for the nearly 5,000 workers at the Smithfield pork processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., by insisting on what they said were fairer rules.
If the bill is enacted, unions say they will try to organize workers by quietly getting a majority to sign pro-union cards before companies can begin an anti-union campaign. In theory, a union organizer or pro-union employee would have an easy time signing up a majority of, say, the 25 workers at a McDonald’s, the 15 baristas at a Starbucks or the 50 aides at a nursing home.
Corporations also oppose a provision of the bill that would allow government arbitrators to determine the terms of a contract when no agreement has been reached within 120 days of a union’s winning recognition. Defending that provision, labor leaders say companies often undermine newly formed unions by dragging out contract talks for months, even years.
“The idea of negotiating a contract and turning it over to an arbitrator who has no interest in the company or the workers’ future and then can dictate the terms of a contract, that’s a pretty reckless way to go,” said Mr. Engler of the manufacturers’ association. “This is the one issue that everybody who’s an employer agrees is a bad idea.”
“As a result of the extraordinary growth at Merrill during my tenure as C.E.O., the board saw fit to increase my compensation each year.” — E. Stanley O’Neal, the former chief executive of Merrill Lynch, March 2008
Unlike the earnings, however, the bonuses have not been reversed.
As regulators and shareholders sift through the rubble of the financial crisis, questions are being asked about what role lavish bonuses played in the debacle. Scrutiny over pay is intensifying as banks like Merrill prepare to dole out bonuses even after they have had to be propped up with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. While bonuses are expected to be half of what they were a year ago, some bankers could still collect millions of dollars.
Critics say bonuses never should have been so big in the first place, because they were based on ephemeral earnings. These people contend that Wall Street’s pay structure, in which bonuses are based on short-term profits, encouraged employees to act like gamblers at a casino — and let them collect their winnings while the roulette wheel was still spinning.
“Compensation was flawed top to bottom,” said Lucian A. Bebchuk, a professor at Harvard Law School and an expert on compensation. “The whole organization was responding to distorted incentives.”
Even Wall Streeters concede they were dazzled by the money. To earn bigger bonuses, many traders ignored or played down the risks they took until their bonuses were paid. Their bosses often turned a blind eye because it was in their interest as well.
“That’s a call that senior management or risk management should question, but of course their pay was tied to it too,” said Brian Lin, a former mortgage trader at Merrill Lynch.
The highest-ranking executives at four firms have agreed under pressure to go without their bonuses, including John A. Thain, who initially wanted a bonus this year since he joined Merrill Lynch as chief executive after its ill-fated mortgage bets were made. And four former executives at one hard-hit bank, UBS of Switzerland, recently volunteered to return some of the bonuses they were paid before the financial crisis. But few think others on Wall Street will follow that lead.
For now, most banks are looking forward rather than backward. Morgan Stanley and UBS are attaching new strings to bonuses, allowing them to pull back part of workers’ payouts if they turn out to have been based on illusory profits. Those policies, had they been in place in recent years, might have clawed back hundreds of millions of dollars of compensation paid out in 2006 to employees at all levels, including senior executives who are still at those banks.
A Bonus Bonanza
For Wall Street, much of this decade represented a new Gilded Age. Salaries were merely play money — a pittance compared to bonuses. Bonus season became an annual celebration of the riches to be had in the markets. That was especially so in the New York area, where nearly $1 out of every $4 that companies paid employees last year went to someone in the financial industry. Bankers celebrated with five-figure dinners, vied to outspend each other at charity auctions and spent their newfound fortunes on new homes, cars and art.
The bonanza redefined success for an entire generation. Graduates of top universities sought their fortunes in banking, rather than in careers like medicine, engineering or teaching. Wall Street worked its rookies hard, but it held out the promise of rich rewards. In college dorms, tales of 30-year-olds pulling down $5 million a year were legion.
While top executives received the biggest bonuses, what is striking is how many employees throughout the ranks took home large paychecks. On Wall Street, the first goal was to make “a buck” — a million dollars. More than 100 people in Merrill’s bond unit alone broke the million-dollar mark in 2006.Goldman Sachs paid more than $20 million apiece to more than 50 people that year, according to a person familiar with the matter. Goldman declined to comment.
Pay was tied to profit, and profit to the easy, borrowed money that could be invested in markets like mortgage securities. As the financial industry’s role in the economy grew, workers’ pay ballooned, leaping sixfold since 1975, nearly twice as much as the increase in pay for the average American worker.
A Money Machine
Dow Kim stepped into this milieu in the mid-1980s, fresh from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Born in Seoul and raised there and in Singapore, Mr. Kim moved to the United States at 16 to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. A quiet workaholic in an industry of workaholics, he seemed to rise through the ranks by sheer will. After a stint trading bonds in Tokyo, he moved to New York to oversee Merrill’s fixed-income business in 2001. Two years later, he became co-president.
After several of his key deputies left the firm in the summer of 2006, he appointed a former colleague from Asia, Osman Semerci, as his deputy, and beneath Mr. Semerci he installed Dale M. Lattanzio and Douglas J. Mallach. Mr. Lattanzio promptly purchased a $5 million home, as well as oceanfront property in Mantoloking, a wealthy enclave in New Jersey, according to county records.
Merrill and the executives in this article declined to comment or say whether they would return past bonuses. Mr. Mallach did not return telephone calls.
Mr. Semerci, Mr. Lattanzio and Mr. Mallach joined Mr. Kim as Merrill entered a new phase in its mortgage buildup. That September, the bank spent $1.3 billion to buy the First Franklin Financial Corporation, a mortgage lender in California, in part so it could bundle its mortgages into lucrative bonds.
Yet Mr. Kim was growing restless. That same month, he told E. Stanley O’Neal, Merrill’s chief executive, that he was considering starting his own hedge fund. His traders were stunned. But Mr. O’Neal persuaded Mr. Kim to stay, assuring him that the future was bright for Merrill’s mortgage business, and, by extension, for Mr. Kim.
Mr. Kim stepped to the lectern on the bond trading floor and told his anxious traders that he was not going anywhere, and that business was looking up, according to four former employees who were there. The traders erupted in applause.
“No one wanted to stop this thing,” said former mortgage analyst at Merrill. “It was a machine, and we all knew it was going to be a very, very good year.”
Merrill Lynch celebrated its success even before the year was over. In November, the company hosted a three-day golf tournament at Pebble Beach, Calif.
Mr. Kim, an avid golfer, played alongside William H. Gross, a founder of Pimco, the big bond house; and Ralph R. Cioffi, who oversaw two Bear Stearns hedge funds whose subsequent collapse in 2007 would send shock waves through the financial world.
“There didn’t seem to be an end in sight,” said a person who attended the tournament.
Back in New York, Mr. Kim’s team was eagerly bundling risky home mortgages into bonds. One of the last deals they put together that year was called “Costa Bella,” or beautiful coast — a name that recalls Pebble Beach. The $500 million bundle of loans, a type of investment known as a collateralized debt obligation, was managed by Mr. Gross’s Pimco.
Merrill Lynch collected about $5 million in fees for concocting Costa Bella, which included mortgages originated by First Franklin.
But Costa Bella, like so many other C.D.O.’s, was filled with loans that borrowers could not repay. Initially part of it was rated AAA, but Costa Bella is now deeply troubled. The losses on the investment far exceed the money Merrill collected for putting the deal together.
So Much for So Few
By the time Costa Bella ran into trouble, the Merrill bankers who had devised it had collected their bonuses for 2006. Mr. Kim’s fixed-income unit generated more than half of Merrill’s revenue that year, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. As a reward, Mr. O’Neal and Mr. Kim paid nearly a third of Merrill’s $5 billion to $6 billion bonus pool to the 2,000 professionals in the division.
Mr. O’Neal himself was paid $46 million, according to Equilar, an executive compensation research firm and data provider in California. Mr. Kim received $35 million. About 57 percent of their pay was in stock, which would lose much of its value over the next two years, but even the cash portions of their bonus were generous: $18.5 million for Mr. O’Neal, and $14.5 million for Mr. Kim, according to Equilar.
Mr. Kim and his deputies were given wide discretion about how to dole out their pot of money. Mr. Semerci was among the highest earners in 2006, at more than $20 million. Below him, Mr. Mallach and Mr. Lattanzio each earned more than $10 million. They were among just over 100 people who accounted for some $500 million of the pool, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
After that blowout, Merrill pushed even deeper into the mortgage business, despite growing signs that the housing bubble was starting to burst. That decision proved disastrous. As the problems in the subprime mortgage market exploded into a full-blown crisis, the value of Merrill’s investments plummeted. The firm has since written down its investments by more than $54 billion, selling some of them for pennies on the dollar.
Mr. Lin, the former Merrill trader, arrived late to the party. He was one of the last people hired onto Merrill’s mortgage desk, in the summer of 2007. Even then, Merrill guaranteed Mr. Lin a bonus if he joined the firm. Mr. Lin would not disclose his bonus, but such payouts were often in the seven figures.
Mr. Lin said he quickly noticed that traders across Wall Street were reluctant to admit what now seems so obvious: Their mortgage investments were worth far less than they had thought.
“It’s always human nature,” said Mr. Lin, who lost his job at Merrill last summer and now works at RRMS Advisors, a consulting firm that advises investors in troubled mortgage investments. “You want to pull for the market to do well because you’re vested.”
But critics question why Wall Street embraced the risky deals even as the housing and mortgage markets began to weaken.
“What happened to their investments was of no interest to them, because they would already be paid,” said Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at the Corporate Library, a shareholder activist group. Some Wall Street executives argue that paying a larger portion of bonuses in the form of stock, rather than in cash, might keep employees from making short-sighted decision. But Mr. Hodgson contended that would not go far enough, in part because the cash rewards alone were so high. Mr. Kim, for example, was paid a total of $116.6 million in cash and stock from 2001 to 2007. Of that, $55 million was in cash, according to Equilar.
Leaving the Scene
As the damage at Merrill became clear in 2007, Mr. Kim, his deputies and finally Mr. O’Neal left the firm. Mr. Kim opened a hedge fund, but it quickly closed. Mr. Semerci and Mr. Lattanzio landed at a hedge fund in London.
All three departed without collecting bonuses in 2007. Mr. O’Neal, however, got even richer by leaving Merrill Lynch. He was awarded an exit package worth $161 million.
Clawing back the 2006 bonuses at Merrill would not come close to making up for the company’s losses, which exceed all the profits that the firm earned over the previous 20 years. This fall, the once-proud firm was sold to Bank of America, ending its 94-year history as an independent firm.
Mr. Bebchuk of Harvard Law School said investment banks like Merrill were brought to their knees because their employees chased after the rich rewards that executives promised them.
“They were trying to get as much of this or that paper, they were doing it with excitement and vigor, and that was because they knew they would be making huge amounts of money by the end of the year,” he said.
Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, but the securities firm’s compensation committee is resisting his request, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the situation.
The committee and full board are scheduled to meet Monday to hear Thain’s formal bonus recommendations for himself and other senior executives of the New York company. The compensation committee is leaning toward denying the executives bonuses for this year, the Journal reports.
Shareholders of Merrill Lynch on Friday approved the securities firm’s acquisition by Bank of America to create the nation’s largest financial services company.
Thain argues he was instrumental in averting what could have been a larger crisis at the firm by contacting Bank of America about a tie-up, the same day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the newspaper reports.
Members of Merrill’s compensation committee agree with Thain that the takeover was in shareholders’ best interest, but are weighing the fact that other Wall Street firms, such as Goldman Sachs, aren’t giving out bonuses to top executives, the Journal reports.
Once the merger of Bank of America and Merrill is completed, Thain will be in charge of the combined company’s global banking, securities and wealth management businesses. He won’t join the board of Bank of America.
Reuters points out that several other Wall Street firms –including Goldman Sachs, which did better than Merrill this year– will not be giving out bonuses to top executives this year. Though Thain’s company was sold to Bank of America this year, Thain argued that it could have been worse.
Thain has said he deserves a bonus because he helped avert what could have been a much larger crisis at the firm, people familiar with his thinking told the WSJ.
Members of Merrill’s compensation committee agree with Thain that the takeover is in shareholders’ best interest, but believe it would be foolish to ignore strong public sentiment against large compensation packages, the paper said, citing people familiar with their thinking.
In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.
Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.
Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.
Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.
“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.
General McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now counting on for help — “He’s got the heart of a lion” — or when he told Congress the next month that it should immediately supply Iraq with large numbers of armored vehicles and other equipment.
He had made similar arguments before he was hired by Defense Solutions, but this time he went further. In his testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan “not in the right ballpark” and urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.
“We’ve got Iraqi army battalions driving around in Toyota trucks,” he said, echoing an argument made to General Petraeus in the Defense Solutions briefing packet.
Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.
Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey.
General McCaffrey, 66, has long been a force in Washington’s power elite. A consummate networker, he cultivated politicians and journalists of all stripes as drug czar in the Clinton cabinet, and his ties run deep to a new generation of generals, some of whom he taught at West Point or commanded in the Persian Gulf war, when he rose to fame leading the “left hook” assault on Iraqi forces.
But it was 9/11 that thrust General McCaffrey to the forefront of the national security debate. In the years since he has made nearly 1,000 appearances on NBC and its cable sisters, delivering crisp sound bites in a blunt, hyperbolic style. He commands up to $25,000 for speeches, his commentary regularly turns up in The Wall Street Journal, and he has been quoted or cited in thousands of news articles, including dozens in The New York Times.
His influence is such that President Bush and Congressional leaders from both parties have invited him for war consultations. His access is such that, despite a contentious relationship with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has arranged numerous trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots solely for his benefit.
At the same time, General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism.
Transcript taken from Ralph Nader’s interview with Drunken Politics
More info is here: Votenader.org
On Corporate debates
Every major poll since 2000 has registered that a majority of the American people want Ralph Nader on the debates.
[In order for a third party candidate to get into the debates] five major polling companies have to poll 15% or higher that people want Nader/Gonzalez on the ticket. But the Commission on Presidential Debates won’t release the names of the polling organizations. And they won’t name the media conglomerates that owns the polling organizations. So if the media isn’t covering third party candidates, they obviously don’t poll well.
So we called Gallup, and asked if they are one of the five. They are. But Gallup said they don’t poll Nader/Gonzalez. This is classic deception. The whole thing is a commercial corporate rigged system designed to keep us off the debates. The game is corporate fascism.
Only a multi-billionaire like Michael Bloomberg could buy his way onto the debates by purchasing air time. It’s like what FDR said to Congress in 1938 “When government is controlled by private economic power, that’s fascism.”
So we know what the diagnosis is. The question is: what is the prescription?
In 2012, starting in early January, major national and local citizen groups in a massive coalition should get on a letterhead, lay out the entire schedule of 25 debates from Boston to San Diego, Miami to Seattle, for all the presidential candidates who have enough theoretical electoratal college states to win the election. That way, the dynamic shifts from the two parties, who control the agenda and have the photo opportunities, and sweep through certain states and ignore most of the states because they’re slam-dunk Republican or slam-drunk Democrat, and shift the entire power to shape the agenda into citizen groups, who then become participators, and not spectators.
On the Progressive Platform
What’s going on here is the concentration of too much wealth and power in the hands of the few. And they make decisions for the many. So it’s not surprising that the Nader/Gonzalez campaign and the agenda, which is supported by the majority of the American people: Single payer health, living wage getting out of iraq, cutting the bloated military budget, solar power first, no to nucleur power, is opposed by the minority of power brokers. That’s why we’re exluded from the debates.
It’s not our agenda, it’s your agenda.
The people are in a two party prison. The system is rigged, electoral college, winner take all. There can be something like a Green party in Germany because if you win 5% of the vote you get 5% of the parliament. Here, you’ve got to win 51% or a plurality, which is why people don’t support small starts to make them build into larger movements because they think: well, they’re only 4 or 5% in the polls and I don’t want to waste my vote. It’s time to break out of the prison.
Unfortunately, the only person who could do that is a mega-billionaire with liberal tendencies, who will blow the two parties into a three-way race. That’s coming. Mayor Bloomberg could have done that this year.
On Afghanistan Being Portrayed as the “Good War”
Afghanistan will be Obama’s Vietnam. He’ll sink in that quagmire. Just putting more soldiers in there controlling a high-tech attack on a low-tech resistance will kill a lot of civilians. And it already has and it’ll be more: wedding parties blown up, villagers blown up, children blown up, and that enflames and vastly expands the resistance in those rugged mountains. Nobody conquers those people. The British Empire tried twice and failed, the SU poured everything it had and failed, and the US will fail.
The finance Administrator for Karzai and head of the Afghan national university said you don’t do it that way. You do it through negotiation with tribal chieftons, by public works, by creating jobs, by getting these tribes that have a stake in passifying the area, but Obama, who’s father was an African from Kenya, he should know better, says to pour the soldiers in so he can show he’s more macho than McCain.
It was a macho battle in the third debate. Obama matched him in supporting the militaristic repression and exploitation and colonization of Palestine and its people, in being beligerant toward Iran, and in being beligerant toward Russia. This man is going to be the biggest disappointment ever. He’s a brilliant tactician and he’s pulled something off that nobody could have predicted, but he is going to be the biggest disappointment for Liberals and Progressives that they have ever seen. This is the biggest political con job in the last century, the Barack Obama victory. There’s no mandate. He just floated in. He had an easy act to follow. The Wall Street collapse opened the gap with McCain, who isn’t the greatest campaigner, and who wanted to be a clone of Bush, a disastourous tactical mistake for a so-called Maverick.
You take the 20 leading groups supporting him in the liberal-progressive pantheon: labor, anti-poverty, civil rights, women’s rights, gay-lesbian rights, environment, consumer – you name it – not one of them is putting any demands on him.
Unconditional voting for the least worst of the two parties means that your vote has no political leverage whatsoever. It allows Obama to take it for granted, and not give the anti-war people anything because He knows he has the anti-war vote. Just like Kerry turned his back on the anti-war movement. Then they go to the right wing and slice off a few votes there by going more corporate and flip-flop on offshore drilling. The same merry-go-around every 4 years.
The liberal intelligensia is doomed unless they solve this problem of unconditional voting for the least worst candidate.
On the Death Penalty/War on Drugs/ Cynthia McKinney
I’ve been against the death penalty since I was a student at Harvard Law school in the 1950s when I saw what kind of defense accused people of impoverished means got when they were prosecuted. They got the most incompetent lawyers, that meant a lot of innocent people got executed just for lack of effective defense. Some of these laywers are so bad they fall asleep in the middle of proceedings.
The death penalty doesn’t deter crime. And it’s much more expensive to proceed on a capital case toward execution than it is life imprisonment without parole. It’s always the poor and minorities who have the huge proportion of people that are executed. Finally, there’s a moral issue. Even Bill Clinton executed a retarded prisoner. Other western states don’t have the death penalty.
We’re for a national amnesty for all non-violent drug offenders. Let them out of jail and use the empty cells and fill them with convicted, corporate crooks. That will also improve prison conditions because powerful convicts just won’t stand for the food.
We don’t send nicotine addicts to jail, and cigarettes take 400,000 lives a year, 40 times what hard drugs do. And we don’t send alcoholics to jail. Why do we send drug addicts to jail? We’re not talking about kingpins. This isn’t a criminial issue. This is a health issue.
800,000 young people in this country are arrested every year in this country for possession mostly of small amounts of marijuana. This is madness, not to mention the billions of dollars this costs taxpayers.
On if Nader’s Raiders Would Be Possible Today
It would possible to form it, but the doors (in Washington) have slammed shut. That’s why I’m running for office. I’m trying to mobilize civic energy. Most of those citizen groups, and many of them I’ve started, just don’t like to admit that they are working harder and harder for virtually nothing. It’s corporate occupied territory. There isn’t one department agency, including departtment of labor that isn’t controlled by corporate influence inside and out. Look at the Treasury, Goldman Sachs veterans going to Washington to bail out their buddies, department of defense, deptartment of agriculture, interior, and so on. Either we organize new institutions, political institutions, or shut down and go watch the whales in Monterey.
The liberals and progressives just don’t want to face reality. It’s over, and it’s over with the Democrats, too.
The Democrats just thumb their noses at the groups that say you can’t pass the $700 billion bailout like this with a little Barney Frank and Chris Dodd window dressing. You’ve got to have reregulation now. This is when Washington had Wall Street over a barrel. You give authority to shareholders to control their out-of-control bosses, you make the speculators pay for their own bailouts with a 1/10 of 1% of a derivatives’ transaction sales tax. People pay 6-8% sales tax on necessities in stores as we’re speaking and there’s no sales tax on billions of dollars traded every day. It’s $500 trillion traded this year, so 1/10 of 1% would produce $500 billion. We need a speculation tax. But they’re too cowardly to even do that.
So they gave a blank check and said: ‘oh, we’ll look at it next year.’ These people are cowards. Aside from Kucinich and one or two other people, they’re cowards.
For years, colonialists have been angered by the policy of taxation without representation. The famous protester, John Hancock, arranges a boycott of the large company British East India
Company. Hancock begins to smuggle tea into the country illegally without paying taxes. Britain responds by allowing the East Tea Company to sell directly to the colonies thereby undercutting the profits of smugglers.
The East Tea Company is aided by lobbyists and powerful members of Parliament. The smugglers, including Samuel Adams and John Hancock, call for East Tea Company colonial employees to abandon their jobs.
Meanwhile, in an underground cellar in a Bostonian pub, the Sons of Liberty, the secret organization of American Patriots, are detained by British guards. Unbeknown to SoL members, they had been infiltrated by British spies, who have been reporting the group’s activities to His Majesty for the past five months. The Sons of Liberty are now a “terrorist organization,” and the members are arrested. The group is never able to meet Adams and Hancock at the harbor in order to dump the tea.
Undeterred, Adams and Hancock decide to dump the tea themselves. The Revolutionaries don war paint and feathers and sneak toward the ship. They are immediately stopped by Captain Roach and the royal governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson.
Hutchinson: Where’s your permit?
Adams: Our what?
Hutchinson: Your permit. You need a permit to protest here.
Hancock: Well, we didn’t have time to apply for one. Drastic times call for drastic measures, you know.
Adams: Anyway, there’s really no permit available for what we want to do…
Hutchinson: Which is what?
Adams: Dump the East Tea Company’s tea.
Roach: Good heavens! That’s positively Revolutionary!
Adams: That’s sort of the idea, yeah…
Hutchinson: You don’t really intend to break the law, do you?
Roach: Jesus H. Christ! The absolute Gall!
Hutchinson: No go. Sorry.
Hancock: Oh, C’mon!
Hutchinson: Nope. No.
Hutchinson: Tell you what: You can throw one tea bag into the harbor, but only one of you can go onto the ship. And you can’t make any noise. And take off those silly costumes. And the other one of you has to wait in a little pen I will construct out of wood and some mud. And did I mention you mustn’t raise your voice, or I will fine you a week’s wages?
(Enter stage left): A man appears from the shadows, scribbling furiously on parchment.
Man: Thomas Paine: citizen journalist! Are you repressing their right to freedom of expression?!
Hutchinson: (Tasers Paine)
Roach: That freedom doesn’t exist yet, punk. (Kicks Paine in the kidney)
Paine: (Cries in pain)
Adams: Holy crap!
Hutchinson: So what were you boys saying?
Adams and Hancock: Nothing! Nothing….
Adams and Hancock back away, hands held up in surrender before they turn and run away.
Americans take for granted their rights to taxation with representation, to protest, and to maintain certain human dignities. Oftentimes, they forget that the founding fathers were radicals, who broke the law, and faced the possibility of execution as they thumbed their noses at King George.
The $700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street is exactly the kind of taxation without representation that the founding fathers fought to reject over 200 years ago. Taxpayers, who had no control over predatory lending and shady deregulation, are now responsible for paying the bill while CEOs jump out of windows with their golden parachutes strapped safely to their backs.
At today’s Wall Street protest, Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzales, the Independent party presidential and vice-presidential nominees, called for the immediate termination of this taxpayer bailout. Just as the founding fathers rejected the tyrannical reign of King George, so Nader/Gonzales reject the tyrannical reign of George W. Bush and his corporate cronies.
In none of the presidential debates have either Barack Obama or John McCain called the bailout exactly what it is — the bailout of Capitalism and the unfair continuation of socialized debt with privatized profit.
Reaction to the worsening state of the economy has been tame for obvious reasons. The protest of America’s forefathers would be impossible today as illustrated in the fantasy Boston Tea Party above. Protesters would be immediately arrested and incarcerated if they took to Wall Street and lit Federal Hall ablaze. That kind of behavior would be called radical, Anarchist, and obscene.
So it’s too much to ask for a revolution, but at the least, politicians should speak frankly about the hold corporations and crooked Capitalism have on the country. The media has performed a blackout on third party candidates during this sham of an election, which is entirely financed by corporations like AT&T and Wachovia.
Americans can’t expect to have a frank and honest discussion about Constitutional violations (like wiretapping) and taxpayer bailouts of banks when the sponsors of their debates are the very entities under scrutiny: the phone companies and the banks. This is like asking McDonald’s to finance health education programs. Sponsoring debates about their own failings would work against the interests of these corporations, which is why there has been zero talk about wiretapping phones and the faltering of Free Trade policies.
For the sake of the American spirit, citizens must summon the same outrage felt that day on 1773. Citizens must reject the bailout, the neutered election process, and they must open the debates to third party candidates in order to reinvigorate the environment of passionate discussion missing in this 2008 election. Nearly half of the American people think Ralph Nader should be allowed in the presidential debates. They long to see the candidates challenged on issues like universal health care and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, instead of the normal, bland repeating of tired stump speeches. Now is the time to reinvigorate the American political process, and the first step is letting third party candidates into the debates.