James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Played for suckers again

Boy, are Americans big time suckers or what?

We’re such fools that we can be slapped, cheated and lied to in the most outrageously obvious way and we keep going back for more.

If there’s one thing the average American hates more than being conned, it’s admitting that he or she has been conned; Americans would rather be robbed time and again than own up to the fact that they handed the burglars the keys to the front door. They’d rather give up economic well-being, freedom, their children’s and grandchildren’s futures than admit to such stupidity.

Better we should turn blind eyes to criminal greed and evil than take such a hit to our fragile egos.

I know those statements to be true, because I’ve been watching the president in action since Hurricane Katrina. Watching George W. Bush, too, because one must pay attention to the dummy in a ventriloquist act. Also watching the news and the public’s reactions.

Karl Rove’s contempt for the American public is open and complete, and as he gets away with more and more, it becomes ever more obvious to those willing and able to see. He and his Georgie and Charlie and Mortimer and all the moth-eaten bit players hardly bother to try to hide it any more. They mock us to our faces and suffer no more than the most temporary of consequences – a brief dip in the polls at most.

Of course, a tame and cowardly press is useful in keeping us stupid and on the sucker list, but it’s no longer clear that if broadcasters and newspapers suddenly starting doing their jobs it would alter the course of our lemming run at this point. Given the refusal of corporate news operations in this country to report the news adequately and accurately, we’ll probably never know for sure.

OK, I will explain what brought me to this degree of disgust. A few examples should suffice.

One of the big complaints against the Bushies that began to take hold some months back was that the corporations through which the administration and our Republican Congress funnel our tax money into the pockets of their patrician friends and campaign supporters had greatly overstepped the bounds of normal war profiteering in Iraq.

A small but growing number of people who "Support Our Troops" has seen some of the rare news reports on the degree to which Halliburton and its counterparts have cheated our soldiers in order to gather more profits unto themselves. It’s been years now and personal and vehicle armor still is inadequate, but those no-bid, cost-plus contracts are making millions for the stockholders. And that’s without the $8-billion plus that has simply "gone missing" in Iraq.

As the entire Iraq "democracy" curtain unravels in Iraq, even some previously unquestioning patriots have begun to ask whether all the deaths and maimings of men, women and children are worth the results.

Then came Katrina.

The Bushies took enormous and entirely deserved heat for their ineptitude and lack of concern for the suffering. Briefly.

After a jaw-dropping display of sociopathology and the resulting bad press, the administration tossed a couple of cookies to those offended by their behavior.

"Good Job Brownie" – FEMA head Michael Brown, like Bush a career incompetent – finally was canned, and the Big Puppet stood up and said that everything will be rebuilt and restored. Without any increase in taxes, of course.

And where are we now?

Assuming you get much of your news off the Internet – from the foreign press and various reliable Net news services – you know at least some of what’s going on. If you read your local daily newspaper and watch television news, you may have missed all the real news.

The really hot item, I think, is that in the face of criticism for pouring our tax dollars directly into the profit bins of a handful of favored corporations such as Halliburton and Bechtel, the Bush crowd is using the mess in the Gulf area to – you got it! – pour more of our tax dollars into the profit bins of Halliburton, Bechtel and the same handful of other favored companies.

Again, the Bushies are dispensing no-bid, cost-plus contracts with the abandon of a Macy’s Santa throwing candy from a Thanksgiving Day float. And, yes, the contracts are going to the same corporations, those that have cheated, lied and stolen from our troops. Supposedly, there is a $250,000 limit on the no-bid aspect to at least some of the new contracts, but as National Public Radio reported, that $250,000 is "per order," not per contract. If you break up the contracts into small bites, the amount you can skim from the public trough is without limit. As in Iraq, there are virtually no controls over the contracts, no monitoring of costs or quality of goods and services.

Not enough for you to feel like a sucker?

How about the fact that while there are no limits on the profits the favored companies can take from us, the administration issued a proclamation Sept. 10 suspending the law that required employers to pay "locally prevailing wages" to workers on federally-financed projects. The proclamation applies specifically to parts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida hit by the big storm.

In plain language, the pet corporations can charge us whatever they want for anything they do – or do nothing for cash received, for all we’ll ever know – while paying the people working for them no more than minimum wage. That should give a nice boost to those already inflated profits.

Then there's the fact that while Katrina was almost the only story being reported in this country, the Republicans held off on their plan to give another huge tax break to the super rich by doing away with the estate tax. (It's not a "death tax" and contrary to the standard Republican lie, it does not affect any family farmers or small business people.) Passage of the big tax break would have looked bad indeed in the face of all that coverage of how the poor were suffering. But that tax break will be back before Congress very soon, and it probably will pass; suckers have short attention spans.

And did you know that the Bushies are using Katrina -- and now probably Rita -- to push their plan for privatizing education in this country?

Yup. The administration is trying to use hurricane devastation to institute a school voucher program. Under that little cutey, kids in areas where public schools have been destroyed, or become even more overcrowded because of influxes of storm refugees, would be handed vouchers and sent off to private (read religious) schools. That's instead of rebuilding public schools, of course.

Oh, just one more:

While this doesn’t apply directly to Katrina and storm recovery activities, it is related.

Remember Michael Brown, the FEMA head who, it was clearly shown, held his job only because he was a pal of the previous FEMA boss. He was, as was widely demonstrated, a generally useless individual who couldn’t even make it as the executive of a show-horse organization.

Now, in the midst of the hurricane debacle and in the face of widespread complaints of administration cronyism, the Bushies are trying to appoint a lawyer named Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Like FEMA, that is now a piece of the ironically named Department of Homeland Security.

Myers, 36, has no immigration or customs experience, and no experience in managing a large operation of any kind. However, during the past four years she did work at the White House and at the departments of Commerce, Justice and Treasury and as chief of staff to Michael Chertoff, now head of Homeland Security, when he was at the Justice Department. That’s the same Chertoff who backed Brown for the FEMA job.

Myers also worked for Kenneth Starr for 16 months, and most recently was a special assistant to George W. Bush, handling "personnel issues."

Doesn’t that just warm the cockles of your heart? Loyalty rewarded again, and to hell with qualifications.

Oh, I forgot. Myers married Chertoff’s chief of staff, John Wood, less than a week ago as I write this. Probably doesn’t matter at all that her uncle is Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, who’s about to retire as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If you’re not writing your newspapers and, individually, its editors, if you’re not writing and calling your senators and members of Congress, if you’re just sitting back and letting this happen, go look in a mirror. You’ll see a lump on a stick; the only question is whether it’s raspberry or grape, or something less desireable.