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(DV) Drolette: Living the American Ream







Living the American Ream
by Mark Drolette
February 21, 2006

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From Reuters, 02/14/06:

The [U.S.] government may waive up to $7 billion in royalty payments from companies pumping oil and natural gas on federal territory in the next five years, the New York Times reported…

The royalty relief would amount to one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in U.S. history, even though the administration assumes oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period…

The report cited estimates in the Interior Department’s recent budget plan that would allow companies to pump about $65 billion in oil and natural gas without paying royalties.

“We need to remember the primary reason that incentives are given, said Johnnie M. Burton, director of the federal Minerals Management Service [MMS], according to the report. “It’s not to make more money, necessarily. It’s to make more oil, more gas, because production of fuel for our nation is essential to our economy and essential to our people.”

Whoa! I can’t believe my luck. This came out just in time. Now I have my defense for the bank robbery rap I face in court next week: I’ll tell the judge that when I thrust that gun into the teller’s face and handed her the note, I wasn’t making a demand for money, necessarily; rather, it was to make banks more aware, more alert, because, by golly, protection of their assets is essential to their economics and essential to their people.

Holy Emmanuel Goldstein. The rot in the Bush administration is so complete, even a minion like the director of a federal agency no one’s ever heard of (but obviously plays an “essential” role in making sure energy companies sleep well at night) communicates in true Orwell-speak.

Here’s some info from MMS’ Web site:

“[MMS], a bureau in the U.S. Department of Interior, is the Federal agency that whores the nation’s natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf…”

It’s possible “whores” might actually read “manages.”

The blurb continues: “The agency also collects, accounts for and disburses more than $8 billion per year in revenues from Federal offshore mineral leases and from onshore mineral leases on Federal and Indian lands.”

Whoops! Looks like that “8” needs to be straightened out a tad.

I took a moment to run Burton’s statement through the TMM (True Meaning Machine). Translation:

“Of course it’s about the money! Are you kidding me?? What are you, some kind of moron? Of course you are, because it’s your money and we’re just givin’ it away and you just watch us do it!”

At this point, the tape breaks into evil and maniacal laughter.

I realize seven billion dollars in the face of oil industry profits for 2005 (a combined cool $63 billion for the oily Big Three: Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips) is only a drop in the barrel, but as Mom used to say: “Another billion ripped off is, ya know, another billion ripped off.” (Mom wasn’t much of a philosopher but boy, could that woman drink.)

So, once again in BushMerika, we have another example of unadulterated thievery of American citizens’ resources by the same bunch that’ll poke you straight in the eye and tell you, even as you’re scrambling to immediately secure some sort of medical attention because you’ve just been poked straight in the eye and like it wasn’t bad enough already the Bushies have ripped you and your family off in every way possible but now they’ve gone and half-blinded you in the process too the rotten sadistic bastards, anyway, they’ll do this and then tell you:

“The reason America is so great is because of our free market system.”

To which I say: Free market, my sore orb (yeah, they got me, too). In Bushworld, the invisible hand is out; handouts are in. There ain’t nothin’ free market-ish about any of it, not when you’re talking about obscenities like, for example, the massive corporate welfare shoveled Big Pharma’s way in the guise of the Medicare prescription drug bill that precludes the feds from leveraging their massive buying power to negotiate better prices for meds. This precipitously padded piece of pork for pill producers will end up costing us all just a wee bit more, too, than the already-unconscionable $400 billion the White House originally swore it would: Seems they missed the mark by a mere $800 billion.

Since subsidies’ the subject: How ’bout them agriculture subsidies averaging 14.3 billion taxpayer dollars per year that benefit real salt-of-the-earth family farm operations like, say, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland?

Or the $14.5 billion in tax giveaways to natural gas, oil and other energy companies generously provided by the fatuous energy bill Bush gleefully signed into law last August?

Or the over $1 billion you and I have given Wal-Mart in federal freebies over the last 20-some years? That’s right: Wal-Mart.

Or the “eighty-two of America’s largest and most profitable corporations [that] paid no federal income tax in at least one year during the first three years of the George W. Bush administration -- a period when federal corporate tax collections fell to their lowest sustained level in six decades”? (Source: Citizens for Tax Justice.)

Or, my all-time favorite, from Fast Food Nation. Author Eric Schlosser writes:

A 1981 study by the General Accounting Office found that the SBA [Small Business Administration] had guaranteed 18,000 [fast food] franchise loans between 1967 and 1979, subsidizing the launch of new Burger Kings and McDonald’s, among others. Ten percent of these franchise loans ended in default. During the same period, only 4 percent of the independent businesses receiving SBA loans defaulted. In New York City, the SBA backed thirteen loans to Burger King franchisees; eleven of them defaulted….Burger King did not lose money when these restaurants closed. American taxpayers had covered the franchise fees, paid for the buildings, real estate, equipment, and supplies.

In 1996, the SBA guaranteed almost $1 billion in loans to new franchisees. More of those loans went to the fast food industry than to any other industry.

Thus when a new purveyor of Big Macs borrows money from the SBA to fund his or her fledgling enterprise, McDonald’s Corporation (“the largest owner of retail property in the world,” per Schlosser) is guaranteed the entire, no-strings-attached chunk. If the outlet founders, you and I are cooked.

I’m not lovin’ it.

Obviously, the aforementioned chicanery (and so much more) didn’t start with the Bushies; it’s been going on for a very long time. Under them, though, it’s been turned into a fine (black) art. No one can accuse them of thinking small, either: All other tainted and outright illicit largesse is dwarfed by the unfathomable number of taxpayer dollars doled out to the entity nearest and dearest to the neocons’ shriveled little hearts; that’s right, we’re talkin’ the Welfare King of the warfare bling, the U.S. Department of Defense, which is really offensive. True, the Pentagon isn’t a private corporation but that’s only a technicality since its primary functions are to launder money for the likes of Halliburton and the armaments industry and protect and expand corporate interests by killing obdurate folks worldwide who inexplicably aren’t jiggy with the agenda.

So what can we, as pissed on/off Americans, do?

Well, here’s an idea: We could, without rancor or snippy little inflections in our voices, very politely ask the Bushies to do the decent thing and just say no to their drugs: unearned wealth and unrestrained power. (I didn’t say it was a good idea.)

Or, as many genuinely fine, otherwise-levelheaded folks keep espousing despite irrefutable evidence that major elections are now rigged in this country: we can work really, really, REALLY hard to try to oust the fascists from power via the ballot box/vote switcher machine and maybe, just maybe, when we lose once again come Election Day it’ll be by an even smaller reported margin than last time, thereby prompting many to, lemming-like, repeat the whole bizarre and pointless process all over again. (This may be how rituals start.)

Or, we could wait for America to be invaded and hogtied by most all the other countries on the planet as they cast their ideological differences to the wind and collectively take action because they just can’t stand it anymore how dangerously stupid America is. Hell, we’re so widely hated now, don’t be surprised when the Swiss throw in.

As you can tell, I’m a little light on workable solutions. I truly have no idea how it’ll all finally shake out, but one thing is for sure: no empire lasts forever, a main reason baseball games only go nine innings.

In the meanwhile, though, I do have one suggestion, one I’m sure many of you have long already since instituted: skid away from the grid. The only thing heeded by the Bushian bottom-feeders is their bottom lines, so reach way down into that sewer and stick ‘em where they live by consuming as little of their useless corporate crap as possible.

Me, I’m de-gridding by moving (fleeing, more accurately) to Costa Rica. I depart in about a year; that is, if I’m not on a no-fly list by then or yet incarcerated in a Halliburton-constructed “temporary detention” facility.

Please! No smug or snarky e-mails telling me I’ll simply be doing my consumerism from approximately 3037 miles away. Yes, I am well aware the U.S. is by far the biggest trading partner of Costa Rica. But los tiempos, they are a-changin’; ponder this:

Costa Rica held its presidential election on February 6. The top two vote-getters, Oscar Arias and Ottón Solís, remain virtually deadlocked still. The winner will not be known for weeks because Costa Ricans (known as “Ticos”) insist on counting every last ballot to make sure the man who is eventually sworn into office is -- get this -- the actual winner! (Old-timers may recall we here in America once held to such a quaint custom ourselves, way back when in the 20th century.)

Arias, the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is highly regarded in Costa Rica. He also happens to favor his country’s ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA); Costa Rica is the only non-signatory. (CAFTA is cousin to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Such supra-national, pro-plutocratic, labor rights-squelching cudgels really should be given more appropriately descriptive acronyms like, say, SHAFTA.)

Solís is not a CAFTA fan. While other factors have played into the unexpected tightness of the race, there’s no denying Ticos have sent a resounding message about how deeply they value self-determination and control over resources that are, well, uh, theirs. (Pretty cheeky of them, huh?)

Mark Weisbrot of ZNET explains:

Regardless of the final [election] outcome, Solís’ surprise showing has important implications for the course of Latin America and U.S.-Latin American relations [and] shows how deep the electorate’s dissatisfaction is with the status quo in the region, and with the “Washington Consensus -- or “neoliberal economic policies as it is more commonly labeled in Latin America.

Solís . . . argued persuasively that CAFTA as currently written would pose a threat to many of the country’s farmers, its telecommunications sector, and to domestic industry. He also objected to the agreement’s provision for settling disputes -- similar to NAFTA’s -- which would erode national sovereignty over important economic and environmental policy.

In the last seven years there have been six [Latin American] winning presidential candidates who ran very explicitly against the neoliberal economic reforms of the last 25 years: in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, and most recently Bolivia. There is a clear economic reason for this pattern: Over the last 25 years Latin America has suffered the worst economic growth performance in its modern history. From 1980-2005, income per person in the region grew by only 10 percent. In the prior 20 years -- 1960-1980 -- it grew by 82 percent.

Costa Rica’s election shows that this wave of democracy, infused by demands for economic and political change sweeping across Latin America, is still growing stronger.

Can you imagine how refreshing it must be to live in a country/region with a politically and socially aware population, not to mention fair elections, even? The mind reels.

So while the Bushies view the world as their oilster and loot the landscape both abroad and domestically, the only ones still being fooled by these pirates are their “patriotic” proper-uppers, the millions of so-called adults obliviously being sucked lifeless by the Matrix right here in Plunder Central; the rest of the world is on to these desperados and hoods, while desperately trying to hold onto the rest of their worldly goods.

It’s enough to make a person want to leave America.

What’s left of it, that is.

Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator who lives in Sacramento, California. His e-mail address is: mdrolette@comcast.net. Copyright © 2006 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.

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