Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Anyone Remember Upton Sinclair?

Links to this salon story (registration required) or this link to it have been all over the internet today and it's a moving story. Unfortunately, this type of story is usually only good for preaching to the choir. Most Americans simply are not going to get all that outraged over exploited Mexicans and Central Americans, especially if they can be portrayed as illegal aliens. Don't bother telling most people that they were lured here; it won't sink in. Of course, the administration did back down and announced that it would reinstate Davis-Bacon, but it apparently did feel enough pressure to enforce it.

When the administration first announced the suspension of prevailing wage laws, a few commentators pointed out that suspending the law after awarding the contracts meant that contractors were making a huge windfall at public expense. Soon, however, the focus shifted to the general unfairness of it. Most people really don't care whether workers in the Gulf South make union wage or minimum wage. They should care that politically connected firms were compensated (at taxpayer expense)as if they were paying prevailing wage and then allowed to pay much less. That's a lot of money going from public coffers to private bank accounts. Of course, if they're not paying some workers at all that's an even bigger savings. I don't say this out of indifference to the cheated workers, but the fraud against the U.S. government and taxpayer might be more important in practical terms.

As it is, Democrats are doing little to point out the fraud and cronyism that the Republicans are engaging in. Instead it's the Republicans who are posing as the guardians of the public purse, saying they won't let those corrupt Louisiana politicians get their hands on a penny of the reconstruction money (I posted about it at greater length here). Sadly, the fact that some Louisiana Democrats seem to be venal enough to steal millions makes it easier for the national Republicans to steal billions.

Liberals waste time aiming for the public's heart, while conservatives claim to be looking out for the public's money (while robbing the public blind, even Ted Stevens' cronies are getting a piece of the reconstruction pie). This all leads us to Upton Sinclair. He wasn't happy about it when he said:"I aimed for their hearts but hit them in the stomach",but administration critics can still learn from his example. We need to aim for the public stomach (or bank account) as well as its heart. Instead, we're doing the opposite and letting the thieves pose as the bank guards.

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