Early this month, when John Boehner was sworn in as the new speaker of the House of Representatives, he tipped his hat to the teabag activists across the country who had fueled the Republican takeover of the chamber last fall. He almost choked up as he promised to "give the government back to the American people."
Boehner was not choking back tears, however, he literally was choking on the flagrant hypocrisy of his words. You see, the people he's giving the government back to are not tea partiers, but the rapacious corporate lobbyists who ran the Congress during the years when former Majority Leader Tom DeLay ran the show. Apparently, the name "Boehner" is derived from an ancient Teutonic word meaning: business as usual.
Throughout his two decades in Congress, the new speaker has been a reliable ally of corporate interests. In recent years, he has formed unusually tight legislative, political and even social ties with a group of lobbyists for such giants as Citigroup, Coors, Goldman Sachs, Google and R.J. Reynolds.
Of course, most congressional leaders work with lobbyists, so that's not odd, but to have them also be his closest friends and social chums -- well, you just want to say, "For heaven's sake, Johnnie, get a life!"
These influence peddlers are now the speaker's inner circle, guiding his legislative decisions. Even before last November's election, Boehner had a private meeting with a flock of top corporate lobbyists to help shape "a new GOP agenda." Forget the tea party. No tea party operative is a Boehner insider. It's the corporate agenda that Republican leaders will be pushing, and to make sure that it stays on track, Boehner has hired a top corporate lobbyist to be his policy director.
So, while tea party regulars are giddy with the thought that their movement took over the U. S. House, they were actually a Trojan horse. They delivered the votes to make Boehner speaker, which allowed the corporate powers to move inside, quietly take over and return Congress to business as usual.
On opening day of the 112th Congress, beaming members of the new Republican majority entered the House chamber, accompanied by their proud families. But the moment did not belong to members alone.
Also entering the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremonies was David Koch, the multibillionaire industrialist and laissez-faire extremist who bankrolled much of the tea party/GOP victory last fall. What symbolism! The members were taking office, but Koch and his corporate agenda were taking power.
Indeed, many lobbyists for Wall Street banks and big corporations have been hired as top legislative aides for Republican members. As Rep. John Campbell put it, "You want someone with experience." Yeah, experience in corporatizing our government.
In fact, some of the most powerful lawmakers in the House are simply handing their power to corporate interests. For example, Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the new chairman of the Wall Street oversight committee, declared that his role is to "serve the banks."
The chief comforter of corporate crybabies, however, is Rep. Darrell Issa of California, chair of the wide-ranging government reform committee. He sent letters to 150 corporate interests, asking them to tell him if Obama and his Democratic meanies have imposed any consumer, worker or environmental protections that should be undone. That's like asking a barber if you need a haircut!
The letters unleashed an outpouring of corporate whining -- big banks, for example, wailed that their ability to gouge customers with rip-off debit-card fees had been curtailed. There, there, Issa said soothingly, I'm here now. I'll make it all better for you.
Under the guise of giving government back to the people, the House majority is giving it to the corporate powers who finance their campaigns. This is not just business as usual, it's business way more than usual.
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
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