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Political Animal

More of McSame

By Brian Morton | Posted 4/2/2008

In the end, it always comes back to money.

Back in 2000, George W. Bush did this fiscal sleight of hand when he talked to audiences about how he would roll back taxes and give the money back to "the people." After six tax cuts in eight years, we now know that those "people" weren't everybody--they were "his" people. In the meantime, we've seen gas prices more than double, and the collapses of Enron, WorldCom, and Arthur Anderson sucked millions out of regular people's financial portfolios. Plus there was that first Bush recession, when 401(k)s looked more like 201(k)s or 101(k)s.

Have we forgotten so soon the blatant financial fleecery of the early years of the Bush administration (as opposed to the later years of the Bush administration)? The Sun's underrated financial writer Jay Hancock told us back in 2003 how shareholders in Tyco International all but encouraged that company's board of directors to take them to the cleaners after losing 70 percent of their investments in Tyco in one year. And here we are in 2008 watching Bear Stearns fold like a well-worn dollar bill. And worse still, if in the end public money helps bail it out, it's only an encouragement to Wall Street--a reward for bad behavior.

Following in the footsteps of George W. "Double Dip Recession" Bush comes John "McSame" McCain, who admits in public that economics isn't his strong suit, but nevertheless, he tells The Wall Street Journal that his solution for the economic trough we're entering is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and cut corporate tax rates.

Wow--why do we bother having elections in the first place? With a plan like that, if McCain wins in November, he shouldn't even bother with an inaugural, since it will be more of the same disastrous fiscal policies that got us where we are now. The Bush agenda has been to move as much of the tax burden as possible from wealth to work--if you've got the financial portfolio of Paris Hilton before her jail stint got her written out of the will, you'll love that kind of future. But that kind of economic plan ensures that the future of America is borne on the back of wage slaves, while an increasingly more privileged few enjoy the free ride on the gilded litter on which we're carrying them. I don't know about you, but I have no desire to carry the next decade's Cleopatras on my back.

Never mind that McCain also wants to drop the corporate tax rate another 10 percent, from 35 percent to 25 percent, and he's a proponent of keeping the troops in Iraq, which is the giant $150 billion money-sucking hole in the budget that the Bush people have been determined to keep off the books forever.

Just think for a minute if Bush had gotten his way back in 2005 and was able to "reform" Social Security and "privatize" that money into the stock market and Wall Street. Modern conservatives have never been fans of financial regulation, and Bush more than most has always been as accommodating as possible toward those who want to take incredible risks with other people's money. Nearly every financial scandal over the last seven years has been due to the administration's laissez-faire attitude toward regulation, and the slap-on-the-wrist penalties have done nothing but give the wink-and-nod to Wall Street to keep refining its shell games.

What we get with McCain is someone who will turn the steering wheel over to people like former senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who has never been accused of caring too much for society's less well off. The late Molly Ivins pointed out how once, when Gramm was told about how a proposed change in Social Security benefits would hurt 80-year-old retired Americans, he responded, "Most people don't have the luxury of living to be 80 years old, so it's hard for me to feel sorry for them."

If McCain is the hypermacho brain of the future Republican Party, Gramm is its shriveled little black heart. Gramm is the one who, back in 1999, pushed through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which pulled out the bottom piece of the Jenga puzzle that led to this year's subprime mortgage collapse. Politico.com reported that after leaving the Senate, Gramm lobbied for the GOP Congress to roll back strong laws against predatory mortgage lending--and collected $750,000 in fees (along with two partners) for his efforts.

No matter which Democrat comes out the victor in Denver this summer, whether it is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, it's clear that the Republican that person faces will still be the same "gild the rich and soak the poor" candidate that we have seen for the last seven years. H

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