Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
I can’t stand “isms” of any kind. Fascism, communism, Islamism, extremism, they only produce three things: death, destruction and a lot of tedious conversation.
It’s the predictability that bothers me. Given any situation, you just know how they’ re going to act. The answers are always the same – a Fuhrer, a Marx or an Allah – and the enemies all start to look alike, too. Capitalists, infidels, inferior races. John Adams was right: Ideology is idiocy.
Which is why I’m not only angry but tired of one of our most predictable Americanisms – fat-cat Republicanism. And unfortunately, it’s President Bush who acting predictably. Why can’t country-club Republicans (no, they are not extinct) do something unpredictable? Does Act II for the Republican Party always have to consist of the same income redistribution – from the taxpayers to the fat cats? Consider the following questions and answers:
Q: How could Enron get away with ripping off its employees, shareholders and creditors in the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history?
A: Enron management gave $482,722 to the Bush campaign, or the inauguration or the Republican National Committee after – that’s right – after the 2000 election. By the way, you don’t need a program to recognize the managers. As the company was circling the drain, they were the suits selling Enron stock while preventing their employees from doing the same.
Q: Why would a big outfit like AMR Corporation (which owns American Airlines) want Bush to give them special tax loopholes that would allow the company to retroactively deduct losses from two years ago?
A: Because they can!
Q: And why can they?
A: Because they might be losing a bundle running an airline, but there is one investment that’s paid off handsomely – the shares of George W. Bush they bought after the 2000 election by contributing to his campaign, or the inauguration or the Republican National Committee.
Q: Did the fact that Lockheed Martin contributed $459,200 to the Repubs have anything to do with the fact that they were just awarded billions and billions in new fighter jet contracts?
A: Probably not.
Q: Did it hurt their prospects for winning the contract?
OK, I could go down a long list that begins to look more and more like the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Corporate donors that shoveled in $300,000 and up since the election include The National Rifle Association (gee, I wonder what they want), AT&T, Microsoft (just a little a thank-you note from Bill Gates), pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Bristol Meyers Squibb (Hmm, let me think about this – will the Republican Party oppose price controls on prescription drugs?) and insurance biggie Aflac (you know, the commercial where the little duck goes “Quack! Quack!” – which translated, means, “Federal rules to limit lawsuits against quacks! Quacks!”).
Of course, I could go on and on about this, but then I’d start to sound predictable – especially when groups like tort lawyers and labor unions are shoveling in the same amounts of cash to the Democrats. So what’s the answer?
Declare a cease-fire between interest groups. OK, so the unions have to counter the big corporations who have to counter the trial lawyers who have to counter the big insurers and so forth ad nauseam. The federal government should declare a two-year moratorium on union and corporate and professional group campaign contributions while “our” elected representatives could work out an authentic campaign finance-reform system. Otherwise, it’ll be more campaign cash influencing the course of campaign reform. On second thought, maybe it would be easier to get Arafat and Sharon talking.
Restart the system with new rules. Here’s one to consider – any group can give any amount to anyone they want – but it must be disclosed on the Internet within 24 hours of the check being received or – no ifs, ands or buts – the giver and the pol goes right to the can. (Although I personally prefer taxpayer financing of federal elections.) The givers would have to tell you who they really are. No more “citizens’ committees” with phony-sounding names that conceal more than reveal.
Make lawyers and accountants cops. You heard that right. Everything that happens in this country is either “on advice of counsel” or “my accountant told me to do it.” I would say to all lawyers and accountants: If your client asks you to start looking for loopholes in the campaign finance laws, you better start looking for a new job, because that’s just what you’ll need after you’ve been disbarred. Either your client doesn’t do it, or you rat him out.
Televise joint conference committee sessions. When the House and Senate meet behind closed doors to finalize a bill, that’s where even a deaf guy can hear, “Cha-ching! Cha-ching!” as the special-interest cash registers run overtime. Instead of “how a bill becomes law,” it’s more like, “how a law gets billed,” – to the special interests paying for it. If you really want to clean the stables, televise these meetings where the fine print meets the law.
And so my recommendation to President Bush is to make history rather than repeat it. Suggest something like the foregoing, and you’ll understand what Mark Twain meant when he said, “Always do the right thing. You’ll surprise some people, and astonish the rest!