FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Getting the Most Out of Homeland Security

by MARK WEISBROT

In a final burst of shameless opportunism for the legislative year 2002, the President and his party pushed their “homeland security” bill through Congress. The bill was laden with pork and gifts to special interests. Among the most ostentatious was a reward for corporations who found security far from their homeland: those who had set up foreign headquarters (sometimes little more than a mailbox in a tax haven like Bermuda) in order to evade US taxes would be made eligible for government contracts.

The legislation also grants the President broad powers to deny up to 170,000 federal workers their collective bargaining rights and civil service protections in the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

The Republicans were able to intimidate Congressional Democratswhich is about as difficult these days as intimidating the average squirrel on the Capitol groundsby threatening to portray them as obstructing necessary security measures. According to the pundits and pollsters that interpret these events, the Democrats had already lost two seats and their Senate majority because they had been tainted in this way. So how could they put up a fight?

But the Democrats got rolled on this legislation, as in the election generally, because they allowed President Bush to frame the issue dishonestly. It didn’t help that most of the media went along for the ride. Mr. Bush was never forced to answer why he might need to revoke the rights of federal workers. There are unionized employees in the Department of Defense as well as other agencies that contain employees who will be moved to the new Department of Homeland Security. No oneincluding the Presidenthas made the case that collective bargaining has impaired the functioning of these agencies.

Mr. Bush did claim that union opposition to having customs officials wear radiation detectors could delay the implementation of this security measure for “a long period of time.” This turned out to be a fabrication, as the issue had already been settled.

Yet in this increasingly Orwellian society where Ignorance is Truth and Homeland Security is Freedom, those who were blatantly exploiting the security issue to advance their agenda were able to portray their Democratic opponents as holding up national security legislation for the sake of “special interests.”

As it turned out, three of the most outrageous special interest clauses attached by House Republicans to the Homeland Security bill were too far over the top for even their Republican Senate colleagues. These included the federal contracts provision for tax evaders; special protection from lawsuits for pharmaceutical companies; and the establishment of a new research center for domestic security issues, which was expected to be placed at Texas A&M University (favored by powerful Republicans).

Facing a revolt from within, the Senate Republican leadership extracted a promise from their House counterparts that Congress would change these provisions next year.

It remains to be seen if this promise will be kept. In the meantime the Bush administration has announced another assault on federal workers, threatening to privatize the operations that employ as much as half the Federal government’s civilian labor forceup to 850,000 employees. Once again, the Administration has offered no evidence or plan to show how this would increase efficiency or save the taxpayers’ money.

But out-sourcing government services will provide lucrative contracts for some of the Administration’s corporate friends and contributors. Those who remember the Republicans’ proposals to partially privatize Social Security will see a pattern here. The individual accounts they wanted to create would have at least 15 times the administrative costs as the present system, and drain needed tax revenue from the system. But there was a payoff — for the Wall Street financial firms that would manage the accounts.

Senator Lincoln Chaffee, a Republican from Rhode Island, told the press that most senators were outraged at some of the provisions attached to the Homeland Security bill.

“It was a question for me how arrogant we were going to be after we have the White House and both houses of Congress. Do we just assume that might makes right and anything goes?”

Well, maybe. If they can get away with it.

MARK WEISBROT is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington D.C. and the co-author of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

 

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail