The Hightower Report
Congress Incorporated; and Mountaintop Tiff
On opening day of the 112th Congress, beaming members of the new Republican majority entered the House Chamber accompanied by their proud families. But the moment did not belong to members alone.
Also entering the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremonies was David Koch, the multibillionaire industrialist and laissez-faire extremist who bankrolled much of the tea party/GOP victory last fall. What symbolism! The members were taking office, but Koch and his corporate peers were taking power.
Indeed, many lobbyists for Wall Street banks and big corporations have been hired as top legislative aides for GOP members. As California Republican Rep. John Campbell put it: "You want someone with experience." Yeah, experience in corporatizing our government. In fact, some of the most powerful lawmakers in the House are simply handing their power to corporate interests. For example, Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus, the new Republican chairman of the Wall Street oversight committee, declared that his role is to "serve the banks."
The chief comforter of corporate crybabies, however, is Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the wide-ranging government reform committee. The California Republican sent letters to 150 corporate interests, asking them to tell him if Obama and his Democratic meanies have imposed any consumer, worker, and environmental protections that should be undone. That's like asking a barber if you need a haircut! The letters unleashed an outpouring of corporate whining – big banks, for example, wailed that their ability to gouge customers with debit-card fees had been curtailed. There, there, Issa said soothingly, I'm here now. I'll make it better. Trust me.
Under the guise of giving government back to the people, House Republicans are giving it to the corporate powers who finance their campaigns. This is not just business as usual; it's business way more than usual.
At last, a small spark of sanity from Washington. After making a full scientific assessment of environmental impacts, the Environmental Protection Agency has revoked the permit for the largest mountaintop removal project ever to assault the natural resources and the people of Appalachia.
Unfortunately, this spark of sanity set off an explosion of babbling madness by the coal mining giants. Arch Coal, the holder of the permit, said it was "shocked and dismayed" that the EPA would dare revoke it, shrieking that this was an "onslaught" by an "overreaching" agency that "will have a chilling effect on future U.S. investment."
Then came West Virginia's corporate-hugging senator, Democrat Joe Manchin III. "It goes without saying," he began, before proceeding to say what didn't need saying. Parroting Arch Coal's script, Manchin called the revocation "a shocking display of overreach" that "will have a chilling effect on investments." He was followed by a cabal of nonmining corporate interests, which did a frantic Chicken Little imitation. Pulling this one permit, they screeched, will be "staggering" to the whole U.S. economy.
Get a grip, people. This permit should never have been issued in the first place. It was carelessly handed out by the Bush regime, which was infested with industry operatives. Now, the EPA has merely done the responsible assessment that the Bushites refused to do. Talk about an "onslaught" that would be "shocking," "chilling," and "staggering" – Bush's permit would have let Arch Coal decapitate all the mountains in a 2,300-acre stretch of Appalachia, shove the toxic rubble and waste into the valleys, bury the streams, kill the wildlife, and pollute the water supply of people downstream.
Mountaintop removal is a brutal, totally destructive abomination done solely to make quick profits for a handful of coal executives and rich absentee investors. It's about time they were told no.