Monday, December 21, 2015

Budget deal illustrates why people are angry at Congress

Sometimes legislators show their true faces, and tell you what their real priorities are. 1 year before the 2016 elections, large majorities in both houses of Congress signed off on $629 million in tax breaks over the next 10 years in a Christmas Tree of a budget bill last week. This bill will expand budget deficits while making permanent many breaks that affect very few people, and indicates that apparently the Republicans that head up Congress aren't as interested in lowering budget deficits as they claimed to their constituents in recent years.

In addition to the headline parts of the deal, there were two examples shining through that only self-interested politicians and lobbyists could ask for. This first was tipped off to me in a Facebook post put up yesterday by State Rep. Gordon Hintz (one of the favorites here at the Funhouse).

I understand why all of the things get jammed into a spending bill. But if you look at whose interests were served, it is not difficult to understand why the public is cynical about government.

Posted by Gordon Hintz on Sunday, December 20, 2015
And here are some of the special goodies that Eric Lipton and Liz Moyer describe in the New York Times article Rep. Hintz links to.
David Bonderman, a founding partner of TPG Capital, which has large holdings in companies that stand to benefit from the last-minute change. His family has donated $1.2 million since 2014 to the Senate Majority PAC, a campaign fund with close ties to Mr. Reid and other Senate Democrats.

Some executives at companies with the most at stake are also big campaign donors. For example, the family of David Bonderman, a co-founder of TPG Capital, has donated $1.2 million since 2014 to the Senate Majority PAC, a campaign fund with close ties to Mr. Reid and other Senate Democrats. TPG Capital has large holdings in Caesars Entertainment and helps run a Texas-based energy company, both of which stand to benefit from the last-minute change.

“For Senator Reid, it was important, as he represents Nevada, to help the large employers in his state,” said Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Reid. She noted that Caesars, MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming, all Nevada-based casino companies, could benefit. A spokesman for Mr. Bonderman said he had played no direct role in pushing the cause, but did not dispute that his company was involved in the discussions with congressional staff members....

The effort to close the loophole was among many provisions in the $1.15 trillion spending plan and separate $622 billion tax plan that had special patrons. Language inserted into the federal budget over the objection of the Obama administration by Senator Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi, directed the Coast Guard to build a $640 million National Security Cutter in Mississippi that the Coast Guard says it does not need.

“If we are funded for it and Congress says you are going to have a ninth cutter, I guess that is how it goes,” said Chief Warrant Officer Chad Saylor, a Coast Guard spokesman. “But we are good with eight.”
Another part of the budget bill that should have been marked "for lobbyists and insider politicians only" was mentioned by Esquire Politics columnist Charlie Pierce, and it involves some of the tax evasion and donor-hiding that has been central to the John Doe controversy here in Wisconsin.
Buried in the budget deal that now has emerged from Congress is a provision by which the IRS will be actively forbidden from enacting new rules in 2016 to rein in the obvious scams in which most of the 501(c)4's engage. I don't care how loudly the flying monkeys howl at Speaker Paul Ryan for "betraying" them by striking a deal at all, this is the real joker in the deck, and the fact that this principle was so easily bargained away says a great deal about the people in power from both political parties. They have accepted the new reality of legalized influence-peddling and are finding ways to prosper in it. This, I guess, is another New Normal in our politics. Absent a constitutional amendment, campaign-finance reform legislation now appears to be as expendable in negotiations—and, therefore as dead—as sensible gun-control legislation is. But, as we always take pains to point out, we still have Justice Anthony Kennedy's assurance that "…independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption."

Not if everybody's in on it, they don't.
Gotta have priorities in Congress, you know? Especially when it involves allowing oligarchs to dodge taxes through fake charities, and avoid accountability to the law that actual taxpayers have to deal with. One of many ways that it pays to be in the inner circle, I suppose.

This is where I'll jump in and let you know that exactly ONE member of Wisconsin's 8-person delegation in the House voted against final passage of this bill- Democrat Mark Pocan from Madison (all 3 Wisconsin House Democrats voted against the unfunded tax cut part of the package). In the Senate, Dem Tammy Baldwin and GOP Ron Johnson both voted for this budget bill, claiming that there were enough good things in it to allow it to go through, and that it was preferable to having another government shutdown. In contrast, presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul all voted against it, while Marco Rubio made the gutsy move of not voting on the bill at all (!).

There's also a darker reality to consider here. The more you have self-interested crap put into bills without politicians and corporations paying a price for doing these selfish deeds, the more this self-interested crap will continue. And with that selfish legislation comes the destructive public cynicism that makes average citizens say "They're all crooks," and turn off from being involved in politics.

Which is just the way the oligarchs want it.

No comments:

Post a Comment