Daily Archives: January 8, 2004

Campaigning for Corporate Corruption

Anyone who doubts the political season is acting on Republicans as well as Democrats because, after all, President Junior is unopposed and too busy being presidential to lower himself to the level of politicking ought to take a closer look.

The LA Times reports that Bush has been on the donations-trail and continues to make fund-raising his #1 priority. He’s doing pretty well, too:

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s reelection campaign raised a record $130 million last year, officials said Wednesday — more than triple what Howard Dean, the top fundraiser among the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls, amassed in 2003.The figure eclipsed Bush’s fundraising total of about $100 million for the 2000 primaries.

And while the Democrats must spend the money they are now raising in pursuit of their party’s nomination, Bush entered the year with $99 million in the bank — a hefty sum to begin touting his record, particularly in battleground states, even before the Democrats nominate a candidate in late July.

Nor is Bush taking a rest from fundraising.

Earlier this week, he collected an estimated $2.8 million at an appearance in St. Louis — the largest amount raised at a single event in Missouri history.

And he is due to attend fundraisers today in Knoxville, Tenn., and Palm Beach, Fla.

The Bush campaign has set a goal of raising $170 million; some expect the total to reach $200 million or more.

Imagine–$$$200MIL$$$, enough to fund a small army, to be spent on tv and radio in the service of re-electing possibly the worst President in US history, the vast majority of the donations coming from corporate-based donation-machines. Why is that so important to them? Here’s one recent example from The Misleader (via Atrios):

Bush Acts to Reward Companies Who Cut off Seniors’ Drug CoverageLate last year, President Bush promised retirees that “if there’s a Medicare reform bill signed by me, corporations have no intention to dump retirees [from their existing drug coverage]…What we’re talking about is trust.”1 The White House and its congressional allies backed up Bush’s assertion by claiming the bill included a special tax subsidy to “encourage employers’ to retain prescription-drug coverage” for their retirees’ and not to cut them off.2

But just three months after Bush’s pledge, the Wall Street Journal now reports that the White House quietly added “a little-noticed provision” to the bill that allows companies to severely reduce – or almost completely terminate – their retirees’ drug coverage “without losing out on the new subsidy.”3 In other words, the president did not just break his promise to sign a bill that prevents seniors from losing their existing drug coverage. He actually acted to reward companies who cut off their retirees with a lavish new tax break.

The provision was no mere oversight by the president. The major backers of the provision were Lucent Technologies, General Motors, Dow Chemical and SBC Communications – all major campaign contributors to the president. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, executives from those companies have donated almost $140,000 in hard money and $2.5 million in soft money to Bush and his party since 2000.

Nothing much has changed, apparently: an electioneering Bush is once again talking out of both sides of his mouth, promising goodies with the left side while the right side works actively not just to void the promises but to reverse them. No news there.

And the stealth-attacks continue unabated, wherein the Admin claims it’s doing one thing while it’s really doing something else. Take the new rules the Admin has proposed for workers’ overtime pay. On the one hand, as Scott McClellan put it in his daily briefing yesterday:

…the proposed rule by the Department of Labor would restore overtime protections that have eroded over five decades to millions of white-collar workers who deserve overtime protection today and are not protected by the current rules. And this proposal would guarantee overtime to 1.3 million more low wage workers.It would help simplify the rules and make them more relevant to our modern work force. It will enable the Department of Labor to be better equipped to enforce the law to protect more workers. It will enable the Department of Labor to make sure that workers better understand their rights under the law, and that employers understand their obligations and pay their employees properly.

On the other, what the Administration is really doing was outed by the Associated Press today:

WASHINGTON — The Labor Department is giving employers tips on how to avoid paying overtime to some of the 1.3 million low-income workers who would become eligible under new rules expected to be finalized early this year.The department’s advice comes even as it touts the rules by saying workers will get $895million in increased wages.

Among the options for employers: Cut workers’ hourly wages so that regular and overtime pay equal the original salary, or raise salaries to the new $22,100 annual threshold, making them ineligible.

Under the old rules, an employee could make as little as $155 a week and still be classified as a “professional” or “white-collar” employee, and thus exempt from overtime. The new rules would increase that annual pay rate to $22,100 from $8,060.

The department says it is merely listing well-known choices available to employers now or under the new rules. “We’re not saying anybody should do any of this,” department spokesman Ed Frank said.

No, of course not.

What this means is that while Junior is selling his new rules on the basis of how they will help low income workers, he’s simultaneously teaching employers how to get around them officially. This is a new wrinkle on an old tactic: instead of saying one thing and doing its opposite, he’s doing what he says but then promoting officially-sanctioned ways of ducking it. Neat. “We’re going to change a few rules in time for the election, boys, but don’t panic–it might look like we’re favoring workers here but we’ll tell you how to avoid the rules so you’ll actually benefit from them.”

Given that he’s been pulling this shit for the full 3 years he’s been in office, why is it, then, that anybody is taking this seriously:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 — President Bush’s sweeping proposal on Wednesday to give legal status to millions of illegal workers was a political document as well as an immigration policy and sought to re-establish his credentials as a compassionate conservative at the starting gate of an election year.White House political advisers have long talked of the critical importance of Hispanics to Mr. Bush’s re-election. But political analysts said that his latest proposal was also designed to appeal to a much larger political prize, suburban swing voters, who might see the plan as evidence of a gentler Republican Party.

“For a party that’s trying to look more inclusive and welcoming, the proposal has broader thematics that show an openness to America’s new immigrants,” said Bill McInturff, a leading Republican pollster.

This Administration has a consistent record of making policy promises for political gain that it will then ignore, subvert, or countermand as soon as their political usefulness is at an end, so why are national papers lauding this obviously insincere electioneering proposal as if it were genuine? Why are pundits on both sides debating, praising, and examining it as if it were actually going to happen?

It won’t. The right wing is up in arms over it–“Many conservative Republicans called Mr. Bush’s plan nothing more than amnesty for lawbreakers…”–and that means the same thing it’s meant for 3 solid years: when the election is safely over, the proposal will either die, be killed outright, or be changed to the point where it’s meaningless in order to assuage Junior’s conservative critics.

After three years’ worth of palpable and proven lies, why are we choosing to believe yet another one?