Inauguration 2005: It's Party Time for Fat Cats
Published on Monday, January 17, 2005 by
Inauguration 2005: It's Party Time for Fat Cats
by Ralph Nader

The controversy over going ahead with the nine Inaugural balls' huge fireworks and party bashes, to which mostly the rich and powerful have been invited, has not been restricted to talk radio shows. Deep in the White House deliberations last year, some of the BBBs (the brainy big backers), who are selected to give policy advice, counseled cancellation of all but the formal inaugural proceedings, as some previous Presidents, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, have done.

These BBBs made the argument that in a time of war, with our soldiers dying in Iraq, enormous and growing human casualties from Iraq to South Asia, it would be an expression of respect to cool off the often-garish festivities and use the $40 million or more to help those in need.

There was actually some support in the White House for this view, but "the Texans prevailed," said a participant. However, one Texan who dissented from Dallas way was Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks and a strong Bush voter. He thought the Tsunami catastrophe should warrant such a sobering decision.

Some of Bush's defenders on Talk Radio called to say that since the millions of dollars are coming from private sources, what's the big deal? First, it is costing almost that much again in federal and District of Columbia police, helicopters, surveillance staff and other requirements of the Inaugural security state. Second, and more consequential, this private or corporate money is a very costly deal for regular Americans who don't get their calls returned.

It is not that these Americans are asked to contribute. Not while the corporate fat cats are falling all over themselves writing out $100,000 to $250,000 checks to the Bush bash. In return these companies get favors, privileges, tax breaks, subsidies, lax law enforcement for which the people pay dearly in health, safety and economic burdens. But then with Bush it has always been about Big Business.

An example is the atomic power industry that wants Bush to give them huge taxpayer dollars to create the next generation of nuclear plants and freeze out the public even more from challenging their location and emergency standards. So John E. Kane, the industry lobbyist, says that its $100,000 donation is a way of supporting the President.

The Washington Post summarized this cash register politics: "Wall Street investment firms seeking to profit from private Social Security accounts; oil, gas and mining companies pushing the White House to revive a stalled energy-subsidy bill; and hotels and casinos seeking an influx of immigrant labor are among the 44 interests that have each given $250,000 and the 66 that have donated $100,000 to $225,000. And the money keeps pouring in."

Corporations are free to give as much as they want to the Inaugural, unlike elections where they are prohibited from direct contributions (there are many indirect ways, of course). The Bush people placed a top limit of $250,000 to restrain those straining to add more for this lavish potlatch.

No industry has benefited more monetarily from George W. Bush than the drug companies. So they are reciprocating for all those massive taxpayer subsidies, government research, and weaker regulations for which they are so indebted.

Ameriquest, a mortgage company working the high interest fields of minority neighborhoods, got around the $250,000 limit by adding another $500,000 from its two subsidiaries. This company wants weaker federal pre-emption of tougher laws that states have been passing against predatory lending.

There is another contract that is unsavory in this modern version of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake" posture. In the next few days, there will be reports leaking about the forthcoming Bush Budget. They will describe how those most in need and all Americans who require good public services and safety will see such programs further reduced. These will include environmental, transportation, health, poverty, housing and other essential services.

Already Bush intends to end a rural housing program and other anti-poverty efforts, while giving more money to the staggeringly wasteful and often misdirected Defense and Homeland Security Budgets.

For all the excess, one might think that regular Americans at least would be able to sit in the bleachers. Sure, just fork over $100 to $150 dollars and prove you're a Bush partisan and you'll be there.

The merchants naturally are taking full advantage of this invasion by the grasping affluent. Hotels are marking up room prices. The good ones go for $2000 a night. For those willing to pay more, the Ritz-Carlton offers a four day $150,000 package starting with private jet transportation from wherever for the couple, caviar and Dom Perignon 24 hours a day and endless other perks.

Want to rent a fur coat? That'll be $15,000 down for a deposit (presumably to be returned) plus the rental. "No problem," said one visitor who did not what his own fur coat to go through the hassle at the airport, reports public radio.

When will the organized people be heard from?

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