21 June 2010

How is the U.S. not a banana republic?

Last week Jon Stewart of the Daily Show had a bit of fun with Texas Representative Joe Barton. (He put him on the cover of Disdainful A**hole Magazine.) Barton, at a Congress hearing, apologized to oil giant BP for agreeing, after conferring with the President, to provide a $20-billion fund to compensate victims of the Gulf oil spill. Barton referred to the agreement as a "shakedown." He was soon brought to task by his Republican colleagues and apologized for his apology.

That he would be contrite is not a surprise. He is in line for chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (he is currently the GOP's ranking member) if the Republicans win big in November, so he is eager to keep the party bosses happy. But it isn't surprising that he would defend BP either. He is the major beneficiary of oil industry campaign contributions since 1990, receiving over $100,000 in the last year and a half alone.

The obvious question here is how the American people can possibly believe that a man taking money from the oil industry for years will manage the House Energy and Commerce Committee in their best interests, keeping in mind that if the Republicans were in power this is the guy who would be in charge of BP. His electoral dependency may be legal but it's also corrupt -- he's bought and paid for. Democracy has been traded in for dollars and American energy and environmental policy may well be the loser.

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