Sunday, August 21, 2011

Richie Rich Goes to Washington

Just when we were finally convinced that Congress is but a giant shill for the millionaires, Roll Call comes out with its annual list of the 50 richest legislators -- and it turns out that Congress is truly one great big shill for itself.  Minimum requirement to make this year's top 50? A net worth of at least $6 million. If you are a mere millionaire, as are two thirds of Congress, you're a comparative pauper.

The biggest surprise this year was that a relative unknown (outside of Texas, that is) beat out last year's winner, alleged arsonist and car thief Darryl Issa, to top The List. Mike McCaul, representing the 10th Congressional district (a long and winding road from Austin to Houston, courtesy of Tom Delay-machinated redistricting), saw his net worth increase by a stunning 300 percent, to $294.21 million, thanks to a very generous Sugar Daddy-in-Law.  McCaul's wife is the daughter of Lowry Mays, CEO of Clear Channel Communications, the media conglomerate most famous for being the home of Right Wing Hate Radio. One of McCoul's biggest fans is Rush Limbaugh, so the money machine grinds in an endless closed circle.  Clear Channel pays Limbaugh millions to spew his hate, and the millions he generates in ad revenue go to Clear Channel, and Clear Channel bestows its largesse upon McCaul, and McCaul makes the laws to benefit the in-laws and Rush and Clear Channel. Round and round it goes, and it never stops.  Hate springs eternal.

But never mind all that. McCaul self-righteously voted in favor of the Broadcast Decency Act because he doesn't want tender ears exposed to F-bombs:

"It's my hope that (this sends) a clear message to American broadcasters to be very careful about what they allow on our publicly regulated airwaves. As a father of five young children, I shouldn't have to worry about my kids seeing or hearing trash on our radios or televisions. It is not too much to expect our airwaves to keep it clean while our children are watching or listening." (McCaul press release).

But racist tirades and misogynistic jokes?  Fine with him.  As a matter of fact,  Rush hosted a private fund-raiser for McCaul, who tried to keep it secret and banned the press. (Limbaugh had just called Sonia Sotomayor a reverse racist and more and McC said nothing).  But Rick Perry was there to make Rush an honorary Texan, and he just couldn't resist posting the video to YouTube.  McCaul is the guffawing guy in the blue tie, to Rush's right. 
McCaul, Limbaugh, Perry
McCaul has been rated one of the most right-wing Republicans in Congress. As a former Justice Department attorney and chairman of the Subcomittee on Homeland Security, he has advocated increased high tech surveillance at the border and also sponsored legislation calling for an army of vigilantes, including the Minuteman Project, to patrol the Mexican border:
McCaul's bill would create a "Border Corps" of volunteers, trained and equipped by the federal government to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in fortifying U.S. borders. 
The congressman said it would be up to Homeland Security Department officials whether Border Corps volunteers would be armed. He said the Border Corps volunteers would act as "the eyes and ears" of U.S. Border Patrol officers. 
McCaul said he had not assessed how much money his proposed Border Corps would cost the taxpayers. 
When asked about the possible danger of volunteers patrolling U.S. borders, McCaul said, "I would submit that the current situation is dangerous in that you have volunteers down there who are completely unsupervised and without adequate training."  (Cox News)

Here are a few more fun McCaul quotes and factoids:

He voted against the Affordable Care act, stem cell research, the Dream Act granting amnesty to certain qualified undocumented immigrants (surprise!), relief for underwater homeowners, the auto bailout, education funding for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war vets.

But, he'd rushed back to Congress to make sure Terry Schiavo wasn't taken off life support. ("We are judged by the way we treat the most vulnerable among us and we must not allow any American to be deprived of the right to life without due process of law" he intoned at the time.)

He's sponsoring legislation that would forbid Congress members from naming pet projects after themselves. Says McCaul, owner of a mansion that he and his wife paid $3 million cash for: "It's a problem of perception that these projects receive special treatment because of the names they bear. When the American people see this it feeds the belief that members of Congress are arrogant and out of touch with the people we represent."

After evacuees from Hurricane Katrina flooded into Texas, McCaul called them "an interesting social experiment" and worried about the increased crime they might foment, given "their long history of government dependence."

Be It Ever So Humble, It's All in the Perception.

There's a lot more where that gift from Daddy-in-Law came from, so McCaul very sensibly and altruistically voted against the Death Tax, because: "Death should not be a taxable event. For too long the federal government has been taxing working Americans, not once, not twice but three times on their hard earned money. When they earn it there's an income tax, when they spend it there's a sales tax even when they die the government takes a tax from the grave."  (Yeah!  Power to the Rich People, Mikey!)

But I digress.  There are other rich Congress people to worry about. Among the top 50: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (an acceptable synonym for wealth if there ever was one); Sen. James Risch; Rep. Tom Price and Rep. Nan Hayworth.

In the interest of fairness, there are a few impoverished congress members as well. (They must be doing something wrong). Among the reps reporting a negative net worth are Sen Marco Rubio of Florida, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, and deadbeat Tea Party dad Joe Walsh, who actually lost his condo to foreclosure. Forget reaching across the aisle to each other, these people need to learn how to reach into each other's pockets.  Just so long as they stay out of ours.


Valerie said...

Why don't we just rename the Congress the House of Lords? We've got the fox guarding the henhouse that is for sure!

And lest we forget, when they are done with Congress, these same millionaires will go back into the business world and use their political connections to increase their own personal fortunes and those of their buddies. You can tell a lot about people by looking at their friends. And these "reps" don't have friends like us.

Jay - Ottawa said...

What could be the problem with rich men in Congress representing moderate-income and poor people during a class war? And 'so what' if all the anchors on TV and most of the big names with big pens in the newspapers are also millionaires who play tennis with the government officials they cover? And aren't billionaire CEOs being transparent by trickling down the investments of their stockholders through Members of Congress and from there to the rest of us. And what could be the problem with rich men in Congress representing moderate-income and poor people during a class war?

Anne Lavoie said...

Obama may only be a mere millionaire, but he is a candidate trying to raise a Billion dollars for his re-election campaign.

It just occurred to me that a billion dollars could put a lot of bloggers on the payroll - think of the decrease in unemployment that could make!

Bloggers could opt into different tiers of service to the President's re-election campaign: Either (a) criticize Republicans (b) simply lay off any negatives about Obama or (c) praise Obama.

The pay scale would be commensurate with whatever level the blogger wished to operate at. Submit your entry for reimbursement.

A billion can go a long way towards winning elections when used creatively. After all, mainstream media is extremely expensive, while bloggers are numerous with lots of free time, being under- or unemployed.

That could be his (secret) Jobs Program!

Valerie said...

OK - I gotta ask - John in Lafayette - are you Lafayette on Truthdig? Valerie

Valerie said...


Is it my imagination or is the NY Times getting even more superficial. I just read an article on sleeping on planes in the opinion section that wouldn't have even made it into Cosmopolitan or Glamour magazines. What happened to the gutsy woman who was taking over at the Times. Wasn't she our big hope for decent journalism?

Denis Neville said...

Karen, would enjoy hearing your response to the “news” from NY Times’ Gretchen Morgenson that the Obama administration is pressuring New York’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman to agree to a settlement with the major banks over improper handling of foreclosures and mortgage servicing…their motivation being “the immediate opportunity to help a huge number of borrowers to stay in their homes, to help their neighborhoods and the housing market.”

Yeh, right! Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel debunks that assertion:

Glenn Greenwald comments today on the Obama administrations “tough stance” on banks:

As Yves Smith at naked capitalism writes, “It is high time to describe the Obama Administration by its proper name: corrupt…The Administration has now taken to pressuring parties that are not part of the machinery reporting to the President to fall in and do his bidding. We’ve gotten so used to the US attorney general being conveniently missing in action that we have forgotten that regulators and the AG are supposed to be independent. As one correspondent noted by e-mail, ‘When officials allegiances are to El Supremo rather than the Constitution, you walk the path to fascism.’”

Obama’s 2008 claim of the audacity of hope has become like the Seven Commandments at the end of the big barn in Animal Farm ended – “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” as the sheep bleat “four legs good, two legs better!” It is impossible to tell pig from man. “To the prosperity of Manor Farm!”

Karen Garcia said...

I think the new editor, Jill Abramson, will probably take over in September, the traditional turnover time. I did not read the op-ed you referred to, but the writer in question, Heffernan, specializes in tech stuff that is meant to appeal to the metrosexual, young hip demographic. They have a TV commercial about the Times "weekender" deal, full of young, good looking actors lounging around in their pricey spreads reading the Style and foodie sections. Whenever I see the pic of Heffernan I think of that snobby commercial!

Karen Garcia said...

I have been working on a post to address that. Thanks for the links!

Denis Neville said...

@ Valerie On the bright side, today’s NY Times editorial page did oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

On the dark side:

In 2006, Obama said, “Our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe.” Last year Obama himself admitted that the oil sands’ carbon footprint was a concern. Obama can do something substantial about climate change by rejecting the tar sands pipeline.

However, his climate-change hypocrisy is just another fact of life. For another chapter in the paucity of hope and how the Obama administration continually disappoints, read the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables about our government’s tactics - money and threats, spying and cyberwarfare – defeated a meaningful climate agreement at Copenhagen last year, and ensured the outcome that was favorable to China and the USA.

Will Our “Environmental” President oppose the tar sands pipeline? Or will Our Incredible Pivoting President capitulate yet again and give big oil what it wants by approving it?

Valerie said...

Denis! I, too, thank you for the links.