The Election Is Over; Not That Much Has Changed

November 10th, 2006 - by admin

Jon Carroll / San Francisco Chronicle – 2006-11-10 23:23:00

(November 10, 2006) — Because I’m a kindly fellow, I’m going to give you one minute more to rejoice about the election returns. Yes, the Bush-Cheney military-industrial-evil complex finally took one on the chin, and it made a very satisfying sound.

People who were afraid that Karl Rove had magic witchy-witchy electoral powers were relieved. And some pretty nasty individuals (Richard Pombo, Rick Santorum) had one or more sleepless nights, and although we are much too evolved humans to take pleasure in that, we can take pleasure in the fact that less evolved people will take pleasure in this discomfiture of villains.

OK, playtime is over. Nothing has changed. Same president, same policies, same corruption, same continuing embarrassments.

First, a lot of those losing Republican incumbents will immediately move down K Street and become lobbyists. They will make substantially more money, and they will get to do essentially the same job: They will write the laws that govern our nation.

The Bush administration has long ago committed itself to an imperial presidency, in which the most important official document is the signing statement. The president will continue to do whatever he wants to do, or whatever he is told to do, depending on your current organizational theory of the White Bunker. If Congress passes something he doesn’t like, he will veto it.

Evolution? Still a hypothesis. Global warming? Alarmist nonsense. Christianity? Still the religion of all true Americans. At least we won’t have Bill Frist around anymore, diagnosing comatose women via television.

The Cabinet serves at the pleasure of the president, so all the guys (well, mostly guys) who used to work for the industries they now regulate will continue to ignore environmental laws, cut sweetheart deals and generally make sure that all the right people make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible. Because, in 2008, we might have a Democratic president! And then … I’m not going to be cynical about hypothetical events right now; I’m too busy being cynical about real events.

Oh, the Supreme Court: still packed with Bush loyalists. They stole one election; there’s no reason on earth why they can’t steal another.

So Donald Rumsfeld got tossed overboard — who cares? Robert Gates is a reliable hack who will strive mightily to keep Dick Cheney happy. We will continue to, as they used to say, meet interesting people from foreign lands and kill them. There is no viable exit strategy from Iraq; doesn’t matter who’s in charge. Eventually, we will have the good sense to cut and run, but don’t hold your breath on that one.

(In these delicate situations, many nations have found it useful to have allies. In a signing statement, however, the Bush administration redefined “allies” as “people who will do what we tell them to do.” The United Nations might be useful here as well, if it had any power, which it doesn’t because it doesn’t do what we tell it to do. See a theme emerging?)

Is there something the new, muscular, oh-so-Democratic Congress can do? Sure. A Democrat did it before: It was called the Truman Commission. It investigated fraud and abuse in military contracts; it cracked down on war profiteering.

According to Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies, not only did the commission save the American people an estimated $15 billion (in 1941 dollars), but its very presence also deterred other businesses from trying the same stunts.

Defense contracts for 2005 alone: $270 billion, with untold more billions tucked into random appropriations in what are inevitably called “little-noticed provisions” in other bills.

The writer Lewis Lapham, only half joking, made a very convincing case for the notion that the Iraq war was started solely as a cash cow, a reliable revenue stream, for certain multinational corporations. That is, of course, left-wing paranoid conspiracy talk, and it’s probably not true. Unless it is.

The one power that Congress has, and has always had: It can embarrass powerful people in public. It can hold hearings, and it can publicize the hearings. Harry Truman, when he was a little-known senator from Missouri, actually drove around to defense plants and said, “Hi, I’m a senator, show me stuff.” Someone could even do that.

Between 1941 and 1948, the Truman Commission (he wasn’t on it in the last years, of course, because the presidency is such a time-consuming job) called 1,978 witnesses to 432 hearings and issued 51 reports. That was probably the high-water mark for government oversight of big business; all I’m suggesting now is Congress attempt to struggle up from the current low-water mark.

Do I have advice for the new Congress? Why, yes I do: Try to kill as few people as possible. If it thinks it could manage that, it could also perform sundry acts of kindness.

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