Yesterday California Democratic Congresspersons Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman introduced the Anti-Cronyism and Public Safety Act, which would prohibit the President from appointing more unqualified individuals to critical public safety positions in the government. Waxman, who many people think is the sharpest knife in the congressional draw, opined that "President Bush has handed out some of the country's most difficult and important jobs-- leadership positions in public safety and emergency response-- to politically well-connected individuals with no experience or qualifications. This common sense legislation will end this practice and ensure that public safety is back in the hands of those who are trained and experienced in protecting the public."
The bill, which has zero chance of passing in DeLay's fascist Congress, would require any presidential appointee for a public safety position to have proven, relevant credentials for that position. In addition, the legislation bars from appointment to an agency any individual who has been a lobbyist for an industry subject to the agency's authority during the preceding two years. This, of course, completely flies in the face of DeLay's and Bush's whole crony strategy of rewarding donors with big jobs that they will fail at, thereby further eroding the citizens' confidence in government.
"As Hurricane Katrina tragically demonstrated, serious consequences result when unqualified cronies are appointed to federal public safety positions," added House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "The Bush Administration's culture of cronyism comes at the expense of public safety. It is unconscionable and must stop immediately - it is literally a matter of life and death. This legislation is critically needed, and I thank Mr. Waxman for his strong leadership in protecting the American people."
What Pelosi, Waxman and the media are entirely missing is that BushCo MEANS to screw things up. They WANT disasters and failures and they want people to say, "See the government sucks. Norquist was right. They should shrink it down and drown it in a bathtub." Could the Bush Regime, teaming with eager little authoritarians who DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOVERNMENT, but who do believe in their divine mission to dismantle it, actually be subverting the government? With his unending, now desperate, rounds of tax cuts, always skewed to the wealthiest Americans, in tandem with a 37% increase in federal expenditures and Bush's refusal to veto a single spending bill from the GOP-controlled Congress, so far the Bush Regime has managed to boost the national debt by 12% (with 3 years to go, unless he's impeached after the 2006 elections), to almost $8 trillion. America is increasingly a hostage of its foreign-- some of whom are not especially friendly to America and America's interests or values-- creditors. Aside from making the country less secure with his ill-conceived, arrogant, mishandled little adventure in Iraq (on top of his incompetent half-baked job in Afghanistan), Bush's economic policies have seriously eroded the foundations of American strength and security. And, on top of that, he persists in pushing forward insane programs which benefit his donors and cause hardship and misery to the neediest of citizens. Think only of his thoroughly moronic new prescription drug "benefit" for seniors-- a $139 billion handout to Big Pharma that actually does virtually nothing to help the elderly, other than elderly billionaires who own stock in the big drug companies. One might think that in light of Katrina and Rita, and the HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS taxpayers will have to fork over to cover BushCo's gross negligence and incompetence, a leader (rotflmao) might say, "Hey, let's downsize that pork-laden $290 BILLION "highway" bill (the most expensive ever and the most pork barrel-oriented piece of legislation ever signed by any American president), which features, among other shameful boondoggles, $220 million for a road extension in Alaska that conservative REPUBLICAN Senator John McCain despairingly called as "a highway to nowhere."
In the TIME Magazine piece by Karen Tumulty that I referred to Sunday, "How Many More Mike Browns Are Out There?" (and this was before we found out he's not even OUT THERE, but still IN HERE, re-retained by BushCo to try to cast blame on Democrats and shield Bush from responsibility), AMERICANS PAYING A HEAVY PRICE FOR BUSH'S INCOMPETENCE AND IDEOLOGICAL DECISION-MAKING, she begins with the Realpolitik observation that "in Presidential politics, the victor always gets the spoils, and chief among them is the vast warren of offices that make up the federal bureaucracy. Historically, the U.S. public has never paid much attention to the people the President chooses to sit behind those thousands of desks. A benign cronyism is more or less presumed, with old friends and big donors getting comfortable positions and impressive titles, and with few real consequences for the nation. But then came Michael Brown. When President Bush's former point man on disasters was discovered to have more expertise about the rules of Arabian horse competition than about the management of a catastrophe, it was a reminder that the competence of government officials who are not household names can have a life or death impact. The Brown debacle has raised pointed questions about whether political connections, not qualifications, have helped an unusually high number of Bush appointees land vitally important jobs in the Federal Government."
According to TIME, career civil servants, from senior administrators to clerk-typists, are being ill-treated and, even in serious matters-- matters that have allowed catastrophes like 9-11 (remember Coleen Rowley's bombshell memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller about Al-Qaeda BEFORE 9-11?) and the breaching of the New Orleans levees-- completely ignored. In Sunday's article I went into how Bush's cronyism has resulted in extremely serious consequences at the FDA. According to Tumulty "some of the appointments are raising serious concerns in the agencies themselves and on Capitol Hill about the competence and independence of agencies that the country relies on to keep us safe, healthy and secure. Internal e-mail messages obtained by TIME show that scientists' drug-safety decisions at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being second-guessed by a 33-year-old doctor turned stock picker. At the Office of Management and Budget, an ex-lobbyist with minimal purchasing experience oversaw $300 billion in spending, until his arrest last week. At the Department of Homeland Security, an agency the Administration initially resisted, a well-connected White House aide with minimal experience is poised to take over what many consider the single most crucial post in ensuring that terrorists do not enter the country again. And who is acting as watchdog at every federal agency? A corps of inspectors general who may be increasingly chosen more for their political credentials than their investigative ones."
I hope you've been keeping up with the news about the highly-placed Bush aide who was hauled away by the FBI last week, David Safavian, a political hack with virtually no hands-on experience in government contracting who BushCo tapped 2 years ago to be its chief procurement officer. Tumulty points out that with no real experience, other than a college internship, the 38 year old Safavian was given a lucrative job as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, putting him in charge of "the $300 billion the government spends each year on everything from paper clips to nuclear submarines, as well as the $62 billion already earmarked for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts." Ostensibly, "it was his job to ensure that the government got the most for its money and that competition for federal contracts—among companies as well as between government workers and private contractors—was fair." In reality it was a job to help steal and coerce money from contracting firms into GOP campaign coffers. And "it was his job until he resigned on Sept. 16 and was subsequently arrested and charged with lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the Federal Government."
According to TIME, "Safavian spent the bulk of his pre-government career as a lobbyist, and his nomination to a top oversight position stunned the tightly knit federal procurement community. A dozen procurement experts interviewed by TIME said he was the most unqualified person to hold the job since its creation in 1974. Most of those who held the post before Safavian were well-versed in the arcane world of federal contracts. 'Safavian is a good example of a person who had great party credentials but no substantive credentials,' says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit Washington watchdog group. 'It's one of the most powerful positions in terms of impacting what the government does, and the kind of job—like FEMA director—that needs to be filled by a professional.' Nevertheless, Safavian's April 2004 confirmation hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee (attended by only five of the panel's 17 members) lasted just 67 minutes, and not a single question was asked about his qualifications.
The committee did hold up Safavian's confirmation for a year, in part because of concerns about work his lobbying firm, Janus-Merritt Strategies, had done that he was required to divulge to the panel but failed to. The firm's filings showed that it represented two men suspected of links to terrorism (Safavian said one of the men was 'erroneously listed,' and the other's omission was an 'inadvertent error') as well as two suspect African regimes. Ultimately, the committee and the full Senate unanimously approved Safavian for the post.
His political clout, federal procurement experts say privately, came from his late-1990s lobbying partnership with Grover Norquist, now head of Americans for Tax Reform and a close ally of the Bush Administration. Norquist is an antitax advocate who once famously declared that his goal was to shrink the Federal Government so he could 'drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.' As the U.S. procurement czar, Safavian was pushing in that direction by seeking to shift government work to private contractors, contending it was cheaper. Federal procurement insiders say his relationship with Norquist gave Safavian the edge in snaring the procurement post. But Norquist has 'no memory' of urging the Administration to put Safavian in the post, says an associate speaking on Norquist's behalf. A White House official said Norquist 'didn't influence the decision.' Clay Johnson, who was designated by the White House to answer all of TIME'S questions about administration staffing issues and who oversaw the procurement post, says Safavian was 'by far the most qualified person' for the job. Perhaps it also didn't hurt that Safavian's wife Jennifer works as a lawyer for the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees federal contracting.
In addition, Safavian had worked at a law firm in the mid-'90s with Jack Abramoff, one of the capital's highest-paid lobbyists, a top GOP fund raiser and a close friend of House majority leader Tom DeLay. Abramoff was indicted last month on unrelated fraud and conspiracy charges. In 2002, Abramoff invited Safavian on a weeklong golf outing to Scotland's famed St. Andrews course (as Abramoff had done with DeLay in 2000). Seven months after the trip, an anonymous call to a government hotline said lobbyists had picked up the tab for the jaunt. That wasn't true; Safavian paid $3,100 for the trip. But the government alleges that he lied when he repeatedly told investigators that Abramoff had no business dealings with the General Services Administration, where Safavian worked at the time. Prosecutors alleged last week, however, that Safavian worked closely with Abramoff—identified only as 'Lobbyist A' in the criminal complaint against Safavian—to give Abramoff an inside track in his efforts to acquire control of two pieces of federal property in the Washington area."
TIME then goes into the disturbing story of another unqualified Bush nominee, Julie Myers, to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a crucial job in Bush's bogus "War" Against Terror. (I'm not going to go into the details of this one here. Let it just suffice to say that REPUBLICAN Senator George Voinovich of Ohio, after Meyers made an idiot of herself at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, looked the president's nominee straight in the eye and said "I'd really like to have him (Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff) spend some time with us, telling us personally why he thinks you're qualified for the job. Because based on the resume, I don't think you are." And she's not, but was she supposed to be?
On September 9th Paul Krugman wrote a column called "Point Those Fingers" in the NY TIMES. He mentioned Mike Brown's ex-college roommate and predecessor as FEMA chief, Joe Allbaugh, and how he emphasized two words-- RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY-- in a 2001 Congressional hearing. "What Mr. Allbaugh seems to have meant was that state and local government officials shouldn't count on FEMA to bail them out if they didn't prepare adequately for disasters. They should accept responsibility for protecting their constituents, and be held accountable if they don't." He went on to point out the unfortunate similarities about the grotesque incompetence displayed in the way BushCo handled Iraq and the way they screwed up in the aftermath of Katrina. "In Iraq, the administration displayed a combination of paralysis and denial after the fall of Baghdad, as uncontrolled looting destroyed much of Iraq's infrastructure. The same deer-in-the-headlights immobility prevailed as Katrina approached and struck the Gulf Coast. The storm gave plenty of warning. By the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 29, the flooding of New Orleans was well under way - city officials publicly confirmed a breach in the 17th Street Canal at 2 p.m. Yet on Tuesday federal officials were still playing down the problem, and large-scale federal aid didn't arrive until last Friday. In Iraq the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran the country during the crucial first year after Saddam's fall - the period when an effective government might have forestalled the nascent insurgency - was staffed on the basis of ideological correctness and personal connections rather than qualifications. At one point Ari Fleischer's brother was in charge of private-sector development. The administration followed the same principles in staffing FEMA. The agency had become a highly professional organization during the Clinton years, but under Mr. Bush it reverted to its former status as a 'turkey farm,' a source of patronage jobs. As Bloomberg News puts it, the agency's 'upper ranks are mostly staffed with people who share two traits: loyalty to President George W. Bush and little or no background in emergency management.' All that's missing from the Katrina story is an expensive reconstruction effort, with lucrative deals for politically connected companies, that fails to deliver essential services. But give it time - they're working on that, too."
Barely two weeks have passed and BushCo has already begun shipping BILLIONS of dollars-- what will ultimately amount to $200 billion, not counting billions more for the devastation caused by Hurricane Rita-- in the form of no-bid, cost-plus contracts to egregiously crooked BushCo campaign donors, the same crooks who have stolen billions-- from American taxpayers-- in Iraq. FEMA, of course, is administering this, especially now that Safavian has been arrested. In last week's WALL STREET JOURNAL George Washington University contracting expert, Steven Schooner explained that one "can easily compare FEMA's internal resources to what you saw in the early days of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq: a small, underfunded organization taking on a Herculian task under tremendous time pressure. That is almost by definition a recipe for disaster." But not a disaster for Bush cronies and uber-generous donors at companies like Halliburton, Bechtel, and Fluor, at least two of which are being investigated for cheating and bilking the government on Iraqi reconstruction contracts. Another great example of how BushCo works (for itself and against America) is shown by FEMA's hiring Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management, a subsidiary of funeral operator and longtime Bush Family contributor Service Corp. International (SCI). The Bush Brothers states of Texas and Florida settled class action lawsuits against SCI which had been digging up bodies and tossing them in the woods so the plots could be resold. FEMA hired them to collect human remains in the Katrina-stricken region.
And as wonderful as the disasters have been for Bush donor corporations, Bush's policies have been absolutely catastrophic for the non-rich-- catastrophic for young American men and women fighting in Iraq (not to mention the poor Iraqis) and catastrophic for working men and women in the states hit by the hurricanes. The head of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department, Edward Sullivan, referred to Bush's regard for the working poor as "legalized looting of these workers who will be cleaning up toxic sites and struggling to rebuild their communities, while favored contractors rake in huge profits." After he pulled his head out of his ass, put down the guitar and golf clubs and skittered back to the White House, one of Bush's very first responses to Katrina was to sign an executive order suspending contractors on Katrina-related work from federal law requiring employees be paid the local prevailing wage, which means many will be toiling for a minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.
Bush and Cheney pride themselves about-- used to publicly brag about-- being CEOs and running a CEO type government. But like Bush and Cheney most of the prominent CEOs hired by the current regime aren't actual business people at all, but fake CEOs who after a life of partisan politics cashed in on brief stints as trophy CEOs at big firms looking for political connections before returning to pilfer public assets in BushCo. Cheney wasn't a businessman; he was an ideologue and hack. Ditto for Treasury Secretary Snow. And Bush, himself... what a complete joke. Every real business he ever touched went belly-up and when he was set up to make a fortune in baseball he wound up trading Sammy Sosa for someone no one ever heard about again. Unless you want to count plotting and conniving, George W. Bush has never done an honest day's work in his entire miserable life. Yet he's on a mission to tear down government and replace it with crony-capitalism, a business model that can ONLY bring about more 9-11's and more unrepaired levees and dead Americans.