Good Cop Bad Cop
You know how this works, right? There’s a crime suspect alone in a room. In comes the bad cop and puts on a simian threat display, maybe even slaps the guy around a little, then leaves. His partner comes in, “Hey, buddy, I thought you’d like a cup of coffee. That other guy, my partner, well, he’s kind of a loose cannon. You’re better off dealing with me.” It’s called good cop, bad cop, but keep in mind that they’re on the same team. I’ve been wondering lately if this isn’t the same game the Democrats and Republicans have been playing on us. They’re all on the same team, the millionaire’s club.
The progressive media spin the narrative like this: the Democrats are trying to help the middle class and poor have a better life and all that stuff, but those mean Republicans are blocking everything. The right wing spins it differently: this President is spending us into a fiery inferno of debt, from which we’ll never escape (never mind that all spending bills must arise in the House, which is controlled by the Republicans). It all looks pretty convincing, until you look a little more closely. In the Senate since Obama first took office, the Republicans have perverted the filibuster rule to such an extent that every bill the Democrats are interested in requires at least 60 votes to even begin debate. And yet Harry Reid had a chance at the beginning of each of the last two Congresses to change the rules, and did nothing. On the first day of the new Congress, Senate rules can be changed with a simple majority, and cannot be filibustered. Reid and his Democratic majority could have limited the filibuster, changed the number of votes needed, or done away with it altogether. The fact that no changes were made, makes me suspicious. I think we’ve all been suckers on this long con. Now the Democrats have the perfect excuse for not getting anything done — “Oh, we’d like to, but those mean Republicans won’t let us!”
It wasn’t always thus. For decades, Democrats have traditionally been pro-labor, and the Republicans pro-business. But they were able to find compromise and get legislation passed. Over the past thirty years, though, there has been what Chris Hedges calls a “slow-motion coup d’ etat” by the wealthy and mega corporations. Between the 50s and 70s America had the biggest era of economic prosperity ever, and a thriving and robust middle class. Today we have the largest wealth inequality of any of the developed nations. Why? Because money and power rules everything, now. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) put it succinctly in 2011: “The banks own Capitol Hill.” There are 535 members of Congress, and 36,000 lobbyists in Washington, D.C. That’s 67 for every congress member. And they all have lots of candy to give out for favors. It used to be called bribery, and people used to go to jail for it.
Let me give you a couple examples of how the long con works. After the Occupy movement brought awareness that the corporations and the rich weren’t paying their share of income tax, Congress put their heads together (behind closed doors). “Okay, our little oligarchy scheme has been exposed, so we have to respond. Let’s make a really big deal over raising taxes on the rich a measly 3.6 %, to 39.6. We all know the top marginal rate should be at least 60-70 %, but this will make them think we got the message.” It may as well have happened that way.
You may recall the latest NDAA, National Defense Authorization Act. That’s the funding for the Pentagon’s many wars, and it has to be reauthorized every two years, per the Constitution. But this one had some nasty perversions, I mean provisions. Section 1021 said the military could pick up and indefinitely detain anyone suspected of terrorism — no charges, no trial, no access to legal counsel. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) played the good cop, by introducing an amendment to exempt U.S. citizens. The White House and other Senate Democrats shut her down. Maybe I’m wrong, but the evidence keeps adding up.
Look at the economic meltdown in the fall of 2008. The greedheads on Wall Street nearly brought the country to ruin, to say nothing of the world economy. How many of them went to jail? How many were even indicted? Zero and zero. That should tell us something. It doesn’t help that in Eric Holder, we have perhaps the most impotent Attorney General in our nation’s history. But why should we be surprised? He once represented Chiquita Banana, who was behind kill squads who murdered union organizers in Latin America.
Congress and the White House no longer represent the will of the people. In poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly approve of background checks in order to purchase firearms (including a majority of gun owners). The majority of us want the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. We want to strengthen our social safety net, not tear it down. Most of us want universal health care for all Americans, and we don’t have a problem with marriage equality. But our voices are not being heard. On this point, I think both the Right and the Left can agree.
This is not to say there aren’t good people in Congress; there certainly are. But for every Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, there are ten or twenty who have completely sold out. Nearly all members of Congress are millionaires, and they’d like to keep the status quo moving along as smoothly as possible. Forty years ago Frank Zappa said that politicians are obsolete for problem solving. Thirty years ago George Carlin said that these people in Congress don’t give a f**k about you. It looks more and more like they were both right. All the sturm and drang in the House and Senate is nothing more than a Punch-and-Judy show. Congress doesn’t run this country anymore, the oligarchs do. Even government agencies whose job is regulating industries like Exxon-Mobil or Monsanto, are staffed by people who represent the industries, and many were formerly employed by them. It’s known as “agency capture,” and I refer you back to Mr. Holder for Exhibit A. I could easily write a separate column on this, and maybe I should. You should also realize that most of the media who report to us, are themselves millionaires.
On this last April 10th, President Obama released his budget plan. Unbelievably, he’s poised to become the first Democratic President ever to cut Social Security. I don’t know how much clearer that could be. The disastrous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010 opened the floodgates for the wealthiest to buy elections, or any other damn thing they want. The people we elect to Congress either go along, or they get millions thrown at them in attack ads by shadowy PACs, with no way to trace the money. There is a word that first entered the English language meaning the merger of business with government. It’s called fascism. “Poor people? The hell with ’em!” doesn’t just apply to the Republicans any more.