August 15, 2010
NYC Letter: America's Ruling Class
Day 571 of CHOPE
Meet America's ruling class.
John Conyers (D-MI, 14th),
I love these members, they get up and say, "Read the bill". What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?
22 House terms, 44 years, still serving,
House Judiciary Committee chair and indolent lexist,
wondering aloud why legislators should feel obliged
to read tortuous draft legislation -- much less
a 2,801-page final bill -- before voting on it
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB LUNCHEON
WASHINGTON July 27, 2009 (CNSNews.com)
John Conyers (D-MI, 14th),
They don't know what's in it.
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 8th),
But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
12 House terms, 24 years, still serving,
Speaker and befogged master legislator
putting the tumbrel before the horse
2010 LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE
FOR NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES
WASHINGTON March 9, 2010 (Office of the Speaker)
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 8th),
They don't know how, as written, it will apply.
Christopher J. Dodd (D-CN),
No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we’ve done something that has been needed for a long time.
3 House terms, 5 Senate terms, 36 years total, retiring
teary-eyed plutocrat commenting on the unsprung mysteries
of the 2,300-page financial reform bill
WASHINGTON June 26, 2010 (WaPo)
Christopher J. Dodd (D-CN),
They believe themselves omnipotent.
Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark (D-CA, 13th),
I think there are very few Constitutional limits that would prevent the federal government from rules, ah, that could affect your private life. Now, the basis for that would be how does it affect other people. ... The, the federal government, ah, yes, can do most anything in this country.
19 House terms, 38 years, still serving,
Constitutional Brainiac and discriminating urinator,
responding to constituent's question
on the limits of government
TOWN HALL MEETING
HAYWARD July 24, 2001 (Breitbart.tv)
Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark (D-CA, 13th),
They expect to be re-elected.
I think we're going to shock the heck out of everybody... I am absolutely confident when people take a look at what has happened since we've taken office in November and comparing it to the alternative, we're going to be ... in great shape.
The above are Democrats, but, when it comes to the exercise of power, today's party politics is very much a wink and a nod. Collegiality, bipartisanship, compromise, make-nice, get-along, pattycake -- have vitiated opposition politics. Republicans lost big in the last two election cycles because they ran as imitation Democrats. Mr. Dooley once observed, "Politics ain't beanbag." And once upon a time it wasn't.
Party politics is meant to be a lively contest of ideas. America's two-party system was intended to be partisan. Legislation was to be hard-fought, with more battles than victories. Less law would be established than bills proposed. And established law was to be lean, to the point, and plainly understood to secure a consensus along the political seam with the opposition. [Pause.] That at least was the fond idea.
July-August 2010 (TAS) - As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors' "toxic assets" was the only alternative to the U.S. economy's "systemic collapse." In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets' nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.
When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term "political class" came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public's understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the "ruling class." And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.
... Today's ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters -- speaking the "in" language -- serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America's ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
Although voted in by the electorate, representative government now represents itself. Whereas the electorate's interests are in creating prosperity, the government's interests lie in exploiting prosperity. The bigger, the more daring the exploitation, the more power needed.
Our ruling class's agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. ... Hence our ruling class's standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government -- meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class's solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.
As government appropriated more power to itself, elected officials could not manage the legislative burden alone. This gave rise to a sub-government of technocratic aides. These aides pre-negotiate conditions with their opposites, craft the actual bills, and write the high-level abstracts for their bosses, the people's representatives. The representatives then glean the three or four most memorable talking points and repeat them endlessly in response to any question about the bill.
Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally. For example, the health care bill of 2010 takes more than 2,700 pages [Ed.: 2,801 pages] to make sure not just that some states will be treated differently from others because their senators offered key political support, but more importantly to codify bargains between the government and various parts of the health care industry, state governments, and large employers about who would receive what benefits (e.g., public employee unions and auto workers) and who would pass what indirect taxes onto the general public. The financial regulation bill of 2010, far from setting univocal rules for the entire financial industry in few words, spends some 3,000 pages (at this writing) [Ed.: slimmed down at passage to a svelte 2,315 pages] tilting the field exquisitely toward some and away from others. Even more significantly, these and other products of Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses empower countless boards and commissions arbitrarily to protect some persons and companies, while ruining others. Thus in 2008 the Republican administration first bailed out Bear Stearns, then let Lehman Brothers sink in the ensuing panic, but then rescued Goldman Sachs by infusing cash into its principal debtor, AIG. Then, its Democratic successor used similarly naked discretionary power (and money appropriated for another purpose) to give major stakes in the auto industry to labor unions that support it. Nowadays, the members of our ruling class admit that they do not read the laws. They don't have to. Because modern laws are primarily grants of discretion, all anybody has to know about them is whom they empower.
The exercise of power is checked at the limit of the law. [Pause.] But the clever ruling class writes sprawling, convoluted, contradictory defective laws that are passed to be "fixed" (or here) or, more bizarrely, they might vote the "fixes" and the defects together. These humongous laws are almost always tested in the courts, which effectively repeal or "fix" law from the bench.
Disregard for the text of laws -- for the dictionary meaning of words and the intentions of those who wrote them -- in favor of the decider's discretion has permeated our ruling class from the Supreme Court to the lowest local agency. Ever since Oliver Wendell Holmes argued in 1920 (Missouri v. Holland) that presidents, Congresses, and judges could not be bound by the U.S. Constitution regarding matters that the people who wrote and ratified it could not have foreseen, it has become conventional wisdom among our ruling class that they may transcend the Constitution while pretending allegiance to it. They began by stretching such constitutional terms as "interstate commerce" and "due process," then transmuting others, e.g., "search and seizure," into "privacy." Thus in 1973 the Supreme Court endowed its invention of "privacy" with a "penumbra" that it deemed "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." The court gave no other constitutional reasoning, period. Perfunctory to the point of mockery, this constitutional talk was to reassure the American people that the ruling class was acting within the Constitution's limitations. By the 1990s federal courts were invalidating amendments to state constitutions passed by referenda to secure the "positive rights" they invent, because these expressions of popular will were inconsistent with the constitution they themselves were construing. ... As the discretionary powers of officeholders and of their informal entourages have grown, the importance of policy and of law itself is declining, citizenship is becoming vestigial, and the American people become ever more dependent.
Worth the full read, which goes on to cover recent populist ire and pushback.
Power in the right hands. Sod off, plebes!Posted by Damian at August 15, 2010 04:45 PM