Wednesday, March 2, 2011

1996: Corporate Welfare and "Nixon"

Fifteen years later, and deja vu: we've got divided government, a budget impasse, a potential government shutdown, and corporate welfare is still off the table. What we don't have is a new Oliver Stone movie to argue about - but maybe he could do a Newt Gingrich biopic with John Goodman in the title role. Steve Martin? Suggestions, anyone?

Same as last month, at this writing there is no budget deal in Washington. As this issue goes to press, the president is about to sit down again with Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich to try and hash things out. They could reach a compromise, or the whole thing might break down in recriminations once again. By the time this issue starts hitting the streets it should be clear one way or another.

I'm happy to have been proven wrong in my prediction that the president would cave in eventually. Still, compromise is his specialty, and it ain't over til it's over. What I should have said is that even if the president gets his way, and the GOP caves in, it's likely to be a fairly nasty budget. Mr. Clinton is standing firm against the most egregious examples of the Republicans' Robin-Hood-in-reverse plans, but neither side is talking much about the major chunk of our annual deficits: welfare for the rich.

Last spring the Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, gave a speech in which he identified $187 billion in annual spending which subsidizes the wealthy and large corporations. The rest of the Clinton White House, led by Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, quickly distanced themselves from Reich's remarks. Perhaps they're afraid of the effect on campaign contributions if any serious moves to derail this gravy train are contemplated. Doubtless that accounts for the GOP's failure to follow through on some half-hearted rhetoric along these lines from the irrepressible Senator Gramm.

But over the seven years the Congress and the White House are haggling over (assuming, of course, that no recessions or wars interfere with their best-laid plans), there is some $2.5 trillion in welfare for the rich, according to the group Citizens for Tax Justice.

Very little of this booty is on the table in the current negotiations, which makes them even more of a farce than they would be with the CBO projections both sides have agreed to.

To their credit, the Clintonistas have proposed some modest reductions in corporate welfare in their latest plan, but the sheer amount of this largess is simply staggering. Keep in mind that welfare for the rich is currently running at two to three times the amount spent on the poor, depending on how you define your terms. I rather doubt that the negotiations taking place as this ink hits this paper will do anything to fundamentally change that.

I should probably say a few words about Oliver Stone's Nixon while I'm at it, since I've spent many years studying the nefarious career of our 37th president. It's been amusing to watch the corporate media pundits fall all over each other in their haste to condemn Stone's radical notions. They're shocked, shocked, that anyone would dare suggest that Nixon was in any way complicit in assassinations. Dangerous paranoia, they snort.

Excuse me, but does that really seem so out of character for our Nixon? The guy who gave us the 1972 Christmas bombings? The pundits harrumph that no evidence exists to tie Nixon to the assassination plot against Castro. They fail to mention which one, since there were over 2 dozen US-sponsored snuff attempts on the old boy, from the Eisenhower administration to the Reagan years.

More to the point, during those same Eisenhower years, Vice-President Nixon, in bed with the Mob from the very start of his career, was the White House action officer for the planned Bay of Pigs invasion that JFK inherited. If historians expect to find Nixon's signature on a death warrant, that may be a tough standard of proof to meet, but our boy Tricky was certainly in the thick of it.

Even more to the point, there is eyewitness testimony that Nixon was present at a 1954 meeting in which the assassination of the President of Panama was contemplated, a killing which did indeed take place. And during Nixon's presidency, General Schneider of Chile was assassinated in a CIA-inspired plot. The reign of terror unleashed on that country at Nixon's orders is certainly proof of a homicidal temperament, whether or not he made like Brando in the Godfather. So spare me any outrage at Stone's supposed smear of our late elder statesman. Some of us still remember that look in his eyes.

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