Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Perfect Storm: Corruption, Bailout, and Civil War

Well, whaddya know. Despite the Blago stain of corruption, statistically Illinois is not number 1, or 2, or 3, or 4.

In USA Today’s ranking, based on public corruption convictions per 100,000 residents, Illinois came in at number 18. But critics argued the study was flawed for including sparsely populated states such as North Dakota, Alaska, and Montana, which skewed the results.

USA Today’s ranking:

(1) North Dakota, (2) Louisiana, (3) Alaska, (4) Mississippi, (5) Montana, (6) Kentucky, (7) Alabama, (8) Delaware and South Dakota (tie), (9) New Jersey and Ohio (tie), and (10) Pennsylvania and Florida (tie), with (11) Hawaii, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Illinois (virtual tie). Note: By virtual tie, I mean Illinois and Virginia scored 3.9 convictions per 100,000 residents while West Virginia scored 4.1, and the others came in with 4.

A more solid ranking published in 2007 by Corporate Crime Reporter using Department of Justice statistics, including only the 35 most populous states that compiled all federal corruption convictions by state over a decade (from 1997 to 2006), the TOP TEN most corrupt states are (drum roll):

(1) Louisiana, (2) Mississippi, (3) Kentucky, (4) Alabama, (5) Ohio, (6) Illinois, (7) Pennsylvania, (8) Florida, (9) New Jersey, and (10) New York. Tennessee, Bob Corker’s state, gets dishonorable mention as number 11.

Corporate Crime Reporter’s metrics, by way of the Justice Department, are considered to be accurate rankings of state corruption, given the source and statistics compiled over a 10-year period. The only caveat is that the latest data is from 2006 (2007 numbers should be out shortly); it’s likely that Illinois will move up, though still doubtful the state will top out as number one based on a single year’s data.

If one looks at the really corrupt states in both rankings, some interesting patterns begin to emerge. For comparison purposes, I have bolded the most corrupt states recently in the news, and Illinois in italics. What do the highly ranked most corrupt bolded states have in common?

1. They’re Deep South red states
2. They’re “right-to-work” (a euphemism for legalized union-busting) states
3. They’re home to a burgeoning foreign auto industry
4. They’re represented by a Republican Senate clique that killed the Big 3 bailout

Blame the worker.

Bob Corker, multimillionaire senator from Tennessee, home to carpetbaggers Nissan, Kia, and Volkswagen, played the cynical role of imposing unacceptable conditions on the UAW, after an agreement was reached in which the union made multiple concessions and givebacks. The sniveling Corker did the dirty work for perpetually sneering Richard Shelby, senator from Alabama, home to carpetbaggers Mercedes, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai – Shelby sneeringly called the U.S. auto industry a “dinosaur” – and slimy Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, home to carpetbagger Toyota.

Blame the worker.

Unless he or she is white collar and works for AIG et al, in which case the sacred financial money speculators get a bailout of more than $300 billion, no questions asked. But heaven forbid they should be blue collar union members from Detroit, Michigan: throw them out like so much industrial waste or use them as bargaining chips in a high stakes game of strip your life away poker. Remove any vestige of a decent retirement income and benefits – oh, those horrendous “Legacy” costs. So what if you’ve worked your entire life in a Big 3 plant. Does that entitle you to a decent retirement with earned benefits? Not in this economy; not in this country. Not on your life. So says Corker, the multimillionaire.

Blame the worker.

Michael Moore said, folks in the Midwest industrial states are well aware of this hateful prejudice. As he put it, those who shower before going to work get a bailout, but those who have to shower after work get shafted. Michigan governor Jennifer Granholme reacted to the repulsive conduct of the Southern senators by saying it was “un-American.” When your neighbor’s house is on fire, you don’t hesitate to help. And by the way, Michigan, a union state home to the Big 3 and heart of America’s industrial base, is one of those good governance states that is nowhere near the top echelon of the most corrupt.

Starting to see a pattern here?

Blame the worker. And kill the union.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger noted in his press conference that the "incentives" foreign auto makers received from Southern “right-to-work” states totaled more than $3 billion taxpayer dollars. It’s closer to $3.6 billion, and that’s a conservative estimate.

Gettelfinger had the quote of the week:

“They thought they could have a twofer: pierce the heart of organized labor while representing the foreign brands.”

And he zeroed in on Shelby’s state of Alabama:

"We have Hyundai Motor Company that got $252 million in incentives. Toyota there got $29 million in incentives. Honda, $158 million and Mercedes $253 million in incentives … but the state offered to train the workers, clear and improve the sites, upgrade the utilities, buy 2,500 vehicles and it is estimated that that incentive package totaled somewhere around $175,000 per employee to create those jobs there. And on top of this, that state gave this automaker a large parcel of land-around $250-$300 million dollars. That was the same price or cost to them of building a facility. So we can support our competition but we can’t support an industry that is in need? And this need was not brought about because of what the industry has done."

$175,000 per employee! Now that’s a savings we can believe in, eh Shelby?

So here’s my nightmare scenario (hoping it won’t come to pass):

This is one of those rare times of reckoning in our history.

In a political and economic perfect storm, three points on the map – Chicago, Detroit and Washington, DC – form the Bermuda Triangle of destruction, the metaphysical black hole into which entire political careers are consumed in a maelstrom of corruption, while the industrial base of this country is literally sucked into the void, dragging with it 3 million jobs. As Rome burns, Southern court jesters seize the moment to destroy the labor unions, turning their backs on the country, like the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to reenact a civil war lost to the industrial might of the North, when Lincoln was president. It’s payback time. It’s about “piercing the heart of organized labor,” to vicariously reverse the history of 143 years of humiliation and defeat on the backs of union workers, and reclaim for hardened Southern souls the bitter fruits of victory, as another president from Illinois prepares to take office.

If, in a matter of days – not weeks or months – we become a third rate power, if our economy is destroyed and our standard of living dips below Kentucky’s and Alabama’s and Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s, remember these names: Richard Shelby, Bob Corker, Jim DeMint, Mitch McConnell, and Jon Kyl. For their praises will be sung in hobo campfires throughout the deepest of the Deep South, alongside the revered names of Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Jeb Stewart. They will be memorialized as the great Southern patriots of the Second War Between the States, who invaded the councils of Yankee government and achieved by dint of legislative obstruction what the mythical heroes of a checkered but glorious past could not accomplish by force of arms: to bring the North to its knees and destroy its industrial base.

I can almost hear echoes of their Rebel yells; if not in the courtly confines of the Senate cloak room, then perhaps in their Christmas parties where, softened up by liquor, they’ll be whooping and hollering: “The South will rise again! Damn the labor unions!”

While Rome burns.


Lula O said...

Wow. That was really good. Now I'm really pissed.

Lula O said...

Enjoy your pizza and beer??

Carlos said...

Thanks, Lula. That was the idea.

Sadly, I had to take a rain check on the beer & pizza ... it was snowing and 40 minutes away. But there's always more beer opportunities with Peter! :)