The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives has the power to end the government shutdown and avoid the U.S. entering into default on October 17. Speaker John Boehner refuses to exercise that power. Why? Who will save us?
There’s only one thing worse than a system of governance rife with corruption. That’s a system of governance totally infused with ideology. At least in a corrupt or semi-corrupt system like ours, there’s the possibility that someone or a group of some means can buy the right decision from key legislators.
Take a look at the industry groups that chose John Boehner’s 2012 campaign committee as their number one choice for contributions (see chart): financial services and Wall Street. We all know that campaign contributions are legalized bribery. Politicians take money from big donors and do what they are told to do. Boehner is a minion of big finance and Wall Street. At least, he should be.
Does this mean that all these financial-Wall Street sector groups want the United States of America to enter into default? Probably not. Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says that a U.S. default would create problems that would take a generation to fix. Bloomberg News’ headline sums up the general view of finance and Wall Street: A U.S. Default Seen as Catastrophe Dwarfing Lehman’s Fall, Oct 7.
There’s big money behind Boehner but it’s not Wall Street or the financial sector that helped create his $25 million 2012 campaign fund. A shutdown and, more importantly, a looming U.S. credit default on October 17 are simply too risky.
Boehner has the ability to set the rules that allow legislation to come to the floor of the House of Representatives. He could allow a new vote on the government shutdown and the debt limit at any point. The crisis would end immediately.
Enough House Republicans from big states got the message from their donors and constituents, loud and clear. Knock it off! Twenty-one Republican House members offered a public commitment to vote for a clean budget resolution and many more say they will if a vote that way if given the chance. (Their excuse for voting for the defund Obamacare budget bill in the first place is actually very funny: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas tricked them into thinking that the “defund” Obamacare strategy would work in the Senate.)
Boehner won’t budge. He outright lies about a second House vote on a budget resolution, saying he doesn’t have the votes to pass a clean version.
Who controls Boehner?
It is fair to assume that Boehner’s no revolutionary. His hardened position has to come from somewhere. But where?
Early on in his House career, Boehner revealed his true calling, a bagman for big tobacco.
“ . . . Ascending the leadership ladder as chairman of the House Republican Conference, he [Boehner] was spotted handing out checks from the Brown & Williamson tobacco company on the House floor. This spectacle of corruption was so blatant that even some members of Congress were outraged and demanded that he stop.”—Joe Conason
So let’s follow the money and the front groups that control Speaker Boehner. The Koch brothers use their considerable wealth gained from petroleum and other companies to foster their own wacky view of an Ayn Rand free-for-all America. They don’t like any regulation. They think the minimum wage hurts workers. They sponsor climate change deniers. The list goes on. They’re also incredibly rich and exert their power. Worse, they truly believe the nonsense philosophy that they pay so much to advance.
One of their favored money fronts, as revealed by an excellent New York Times expose (Oct 3), is Freedom Partners, a pass through funder of various right-wing causes. The 2011 Freedom Partners IRS Form 990 for tax-exempt organizations shows the receipt and distribution of $235 million in funds to advance the various extremist causes of the Koch brothers. Their number one priority was and remains defeating Obamacare.
You can be sure that a huge portion of that money ended up in the hands of the eighty House members of the Tea Party caucus who petitioned Speaker Boehner to link defunding Obamacare to the budget resolution leading to the government shutdown. As Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash, pointed out, we are ruled by this tiny core of neo Confederates who represent just 18% of the population.
So, in answer to the question, who controls John the bagman Boehner, it’s fairly obvious. The tobacco lobby may have given Boehner checks to pass out on the House floor. But, the Koch brothers put this glad-hander in the middle of at least $235 million a year (based on 2011) of funds from Koch and the various right-wing zealots who support the Freedom Partners.
Will Karl Rove save the world?
There is a certain grotesque humor to that heading. Remember, however, that the president of Russia brought us a peace deal in Syria that is actually working and the president of Iran wants to be peace partners with Obama. We live in a strange world.
Rove can’t save anything, of course. But he represents people who can, the Bush clan and its partners and patrons—big oil, big banks, and Wall Street. Recall that Rove set out to destroy the Tea Party in the 2012 election. He was very open about it. More recently, he has outlined the highly negative consequences for the Republican Party resulting from a shutdown. Rove is the ideal candidate to come up with a plan to fix things.
We know that plan. Make it worth the speaker’s while to cooperate and have somebody bigger than the Koch brothers apply some serious pressure.
In the meantime, we’re seeing a spectacular waste of energy and effort while the economy languishes in a painful recession and the world nears the tipping point for human survival in any acceptable form.
Michael Collins is a DC area writer and researcher. He is also the Editor in Chief of The Agonist.