But Making Good Time
there ever been a clearer, more irrefutable example of our
political leaders’ lack of a moral compass than the clandestine,
11th-hour elimination of a promised child-tax credit for almost
12 million of America’s poorest children?
It’s a move that is so coldhearted and so profoundly dishonorable
that it could only have been made by people who have lost
all moral direction. A magnetic compass should always point
north; a moral compass should always point out what is moral—and
immoral. Heaping billions on the rich while ensuring that
one out of six American kids doesn’t get a penny is dead wrong.
But that’s exactly what Congressional Republicans did—and
what President Bush signed off on.
This is not a right/left issue. It’s a right/wrong issue.
But the GOP’s self-appointed morality czars have been deafeningly
silent on this bit of economic indecency. I guess Bill Bennett
was too busy shaking the hands of every one-armed bandit in
Vegas to notice.
Adding to the obscenity is the fact that while the Congressional
hatchet men were hacking up the $3.5 billion child-tax credit
in the name of keeping the total tax cut under $350 billion,
they let stand billions in corporate tax dodges and accounting
cons, including the use of offshore tax havens.
The White House labeled this particular piece of supply-side
porn the Jobs and Growth Act. I guess the Leave No Corporate
Loophole Behind Act didn’t focus group as well.
The last few years have shown us what happens when an entire
subculture loses its moral compass: Enron, Tyco, Adelphia,
WorldCom, et al. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that
the current administration has embraced the unethical ethos
of the corporate oligarchy from which so many of its members
came—and which all of them continue to serve. The same inability
to distinguish right from wrong that characterized the corporate
scandals is now dominating public policy.
It’s the Enronization of Washington.
Want more proof? How about the unprecedented aircraft-leasing
deal currently being put together by the Pentagon and Boeing—a
plan that uses the same kind of accounting sleight-of-hand
popularized by the gang at Enron. Here’s how it works: Instead
of the Pentagon buying the 100 new jets it wants to use as
aerial refueling tankers directly from Boeing, at an upfront
cost of $138 million per plane, a special-purpose entity created
on Wall Street will purchase the planes and lease them to
the Air Force.
That way the Pentagon gets to acquire the planes without having
to dip into the Air Force’s limited procurement budget, and
Boeing gets to reap billions in new military contracts without
having to show the debt associated with the shady deal on
its balance sheet. It’s an off-the-books win-win deal for
them both—but a losing proposition for taxpayers, who’ll end
up forking over an additional $8 billion to cover the interest
payments on the leases.
The sleazy new deal is being put together by the good bankers
at Citigroup—the same outfit that helped Enron defraud shareholders
out of, what do you know, also $8 billion. Who says irony
Then there is the news that, in an effort to ensure the passage
of its cherished tax-cut plan, the Bush administration buried
a highly damaging study—commissioned by its own Treasury department—that
found that it would take either the permanent elimination
of all future federal discretionary spending or an immediate
and permanent tax hike of 66 percent to cover the upcoming
retirement and healthcare needs of aging baby boomers. You
think that bombshell might have put a little damper on Bush’s
This is exactly the kind of skullduggery corrupt corporations
used to conceal potentially disastrous news from investors—like
Adelphia hiding its $3.1 billion loans to the Rigas family
in tiny footnotes in an earnings filing.
Like many disgraced companies, the White House has proven
adept at playing fast and loose with the numbers in order
to mislead its “shareholders,” the American people. Take the
administration’s shifty use of “averages” to make it seem
like the new tax cut benefits everyone: claiming that “91
million taxpayers will receive, on average, a tax cut of $1,226,”
when, in fact, the majority of households will receive a tax
cut of $100 or less. Or the way it used sure-to-be-repealed
“sunset clauses” to make it seem as if the president was reasonably
settling for a $350 billion tax cut, when the actual price
tag on the new bill will be close to $1 trillion.
It’s the kind of economic book cooking that would do ol’ Kenny
Boy Lay proud. It’s time to expand the Right’s definition
of immorality beyond sex, drugs, and rock & roll to include
lying, cheating, and callous indifference to those in need.
CEOs lying to investors to pad their own pockets is bad enough.
Political leaders lying to the American people to pad the
pockets of their big-buck contributors is immoral—and intolerable.