Archive - Oct 26, 2009

The Disappointment Deficit

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Unless you're a Democratic officeholder, in which case you are doomed to disappoint.

There is one, and really only one, way in which the politics of Republicans are aligned completely in reality, while Democrat politics are rooted in fantasy. And that's in our perception of our party's relationship to business. You see, we, as Democrats - or more likely, as liberals supporting Democrats due to the lack of any other viable option - have an attitude that businesses and corporations call "anti-business" or "anti-profit".

The truth is, of course, more nuanced. I'm not anti-profit. I'm just against businesses being able to game the system to increase their profits in ways that hurt people, society, or both. There was a time when that was a perfectly reasonable, mainstream viewpoint, but then the 80s happened, and suddenly reasonable became radical, while Democrats did their damndest to remain reasonable.

Anyway, to get to the point. Most, if not all, politicians are beholden to corporate interests to a degree that ranges from compromised pragmatism in the face of campaign financing necessities, all the way to full-on, would-you-like-another-blowjob-Mr.-Abramoff whoredom. As a result, most, if not all politicians will at one point or another in their careers roll over and show their soft underbelly to Big Business, while casually throwing their constituents and American society under the bus.

When a Republican does this, nobody cares, because this is the stated party platform, and they've done an excellent job convincing rural, poor Americans that all those tires crushing them are actually a delightful and relaxing Shiatsu massage with a happy ending*. When a Democrat does it, and they do it all the fucking time, they do so in direct contradiction of their own principles, and in some cases, their own campaign promises.

For example, offshore tax havens, or, as they're currently being called, the overseas profits of multinational companies. And while this could mean the buck or so Coke earns every time someone needs a caffeine fix in Prague, it could also just as easily mean one of your dollars that is currently living in a post office box in the Cayman Islands. Barack Obama campaigned on closing these loopholes, loopholes that cost us hundreds of billions a year. Multinational corporations, however, didn't like the idea of losing their offshore tax havens. Guess who won?

Obama has "shelved" any tax code overhaul for the time being, according to the Wall Street Journal, who probably thought the Rapture** had come early. And what is the testy and tenuous debate over the "public option" among Democrats? Nothing but an argument about how much they're going to put out for the insurance companies. Not whether or not they're going to put out at all, of course. They're already in bed and naked, they're just negotiating completely non-sexual terms like "opt-out" and "trigger".

But nowhere is this more apparent, and appalling, than with the Al Franken Rape-Is-Bad Amendment of 2009. If you're somehow unfamiliar with the background, allow me to summarize. It turns out that a lot of government contractors, like KBR and Halliburton, have mandatory arbitration clauses in their employee's contracts. As a result, if something bad happens to an employee, like, oh, being gang-raped and then locked in a shipping container when she goes to complain, that employee doesn't get to sue the employer in a civil court for, say, maintaining the kind of environment in which employees can be gang-raped and locked in a shipping container for days.

Instead, the employee's only recourse is arbitration, in which a business whose business it is to settle complaints like this between employees and businesses steps in, hears the facts of the case, and decides in favor of the business. So Al Franken, being new to the Senate and five years away from an election campaign, introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that said if companies want to do business with the United States government, you have to give your employees access to the court system if something as bad as gang-rape happens to them.

Tellingly, the only people who voted against this amendment were male Republicans. Somewhat tellingly, the Department of Defense and White House complained, suggesting that Congress should deal with the issue in a way that didn't mean extra work for the DOD and White House. And very, very, tellingly indeed... ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Multiple sources have told the Huffington Post that Sen. Dan Inouye, a longtime Democrat from Hawaii, is considering removing or altering the provision, which was offered by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and passed by the Senate several weeks ago. Inouye's office, sources say, has been lobbied by defense contractors adamant that the language of the Franken amendment would leave them overly exposed to lawsuits and at constant risk of having contracts dry up."

Same old story. Businesses simply cannot comply with regulations, laws, or any restriction on behavior that, to a casual observer, seems completely fucking immoral and unethical, because they might get sued or lose their valuable contracts. And the Democrats they have in their back pocket roll over, and even a well-intentioned attempt to curb the worst excesses of the no-bid, free-for-all, massacring, raping, and stealing mercenaries that Dubya hired, gets flushed down the toilet.

And so we are disappointed. If we were Republicans, we wouldn't be disappointed, because we would be expecting this to happen, we'd be rooting for it to happen, and then it would happen. Those of us who, however, reject the concept once pithily phrased as "What's good for General Motors is good for America" are doomed, because we can never make enough $20 donations over the Internet to buy all the politicians back. And all the other traditional checks on blatant whoredom - the press, regulatory agencies, common decency, and shame - evaporated years ago.

*And by "happy ending", I mean The Rapture, not a hand job, you pervs.

**And by "the Rapture", I of course mean a hand job, because being called bodily into heaven would mean the Wall Street Journal editors wouldn't be vested in all their stock options.