Winners and Losers: The Usual Suspects
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We know who always loses when something goes wrong -- the poor. They're used to it. Only those with money expect the government to be Johnny-on-the-spot with help when life goes sideways on them. The poor, like those stuck in the muck in New Orleans, may be angry, but they are hardly disillusioned. Being left to drown and rot during a hurricane is just same-old, same-old for the losers among us.
And then there are those who always seem to win when something awful happens. They're used to that, too. A war breaks out someplace and it's,Â "Great, get the rebuilding contracts ready. Not to worry, they're already pre-signed." Because if there's anything the US government can do fast, it's hand out money to those who share come election time.
And so it came to pass in Iraq, and now in New Orleans. Look who's getting it easy rebuilding the Big Easy. You may recognize them because they are the same companies that have been getting fat off rebuilding Iraq.
The usual suspects: Bechtel, Fluor, Halliburton.
It's all in the family, really. Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root and another company tapped to rebuild N.O., Shaw & Co., are both clients of former FEMA head, and Bush fundraiser, Joe Allbaugh. You might recall, Allbaugh was the guy who got the current FEMA director, Mike Brown, the job. They were roomies in college. Old School, you know. These chums are now first in line to tap the first $100 billion in rebuilding funds.
I'm not surprised, and neither are any of the thousands of poor homeless families standing in line for the basics of life in relief centers. Now they just have to wait and watch as the nice white men are going to rebuild their city.
The big question now is, whose city will it be once they are done rebuilding it? Already the winners are working to set up vast trailer cities out far from New Orleans. The losers suspect those relocation camps will end up being their "new city," not New Orleans. ( One local leader remarked last week, "We've been trying for 25 years to get rid of those public housing projects, and it only took Katrina a hour to get the job done." )
But hey, New Orleans is one helluva franchise -- a real potential gold mine. That is, if the winners can just clean the damn place up. All the French Quarter needs is a bit of buffing up by Disney Corp. to transform it into a "family friendly" vacation destination. But those poor areas need a total do-over. Imagine hundreds of thousands of quaint yuppie condos, walking distance to the French Quarter. Man alive, a developer could get $300,000 a one-bedroom for one of those puppies. They can almost smell it, especially now that the former "bad elements" are hundreds of miles away cooling their brown heels in tincan houses in some Georgia pine forest.
And look who's first at the "give me" trough down in Mississippi -- the casinos. For years casino interests have fought a state law that required their gambling palaces float. Now they are about to get the right to build them on dry land. Whose dry land? Can you spell "imminent domain?"Â The Supreme Court has already cleared the legal path for local officials to decide that if a loser's house is in the way of something more lucrative, the house goes to make room for the lucrative.
So it was urban renewal. Messy, brutal but effective. A Category 4 wrecking ball of a hurricane. A gift to the winners from a loving and compassionate God. Intelligent design, in action. (Ironically, it may have been the winners who gave us these super hurricanes too by denying that greenhouse gases cause global warming --- just as tobacco companies denied smoking was addictive and caused cancer, even though they knew it was and did -- felon see, felon do.)
Oh, I know what some will say â€” "Those companies get contracts like Iraq and New Orleans because they are the only companies big enough and with the resources and experience to do jobs like those."
Yes, true, but how did they achieve such positions of contractual hegemony in the first place? That's the question. The answer is in the numbers:
Bechtel Group Inc.
The Contributions: $1,303,765 (59% to Republicans; 41% to Democrats)
Total to President Bush: $6,250
The Contributions: $708,770 (95% to Republicans)
Total to President Bush: $17,677
The Contributions: $25,000 Presidential Dinner
Total to President Bush: $5,000
Add Yourself to the Blame Game
While the lion's share of the billions of taxpayer money needed to rebuild New Orleans will go to such winner companies, the Bush administration is encouraging the rest of us to dig deeper and contribute to non-govermental organizations (NGOs) like the Red Cross.
"Give generously," President Bush pled last week because, with so much taxpayer money going to the winners, someone has to feed and house the losers.
We're a nation of mega-suckers. Just when I think they can't get away with squeezing anything more out of us, they do, and with our help no less. They want to give the winners a fewÂ hundred billions in tax breaks, and we agree -- and for what? For a lousy $600 check. That's my definition of chumps.
They start a war on false pretenses, crap up an entire nation half way around the world, and then ask us to to cough up a quarter trillion bucks to clean up the mess they made. We agree and they give much of that money to the usual suspects -- at least those who have agreed to return a portion of it to their benefactors during the next election cycle. The term "sucker" is too weak to describe us. We are beyond suckers. We are sheep, pushing and shoving one another aside to be first in line at the packing house.
They send our kids to fight and die in an insurgency they created , while their own kids finish college, start jobs and families, and we let them. Why? Because they assure us that "it's worth it" -- worth the lives of our children, but not theirs.
Meanwhile, their Commander-in-Chief won't even drag himself to a single funeral -- not one of any of the 2000 GI's who died for him -- and once again, we let him get away with it. We don't even seem to think it's wrong. We are flag-waving, slogan-repeating accomplices to murder and infanticide. Yes, we are.
This whole mess was created -- and is maintained -- by two political parties, both as addicted to corporate money as addicts to heroin or crack. They can no longer imagine political life without the stuff. All Americans are created equal -- as long as their contributions are equal. Just ask the hundreds of thousands of poor losers whose new mailing addresses now reads, "formerly of New Orleans." You won't their names on contribution lists of candidates from either party.
But don't blame just Bush & Co. and clueless, spineless Democrats. We know what they are. Nevertheless, we have handed them our nation, our constitution, or Bill of Rights, our money, and now our children. So, as we play "the blame game," add your name to the list. We are a nation of suckers, and enablers.
We are beneath contempt, and will remain so as long as we let same-old, same-old be the norm.
Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," which was nominated for a Pulitzer.