Watching Bill Moryers’s interview with Mark Leibovich
today, on the system of relations in Washington, I learned what I could not have made up, could have have imagined. Justice is being subverted in DC on a
gargantuan and pervasive scale. Moral sensibility has been dulled all around, not only among the political leaders who
are being bought off by the powerful corporations but also among the
The details of Liebovich’s book are worth repeating, some of them discussed in the interview. Every person named here should be closely inspected for how he or she has caved into the powerful vortex of corporate interest, which now controls the way our country’s wealth is being divvied up.
Here I reproduce Bill Moyers’s critical summation of the situation at the end of the interview: it states so bluntly and vigorously the sense of outrage that the people of this country
should feel toward what is happening in Washington [I only wish I could write like him]. Washington is not a place where the interests of the
American people are being dutifully served but a place where vultures [the rich and well connected of all sorts] feed on the
wealth paid in by the ordinary Americans, distributing the largess in such a way as to insure that blame
is so broadly distributed that no one — no person, no corporation, no industry — can be held to account. Most of us don’t know how totally our country is dominated by an upper class that includes both parties and even a media that now sucks up to the powerful and connected.
BILL MOYERS: We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.
The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible. That’s the real joke.
Sometimes I long for the wit of a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. They treat this town as burlesque, and with satire and parody show it the disrespect it deserves. We laugh, and punch each other on the arm, and tweet that the rascals got their just dessert. Still, the last laugh always seems to go to the boldface names that populate this town. To them belong the spoils of a looted city. They get the tax breaks, the loopholes, the contracts, the payoffs.
They fix the system so multimillionaire hedge fund managers and private equity tycoons pay less of a tax rate on their income than school teachers, police and fire fighters, secretaries and janitors. They give subsidies to rich corporate farms and cut food stamps for working people facing hunger. They remove oversight of the wall street casinos, bail out the bankers who torpedo the economy, fight the modest reforms of Dodd-Frank, prolong tax havens for multinationals, and stick it to consumers while rewarding corporations.
We pay. We pay at the grocery store. We pay at the gas pump. We pay the taxes they write off. Our low-wage workers pay with sweat and deprivation because this town – aloof, self-obsessed, bought off and doing very well, thank you – feels no pain.
The journalists who could tell us these things rarely do – and some, never. They aren’t blind, simply bedazzled. Watch the evening news – any evening news – or the Sunday talk shows. Listen to the chit-chat of the early risers on morning TV — and ask yourself if you are learning anything about how this town actually works.
William Greider, one of our craft’s finest reporters, fierce and unbought, despite a long life in Washington once said that no one can hope to understand what is driving political behavior without asking the kind of gut-level questions politicians ask themselves in private: “Who are the winners in this matter and who are the losers? Who gets the money and who has to pay? Who must be heard on this question and who can be safely ignored?”
Perhaps they don’t ask these questions because they fear banishment from the parties and perks, from the access that passes as seduction in this town.
Or perhaps they do not tell us these things because they fear that if the system were exposed for what it is, outraged citizens would descend on this town, and tear it apart with their bare hands.
Senator Proxmire used to give The Golden Fleece Award to various government expenditures that he believed were a waste of the people’s money. Our Congress now has an approval rate of 11%. No matter: it pays to be there if for no other reason than the salaries and benefits they have voted for themselves. Here are the retirement pay amounts for some former members of Congress:
· former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt: $106,512 for 28 years as a Missouri congressman;
· former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle: $105,804 for 33 years as representative from South Dakota;
· former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole: $144,432 for 40 years as representative from Kansas;
· former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott: $110,352 after 39 years as a representative of Mississippi.
· Former Vice President Dick Cheney: $125,976, for 28 years as, Wyoming congressman, Secretary of Defense, White House chief of staff, and 8 years as VP;
· former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: $100,200 for 20 years in Congress. Bloomberg News notes without comment that Gingrich “has argued as a Republican presidential candidate that government employees ought to shoulder more of the burden for planning their retirements.” [Source: BillMoyers.com]
Remember: Such amounts they will be taking in every year for the rest of their lives.
Comment by someone serving in American government:
Meanwhile, my pay has been frozen for the last two years and will be for the foreseeable future. Thanks, Congress! Federal employees sure are out to soak the government… it’s good you’re shaving .005% off the deficit by asking us to take a hit.
CORRECTION: The only part of the statement below that Warren Buffett made was the first. The rest of it was invented by an unknown person. I like all of those ideas too, but some of them are in fact misleading. The Constitution is not amended by popular petition.
Below is a statement that has been circulating, about how to fix the logjam in Congress. The proposal was made by Warren Buffett. It was first expressed in a recent interview with CNBC, and now is being circulated in the form of a potential amendment to the Constitution. I don’t know if this is the solution, but I am fed up with the way things are done in Washington, and I believe that most Americans are too, and from all over of the political spectrum. So a move to add an amendment to the Constitution to solve some the problem seems ever more appealing.
What do you think?
“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,” Buffett told CNBC. “You just pass a law that says that any time there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 … before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land … all because of public pressure.
Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around. *Congressional Reform Act of 2011*
1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.
If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time. THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete. You are one of my 20. Please keep it going.
Dr. Robert Canfield Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis