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Nothing Means Anything

by ALAN FARAGO

John McCain says it plainly: he is running against the status quo, he is running against the lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and he can’t wait to unleash Palin on its culture. What McCain is really saying to top donors in states like Florida is that he is running against what they built: a red state majority based on the Rove/Cardenas/Bush plan to put campaign money spigots in every infrastructure project from the Panhandle (St. Joe) to Homestead (LBA/sprawl).

Florida’s top donors must believe, as in other red states; McCain doesn’t mean it. And maybe he doesn’t, because nothing means anything in the McCain/Palin campaign. In Florida it is result of the Hurricane Hoffman/ WCI Communities effect.

In 2003, Al Hoffman– then chair of WCI Communities, a condo/ home builder, and also finance chair for both Bush brothers (now, top fundraiser for McCain)– crowed to the Washington Post that suburban sprawl was “an unstoppable force”. Why is sprawl an issue?

Because insta-grow communities in Miami’s suburbs and the American south and West– in places like Pheonix, Las Vegas and Sacramento– are littered with foreclosures, crashing neighborhood values, and the seeds of a financial tsunami.

Bloomberg reports, “Foreclosures accelerated in the second quarter to the fastest pace in almost three decades as interest rates increased and home values fell, prompting more Americans to walk away from homes they couldn’t refinance or sell. New foreclosures increased to 1.19 percent, rising above 1 percent for the first time in the survey’s 29 years, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report today.” (US Mortgage Foreclosures, Deliquencies Rise to 29 Year High, Sept. 5)

Those crushed dreams belong to Republicans, too. Today Hoffman’s former company is bankrupt and the entire array of special interests related to development and speculation is dazed as a bee colony hit by a cloud of smoke.

Most political observers have no idea how it happened, but the results are clear and articulated, partially, in today’s report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Today’s extremely disappointing employment report shows that the economy remains mired in a slump and still waiting for something to jump start a sustainable recovery. Consumer spending supported by the stimulus payments that Congress enacted earlier this year helped keep the economy growing in the second quarter, but the headwinds from still-high energy prices, a weak housing market, tight credit markets, and continuing financial market uncertainty will make it difficult to sustain economic growth as the effects of the first round of stimulus wear off.”

“Financial market uncertainty” euphemistically refers to the biggest threat to the nation’s financial system since the 1930’s.

Most people don’t have any idea how to buy a Collateral Mortgage Obligation, a type of financial instrument at the heart of the multi-trillion dollar credit crisis and housing market crash, but the top donors from the real estate development industries do: at financial institutions like Bear Stearns (defunct) or Lehman Brothers, where Jeb Bush took a paid consultancy after leaving the Florida governor’s office, now raising billions from Korea just to stave off bankrupcy. And Korea is just the latest in a long line of foreign investors with accounts bulging with dollars, from Abu Dhabi to Beijing, who have their own concept of what the ownership society means.

This is what the foundation for Florida’s future rests upon: the quicksand of capital “rescue plans” from vultures and sovereign wealth funds. Yesterday, Bill Gross, manager of the world’s biggest bond fund, told Bloomberg News: “The U.S. government needs to start using more of its money to support markets to stem a burgeoning “financial tsunami”. (U.S. Must Buy Assets to Prevent `Tsunami,’ Gross Says) Fiscal conservatives should be apoplectic.

This isn’t– as Sarah Palin, George Bush, and John McCain claim– the “angry left” talking. I’m not sure the Republicans cheering at their national convention understand this part: that nationalization of private financial institutions is happening right now, under the supervision of the Bush administration and the shield of US taxpayers, while the party values continue to tout the “free market”. Free market, to whom?

Today, the Republican spin machine is struggling to pin the socialization– nationalization, if you will– of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on someone else. How dare the Republicans accuse “liberals” for being angry about the fire sale of US assets to Asia, the Middle East, and even Russia? Filled up your car at Lukoil recently? The fact is that lefties and liberals have been no where in view, except as community organizers and neighborhood activists.

We didn’t hear John McCain, last night in St. Paul, nor will Florida top donors hear Sarah Palin in Miami next week utter a solitary word of the fiscal irresponsibility that pushed the US economy into the biggest crisis since the Great Depression while making many of them a fortune in the process.

What I heard John McCain say, was that his campaign is running away from the Republican status quo lickety-split: change we can trust. What I heard was a convention full of Republican party faithful cheering against the performance and record of their own party and against the windfall profits that enriched their top donors.

So it is going to be interesting to watch Alaska Governor Sarah Palin vacuum political money from those top Florida Republicans before Hurricane Ike, whose name recalls a real Republican hero who precisely understood the threats of powerful vested interests against representative democracy.

Palin comes in the fundraising footsteps of her own political Alaskan enemies: Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young, both of whom have very close connections to wealthy South Florida Republicans donors.

I’m not sure what her sales pitch will be, but it is not likely along the lines of the truth: “write your check to the Republican National Committee or a 527 committee so we can continue to hold power even if it means running TV ads against what we represent.” Nor is she likely to say anything along the lines of Bill Gross’, “If we are to prevent a continuing asset and debt liquidation of near historic proportions, we will require policies that open up the balance sheet of the U.S. Treasury.”

No. When Sarah Palin arrives for her coming out party by Miami’s Republican elite, the media is likely to be shut out from everything but the choreographed entry of a shooting star.

This is what the Rovian politics of the past decade proved: how, if you control the mainstream media– overtly through ownership (Fox News) or through intimidation (access to Larry King Live) and say a thing often enough; most Americans can be persuaded it is true.

In Miami on Monday, Sarah Palin will not be aiming against “all those special interests” because all those special interests are going to be her audience.

ALAN FARAGO, who writes on the environment and politics from Coral Gables, Florida, and can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com

 

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Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

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