FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Getting the Most Out of Homeland Security

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.

 

More articles by:

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).

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail