Buying favor in a recession
As the economy sinks into a hole and average citizens get hit from all sides, one industry keeps going like gangbusters the peddling of political influence.Campaign cash is getting thrown around almost as fast as bonuses to bungling CEOs of Wall Street firms just after they run their companies into the ground.As Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics said in a statement about the lobbying industry spending a record $2.8 billion to leverage Washington, Lobbying seems to be a recession-proof industry. In some respects, interests seek even more from our government when the economy slows.It makes you wonder about the long-term health of our country when individuals are saddled with skyrocketing mortgages and rising prices for gas and food yet big business can find $2.8 billion to spend on arm-bending at the Capitol.The troubling part of the situation is that the financial institutions that gambled on sub-prime mortgages are getting bailed out ala Bear Stearns to the tune of $30 billion or their CEOs are off in the Hamptons counting their hundreds of millions in bonuses that they received by underwriting an industry that paired underqualified homebuyers with risky loans.Meanwhile regular citizens get what? A $600 tax rebate check? A temporary freeze on the interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage? Thats nice, but given stagnant wages, inflated prices and diminishing home equity, its like slapping a Band-Aid over a hemorrhaging wound. And its definitely not $30 billion.Theres a tie here one thats too blatant to miss. Business lobbyists spend billions of dollars in Washington sweet talking politicians into favoring them. And then, when business gets in trouble, politicians pull out billions in taxpayer dollars to bail out business.Its a cozy relationship, but one that is doubly sad for average Joe. Not only are the unlucky stuck with a lousy mortgage and a home declining in value but they get to see their tax dollars prop up the financial institution that financed the mortgages they are shackled to.Of course, take a look at Bear Stearns history of campaign contributions the companys political arm has lavished money on influential politicians, including $309,000 to President George W. Bush during the 2004 campaign and more than $100,000 to congressional candidates in 2006, according to campaign watchdog Web site Opensecrets.org, and its hard not to see quid pro quoThe company was already off to a running start this presidential campaign before its financial meltdown giving almost $67,000 to candidate John McCain.Sure, had Bear Stearns gone under, the repercussions may have been felt by the entire country. But seeing a soft landing for a business that profited off of unscrupulous lending practices a firm that in a sense dug its own grave makes you wonder where all the help is for the little guy who was the victim, not the profiteer of risky and ill-advised loans.Meanwhile, the whole country suffers from these poor decisions. But, surprisingly, there still seems to be millions to be spent on political campaigns $194 million to Barack Obama, $169 million to Hillary Clinton and $65 million for John McCain.Add that to the $2.8 billion in lobbying money spent last year and you may wonder which business is next in line for a $30 billion handout.We may be in a recession, but you wouldnt know it looking at the money washing over Washington.David Bunker is the Sierra Sun assistant editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.