Democrats Impeach Joe Biden, Fiddle as the Planet Burns

Photograph Source: Gage Skidmore – CC BY-SA 2.0

Establishment efforts to isolate ‘corruption’ narrowly in the persons of Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, rely on a conception of it that makes sense only within political economy that ceased to function for the rest of us some decades ago. Understood outside of Washington and New York is that the exchange of campaign contributions for legislative outcomes is the antithesis of democracy. The first casualty of the insider farce of impeachment will most likely be the Senator from MBNA, Joe Biden.

The Delaware credit card company MBNA was Joe Biden’s largest campaign contributor when he promoted and passed the 2005 bankruptcy ‘reform’ bill that made it virtually impossible to discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy. Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, was a paid lobbyist for MBNA at the time of the bill’s passage. While lawyers can parse explicit from implicit quid pro quo, 1) the company hired Hunter Biden, 2) its executives were Joe Biden’s largest campaign contributors, and 3) it got what it wanted in terms of legislative outcomes.

And given the outcome that hiring Hunter Biden appears to have produced for MBNA, why wouldn’t Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings assume the same when it hired him? Here is fired Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin’s sworn affidavit that 1) Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless 2) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko fired prosecutor Shokin who 3) was investigating Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma Holdings. (Details provided below).

In their 2018 report. the United Nations environmental committee, the IPCC, laid out four possible paths to avoiding climate Armageddon. Three of the four paths assume the use of technologies that either don’t exist, have never been tested at scale, and / or will so exacerbate mass extinction through monoculture planting that they are very bad ideas. The fourth path assumes degrowth— an absolute decline in dirty economic production, that will require planning, a rapid restructuring of economic relations and global cooperation for success.

This makes the Democrats’ commitment to spend significant political energy not impeaching Donald Trump perplexing, unless their purpose is to avoid acting in the public interest to save their donors. As detailed below, what they’ve accomplished so far is to impeach Joe Biden— to render his 2020 Presidential run untenable. The establishment press’s defense of Mr. Biden— a combination class blindness, lazy reporting, undeserved assurances of its own moral rectitude and never having been held to account for past failures, will only serve to harden party allegiances.

In January of 2017, the intelligence ‘community’ put out an assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election that stated plainly on page 13 that it wasn’t— was not, based on evidence. The link is provided so that you can see for yourself. First, the report was claimed to be the product of seventeen agencies, then of three agencies, then of several people chosen by the DNI (Director of National Intelligence). If there was a case for Russian interference— and I’m surprised that none was found, why was only bullshit and misdirection put forward?

Later, the legal implication of senior law enforcement official Robert Mueller’s ‘does not exonerate’ finding was ‘not guilty’ under the actual law. In fact, the corrupt idiocy of the logic that the evidence ‘does not exonerate’ someone is met by the claim that Robert Mueller has never been exonerated of any of the crimes that he might be charged with. Not one. Here is the former Director of the CIA, John Brennan, failing a fifth grade civics quiz on the presumption of innocence. This is the Beverly Hillbillies ‘git trialed up’ level nonsense.

While the Democrat’s right-wing echo chamber never publicly admitted as much, before impeachment-gate, Russiagate was in the process of being laid to rest. Profits at MSNBC were plummeting. ‘Connecting the dots,’ previously the realm of Glenn Beck relating biblical prophecies to tsunamis in the Philippines, is now the legal standard at NPR, The New Yorker and the New York Times. Again, neither Robert Mueller nor John Brennan have been exonerated of any of the crimes they haven’t yet been charged with. This means they’re guilty, right?

Meanwhile, the backstory of the Trump impeachment inquiry— help given to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign by Ukraine, has been all but buried. It seems that foreign interference in ‘our democracy,’ is about as common as the CIA engineering foreign coups to unseat democratically elected leaders overseas. Obama administration appointees in Kiev feared retaliation for taking sides against Russia should their neocon sponsors lose the 2016 election. This led Ukraine— a foreign power, to supply the Clinton campaign and the DNC with dirt on Donald Trump and actively interfere in the 2016 campaign.

Of current relevance, Joe Biden’s sudden dislike of ‘corruption’ upon entering Neu Ukraine was related to an $18 billion IMF loan that was already at risk of not being made because it violated the IMF’s underwriting standards. It seems that the IMF doesn’t make loans in amounts so great that its structural adjustment programs that destroy the target country make repayment impossible. To better assure repayment, the IMF wanted economic intermediaries taken out of the equation. In other words, there wasn’t enough blood to squeeze from the proverbial stone.

As Mr. Biden was likely informed, the IMF had determined that Ukraine was corrupt, even after its hostile takeover by the Obama administration. Of course, that the IMF exists to force Wall Street’s debt-based economics onto people that can’t resist so that connected capitalists can set up predatory business arrangements and buy public assets at fire-sale prices isn’t corrupt because, you know, America! But the IMF was balking at making such a large loan to a country that under no conceivable circumstances could pay it back.

The reason why opposition to corruption, as opposed to ‘anti-corruption’ as a political strategy to redistribute economic power, is so implausible as a U.S. motive in Ukraine has to do with the nature of neoliberalism. Take, for instance, how corporate lobbyists like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) regularly write legislation that shifts economic power to corporations. When Barack Obama appointed health insurance industry lobbyists to write the ACA (Affordable Care Act), he was exchanging legislative outcomes for campaign contributions.

Quite hilariously, for those who find such things hilarious, under the IMF’s definition of corruption, the U.S. shouldn’t qualify for an IMF loan because of it. The types of corruption that the IMF claims erode economic efficiency, pay-to-play politics and bribery in exchange for legislative favors, are legal in the U.S. As CBS News put it regarding Joe Biden in 2008:

“A son of Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden was paid an undisclosed amount of money as a consultant by MBNA, the largest employer in Delaware, during the years the senator supported legislation that was promoted by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups.”

Additionally, MBNA had been Joe Biden’s largest campaign contributor, with executives contributing over $200,000 to his Senatorial campaigns prior to Mr. Biden passing bankruptcy ‘reform’ that benefited MBNA.

Bribery, in the form of campaign contributions with an implicit quid pro quo, is legal in the U.S. As political scientist Thomas Ferguson has aptly demonstrated, there is high correlation between campaign contributions and legislative outcomes. Conversely, the will of the people, the explanation of representative democracy used to legitimate it, has almost no bearing on legislative outcomes. The argument in support of Joe Biden’s actions vis-à-vis MBNA, that because bribery is legal, it isn’t corruption, wouldn’t have gotten Ukraine an IMF loan.

So, the Senator from MBNA goes to Neu Ukraine, the neocon protectorate, and is shocked, shocked I tell you, that the Ukrainians so lacked American get-up-and-go that they hadn’t yet legalized bribery. The IMF was making unpleasant noises about how it needed political cover to give large loans to the newly installed government. Lunch Bucket, as his friends apparently call Mr. Biden, decided to run with ‘corruption.’ He was in Ukraine to help stamp out corruption. What happened next is the subject of debate.

The Ukrainian prosecutor that Joe Biden had fired, Viktor Shokin, states in a sworn affidavit that 1) Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine 2) unless Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko fired him 3) because he (Shokin) was looking into Hunter Biden’s dealings with Burisma Holdings. Here is a separate video of Joe Biden threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless Petro Poroshenko fires prosecutor Viktor Shokin. A link provided by The Hill’s John Solomon in the body of the story can be found here.

I don’t know what was going through Joe Biden’s mind when he strong-armed Mr. Poroshenko into firing Viktor Shokin. And I don’t have the resources to authenticate the sworn affidavit from Mr. Shokin, which explains why I included The Hill article that links to the affidavit. However, the contention that the Senator from MBNA cares about corruption in Ukraine strains credulity. And it is telling that the establishment press— the New York Times, NPR and The New Yorker, is so readily credulous.

Regarding the politics of the Biden’s adventures in Ukraine, as one who lives and regularly speaks with working class Americans, most wouldn’t begrudge Hunter Biden either his job or his paycheck if he came by them fairly. Leaving aside low economic mobility and the cynical farce of ‘merit,’ if Hunter Biden had responded to an ad in the Wilmington, Delaware newspaper soliciting candidates for Burisma Holdings’ Board of Directors, filled out an application, made his way through the interview process and gotten the job— without it being known that his father was the Vice-President of the country that had just installed the new government of Ukraine, more power to him (would be the sentiment).

Company Directors tend to be paid a lot of money for providing very little work in return. According to consulting firm McKinsey, Hunter Biden’s job at Burisma likely would have entailed between ten and twelve days of work per year in exchange for his $600,000 paycheck ($50,000 per month x 12 months). The main function of Directors since the advent of ‘shareholder capitalism’ has been to put together exorbitant pay packages for senior executives in exchange for their own exorbitant pay. This cozy arrangement goes far in explaining ‘income inequality.’

The other side of pay-for-play politics— campaign contributions made in implicit or explicit exchange for legislative outcomes, is the use of political power to perpetuate political power. The turnover rate in Congress, the rate of incumbents dislodged to those who remain in power, is near zero. Why did Joe Biden accept campaign contributions from MBNA if he thought he didn’t need them to win election? Conversely, how long would he stay in power if he didn’t pass legislation favorable to his campaign contributors? Liberal efforts to parse legitimate corruption from illegitimate corruption illustrate the political problem at the heart of Ukraine-gate.

I’ve read a number of enthusiastic defenses of Joe Biden’s actions in Ukraine. None address the legitimacy (or not) of the neocon / CIA project there, the lawyerly parsing needed to distinguish implicit from explicit quid pro quo, Mr. Biden’s history of passing legislation beneficial to his campaign contributors or the clear history of his children personally benefiting from his political positions, with his apparent consent. Hunter Biden’s ‘job’ with Burisma Holdings didn’t happen in a vacuum— a remarkably similar arrangement occurred with MBNA, Joe Biden’s largest campaign contributor and the beneficiary of Mr. Biden’s 2005 bankruptcy ‘reform’ bill.

So, what do the Democrats hope to accomplish with impeachment? Their best case scenario is that Joe Biden emerges unscathed and goes on to defeat Donald Trump in the general election. However, this leaves all of the political and economic issues that led to the election of Donald Trump unresolved. Plus, the environmental problems that can only be addressed by disempowering their patrons and passing far-reaching and well planned legislation aren’t going away. In this case, winning will look a whole lot like losing.

A quick bet: Lunch Bucket is toast. He looks way too much like Donald Trump to get out of this alive. Second, Donald Trump won’t be impeached. The Senate won’t impeach him and the idea that moral suasion regarding Trump’s crimes will bring them over is delusional. Third, the impeachment process will harden political divisions while chasing away unaffiliated voters. Fourth, while this would in theory benefit the establishment candidates, with Lunch Bucket out of the running, that leaves Donald Trump.

Lest this remain unconsidered, Nancy Pelosi made sure that it is widely understood that ‘the left’ forced her to (faux) impeach Donald Trump. If it goes well, the establishment Democrats are rehabilitated, and the left loses. If it goes poorly, ‘the left’ forced her to do it, and the left loses. The fantasy that Joe Biden drops out and Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren picks up the pieces just doesn’t make sense. If (when) Joe Biden goes down, the Democrats will have proven that not only are they too stupid to govern, they are just as corrupt as Donald Trump.

I will assume that this is all just an annoying side show and work to get Bernie Sanders elected. What the Biden / MBNA circus illustrates, as if it weren’t already clear, is that the whole system has to be gotten out of the way. The idea that there are sympathetic Democrats, or that there is an incremental path forward, is delusional. The Democrats are every bit the problem that the Republicans are.


Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.