Why don’t we just admit that Grover Norquist’s work here in these United States is, well, done? Yes, the federal government is technically back in business, but only just in time to let Foster Farms continue selling salmonella-tainted chicken, JPMorgan Chase escape its latest fraud with a laughably small fine, and Sinclair Broadcast Group snap up a dozen or so more local television stations. And that’s just this week.
Whenever one hears the constant right-wing bloviating about the tyranny of big gummint trampling on the job creators, one can’t help but wonder which government they mean. Could it be Mexico’s, where the water may be sketchy but at least Foster Farms can no longer sell chicken? Britain’s, where Rupert Murdoch was belatedly declared not a “fit and proper” purchaser for BSkyB TV? Here in the good old USA, no corporate crime, no matter how egregious, is ever punished, and no monopoly, no matter how rapacious and/or incompetent, is ever curbed. Government here could be easily drowned, at this point, in a finger bowl.
It would be comforting, and assuredly less depressing, to blame this sorry state of affairs on the Republicans, who have long embraced the notion that things like food inspection, antitrust law, workplace safety standards, and what have you are the love children of Hitler and Stalin, put together, but at least they’re honest about it. Not so Democrats, who as the party nominally in favor of protecting ordinary people from corporate malfeasance, are nonetheless its most enthusiastic enablers.
For all Reagan’s bluster about the evils of Big Government, it was President Clinton who proudly declared it to be “over.” And although the supposedly “liberal” media was a constant thorn in Nixon’s side, even bringing about his eventual downfall, it was the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed by Clinton, that effectively clobbered it once and for all. (That Clinton was subsequently impeached served him right, but left the rest of us with the consequences.)
The shameful inequality that threatens our democracy today can surely be partly blamed on Republican union-busting and the cult of “shareholder value,” but the wheels were set in motion by Carter’s deregulation of the airline and trucking industries, converting what were once centers of stable, middle class, employment into the cesspits of piecework peonage they have since become.
And only a Kenyan socialist like Obama could have ever gotten away with palling around with economic terrorists like Jamie Dimon, just prior to yet another “largest settlement in history” for theft on a scale Bush’s Kenny Boy of Enron could only have imagined. One longs for the Reagan era, when the government not only swept in and liquidated hundreds of crooked S&L’s but actually tossed over a thousand people in jail, to boot.
And when Sinclair Broadcasting was running a string of shoddy, Fox-wannabe local TV stations as though they were the media arm of the RNC, it was natural enough to blame Bush’s FCC for continually waiving ownership restrictions for them, but under Obama they’ve been allowed to grow like topsy, even snapping up the ABC affiliates here in Portland, along with those in Seattle and Eugene. This, even after running a series of anti-Obama smear pieces in 2010 and 2012. Some dictator.
Along with the usual shoddy journalism and right wing bias, Sinclair’s foray into Cascadia has also been accompanied, natch, by a tide of pink slips, tossing more journalists out on the street a scant few weeks after the Oregonian did the same thing. Thirteen employees at the already emaciated KATU, 18 at KOMO in Seattle, and who knows how many in Eugene, where Sinclair now owns, through shell companies and other chicanery SIX broadcast stations. Feel the synergy of the Free Market, and smell the corpse of the free press.
So yes, the government is operating again, but what it’s actually doing, besides snooping and launching drone attacks, of course, remains something of a mystery.
Photo by Rachel Lovinger under Creative Commons license