Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Clichés About Power Corrupting . . .

I support Barack Obama, and I wish that he wasn't in this mess, but in a way, it seems unavoidable. Three of his cabinet appointees have hit trouble because of tax irregularities that, if their ubiquity among Obama's prospective cabinet is to be taken as a guide, is prevalent among most rich people in America. I was especially sad to see Tom Daschle resign from his not-yet-appointed position today, since I know from his career as Senate minority leader in the 1990s that he would have done good work on the health care reform project that Obama wants to tackle before 2012. However, the fact that he owed well over $100,000 in taxes that he never paid for his driver was just too blatant a screw up to recover from.

He would have gotten the votes in the Senate to take the job, but Obama's whole project for his administration is to run government differently. What I found especially sketchy was that since he lost his re-election bid in 2004, he has earned over $1,000,000/year working for a health care lobbying firm. While Daschle was never a registered lobbyist, he worked for the firm, and they made use of the many connections Daschle had throughout the government. Daschle had become too much of an establishment Washington political figure, and in the past few days, we've seen how he's come to inhabit many of the worse qualities of that description.

I've been reading Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, over the last few days. In one chapter, he describes a trip he took hitching along on a private jet to Silicon Valley to visit Google headquarters. He found the American tech industry facing some major problems, like a steadily shrinking number of young Americans with the qualifications to work in technology development, and the dearth of blacks and Latinos among those few Americans graduating with advanced degrees.

He also describes a train trip he took to a small town in western Illinois, where a highly profitable Maytag plant was about to shut down and move to Mexico, simply to garner even higher profits based on cheap, if less dedicated and skilled, labour. He talked with people who failed to benefit from incompetently run retraining programs, and one recently-unemployed man who had lost his health insurance, and faced going far into debt to finance his son's live-saving liver transplant.

He called this last story something that a politician misses by spending too much time in private jets.

No comments: