In President Obama’s address to Congress the other night, he excoriated the usurious Wall Street trolls and bloated pinstriped bankers who, in that version of the story that ignores all the assholes who took loans they couldn’t afford, got us into this mess. And Obama’s already built a special town square pillory for those fat-cat types, with his caps on pay and bonuses for executives of the bailed-out banks.
I’m not complaining. I love a good morality play. So I call those pay caps a good start. But why stop there? Bloomberg reported that more than $1.2 billion of the money going to General Motors has gone to executives, lawyers, and accountants. Let’s put in pay caps for the bailed-out automakers, too. And while we’re at it, how about we put pay caps in place for executives of all the companies that, while they’re not living off “bailouts,” nonetheless nourish primarily at the federal teat? Lockheed Martin’s CEO Robert Stevens, for example, got more than $36 million in pay, bonuses, and options last year, and they’d be selling paper airplanes if it weren’t for defense contracts. They get 95 percent of their revenue from the government.
If it’s outrageous that a banker would get more than $500,000, why should we allow the quasi-nationalized defense contractors to bilk us? Make room in the square for a few more bad guys, and let’s make this socialism kick real. I guaran-damn-tee you that you will see a bit less government defense spending if there’s less gold for the kleptocrats to gather.
Look, I’m still obsessed with our local state senator, Abel Maldonado. When he first caved and agreed to a budget deal, I thought maybe I’d been wrong about Abel. The budget deal sucks—I don’t want to pay more taxes either—but Republicans didn’t seem to have any plan other than “no.” No surprise that they wouldn’t offer specifics. Everyone loves to talk about all the waste, fraud, and abuse in the government system, but they never quite seem to find it; instead they cut programs that people actually use and like. When Abel went for the budget deal, I thought maybe he’d become, if not a hero, at least a person living in the same world as the rest of us.
Then I saw the deal he made. Abel could have asked for virtually anything. He could have demanded that Arnold Schwarzenegger wear a tutu in the Capitol, something useful like that. Instead, aside from a spiteful attack on furniture for the controller’s office, he asked for something that would primarily benefit himself. He demanded a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would allow for a weird hybrid primary system that would allow the top two vote getters, regardless of their party, to run against each other. That would allow moderates such as himself to escape the shackles of the party process and, perhaps, find a path to statewide office.
That’s not bravery as much as enlightened self interest.
I’m glad he made the vote he did, and this isn’t an absurd price to pay for it, but I think it reveals the nature of the man who, in times of darkness, thought of his own interests first.
He’s not the only one doing so these days. Some Republican governors, including “Bobby” Jindal of Louisiana, already a rumored presidential hopeful for 2012, are turning down some of the federal stimulus money that would otherwise go to their state.
Jindal argues the money, which would extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers in his state, could cost businesses money. That’s not the real reason he’s turning the $100 million down.
He’s turning it down to help his presidential hopes, to make himself into the most-Republican of all Republicans; the man who is so Republican he won’t even take free money for his state.
Hey, we understand. Louisiana doesn’t need help. Helps explain why the Bush Administration didn’t do a fucking thing for New Orleans during or after Katrina.
When the chips are down, Bobby thought of his own ambitions first.
Speaking of budgets, the Tribune blew a few precious dollars the other day. In a rare act of enterprise, they sent a reporter to L.A. apparently expecting to witness the sentencing of local medical marijuana martyr Charles Lynch. One problem: the sentencing was delayed until next month, as New Times reported a couple of weeks ago. They did get a nice consolation prize: a protest in front of the federal courthouse, where Lynch wore a crown of marijuana leaves. Lesson: If you want to save money, read New Times. We’re free, and worth every damn penny.
Look, folks, I want a new contest. My own words bore me, but yours enthrall, entice, and engage. Here’s my suggestion for the March contest: Give me a St. Patrick’s Day limerick on a topic of local interest, but rhyme the word “purple.” Have it to me by March 10. The prize this month is super sweet: I’m going to give away a major metro-area daily newspaper. ∆
Shredder really is from Nantucket; send your limericks to firstname.lastname@example.org.