Friday, February 16, 2007

Is there a better time than now to begin the herculean labor of dismantling the crony-capitalist economic heritage of the Bush regime?


It's understandable that we spend so much time screeching and howling about what history will remember as the eight years of unbridled ideological hooliganism of the Bush presidency. Nevertheless, we risk failing to give adequate attention to the uncompromising stinkhole of corruption that has been perhaps this administration's most outstanding accomplishment.

The old aphorism counsels:


This advice applies to most every form of human activity; if there are humans involved, there's going to be a money trail that will probably go a long way toward explaining whatever it is you were trying to explain. This is certainly the case with both government and business--and doubly (if not triply or quadruply) so when they merge into one and the same thing.

In a crony capitalist economy (to employ the technical term) like ours, where the key players are defined as cronies, the basic unit of government-slash-business is the crony contract.

Now, however, a group of Democratic senators led by Byron Dorgan (N.D.) and John Kerry (Mass.) have introduced what they're calling the Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006.

Rick Jacobs, cofounder of Brave New Films and producer of Robert Greenwald's Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, reports in HuffPost:
The bill follows months of hearings led by the [Democratic Policy Committee, chaired by Senator Dorgan, right] when the Republican-controlled Senate patently refused even to hear that Halliburton, Blackwater, CACI, Titan and others were raping the taxpayers of this country while making an ill-planned invasion into a full-fledged disaster, assuring that the only real winners in Iraq would be those companies that had sufficiently close ties to the White House to earn them a free ride in a war that leads us daily closer to the brink.

In introducing the bill, Senators Dorgan and Kerry each referred to Brave New Films' Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers as one of the key elements in demonstrating the outrageous abuses that these and other firms committed in Iraq. The key provisions:

* Punishes War Profiteers--Establishes penalties of up to 20 years in prison and at least $1 million in fines for war profiteering.

* Cracks Down on Big Corporate Cheaters--Restores a Clinton Administration rule on suspension and debarment, which prohibited awarding federal contracts to companies that exhibited a pattern of failing to comply with the law. The Bush Administration repealed this rule as soon as it took office.

* Requires Full Disclosure of Contract Abuses--Establishes a "Truth in Contracting" public website identifying overcharges by major contractors.

* Forces Real Contract Competition--Prohibits the awarding of huge monopoly contracts, and allows multiple companies to make bids for work so as to ensure price competition.

* Bans Corporate Cronyism in Contracting--Requires that federal agencies conduct contract oversight, rather than paying contractors with conflicts of interest to oversee one another.

* Eliminates Conflicts of Interest for Federal Contracting Employees--Closes the perverse loophole that allows federal contracting officials to take jobs as lobbyists for companies to whom they awarded contracts.

* Ends Cronyism in Key Government Positions--Stops unqualified political appointees like David Safavian and Michael Brown from holding key jobs relating to federal contracting or public safety.

* Strengthens Whistleblower Protections--Makes it more difficult for federal agencies to retaliate against whistleblowers, and gives courts wider discretion to consider cases of retaliation.

"These are common-sense provisions," Jacobs notes, "but after 12 years of control in the Congress and six years in the White House, the right wing utterly gutted the concept of accountability." Of course now comes the long road to get a bill that may not have a lot of natural friends in Follow-the-Money Land through the labyrinthine legislative processes of the Senate and House and on to the president's desk for signing.


At 11:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I hope someone is doing this--following the money--in a thorough fashion. I haven't seen enough discussion about it.

Sure, there's a lot of issues to pay attention to. But maybe those of us on the progressive side could spend a little less of our energy arguing with the wingnuts, and a little more energy shining sunshine on the huge wealth shift from the US Treasury to the arms manufacturers.


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