Thursday, March 19, 2009

Say What?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Life is fairly predictable, world events are generally predictable, and American politics are completely predictable - or so I thought - until today. We all know that Democrats cater to the poor and the unions, and Republicans wrap themselves in the flag, hold a cross in one hand and an automatic weapon in the other, and take care of the rich while trying to convince the rednecks that the GOP is the only path to national salvation.

Nothing changes in American politics - ever! Well, sometimes one of the parties will come up with a rock star candidate - Raygun or Obama for example, but basically the same arguments drag on for generations with one party running things for a few years and then the public opinion pendulum swings back and the other party gets to have the power for awhile. It is so predictable, and progress seems to take forever.

That is why I was so shocked when I heard the news tonight. It was like I had an enormous mind fart and woke up on another planet. I blame the rotten Bush economy. It has shaken the bedrock of the established American political landscape and left things topsy-turvey.

I am getting ready to talk about the AIG bailout and the recent discovery that their executives - like those at Merrill Lynch (Bank of America) - got their bonuses at taxpayer expense even though they had proved themselves to be incompetent during the last year. I haven't written about AIG because to do so would have been pointless. The milk has been spilt and there has been little else in the news for the past few days. My two-cents worth would not have added anything significant to the brew.

But the story just keeps getting better and better, and now I can't help myself!

AIG was apparently able to pay the bonuses because of a legislative sleight-of-hand committed by Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut and the son of a disgraced Connecticut Democratic Senator from another era. Dodd, when cornered, admitted that he had secretly taken a provision out of legislation that would have blocked the bonuses. He said that treasury officials had asked him to do it for the good of the country. And Dodd, btw, has received more cash from AIG that any other member of the U.S. Senate. (Look for lots more on that story in coming days.)

So, between Senator Dodd and Obama's Treasury Department, there were Democratic fingerprints all over the AIG bonuses. There was no way that the Republicans could lose on this issue - unless they were mortally stupid. But lose they did.

First of all, the Democrats got the jump on the issue with the President going on TV and railing about the awfulness of what had happened. His indignation was loud and it was righteous. Then, before Republicans could get their bearings, Congressional Democrats started thundering about how awful it all was. The Democrats in Congress came up with a plan to put a 90% tax on the bonuses, effectively returning the money to the U.S. Treasury.

The Republicans wanted to be indignant, too, because that's where the public was on the issue. But the Democrats had outflanked them. They knew that Republicans typically rally around the rich, and everyone knows how much Republicans hate taxes on the rich.

The House of Representatives voted on the 90% tax on the bonuses today. Democrats overwhelmingly voted for the measure (98%), but the Republicans inexplicably voted against it 87-85. What the hell were they thinking?

With today's vote in the House, the Republican party consigned itself to ignominy for the next decade. They could have easily blamed this sordid affair on the Democrats (with a fair amount of justification), but instead they chose to give up the moral high ground to protect a few rich slimeballs and a principle that isn't in sync with the country's views or needs.

The Republicans seem to be intent on committing political suicide. Democrats would be well served to sit on their hands, keep quiet, and let it happen.

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