Pimps and Parasites

When someone connected with Jerry Brown's campaign referred to Meg Whitman as a "whore," it revealed a lot about the way liberals think. The liberal mind, it would seem, always thinks in terms of offering or receiving payment for illicit services. Whether it is the governor of the state of New York caught with a high-priced prostitute or the Brown campaign itself pandering to the union gravy train, for liberals, just about everything is "pay to play."  

This being three weeks before the election, pandering has reached a fever pitch among Democratic politicians. With the apparent failure of certain mortgage companies to monitor every aspect of the foreclosure process, several Democratic attorneys general now see an opportunity to demagogue the issue. As recently reported, Ohio's Richard Cordray is blustering that mortgage companies need "to clean this up by doing loan workouts to keep people in their homes." Meanwhile, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants Congress to pass a bill that would allow "cram downs" -- rulings by judges that force lenders to reduce the principle owed by lenders.

One would think that as attorneys general of their respective states, Mr. Cordray and Ms. Madigan would be concerned primarily with upholding the law. Contract law states rather unequivocally that when a debt obligation is freely entered into by two parties, the debt must be repaid. In cases where the debtor fails to pay, the lender has the option of foreclosing on the collateralized property. Neither government nor any other party has the right to step in and modify the loan or prohibit foreclosure if the lender decides that foreclosure is in its best interest.

In recent years, however, Democratic attorneys general have been operating more as politicians pandering to voter weakness than they have as defenders of the law. The attorney general of New York, now running for governor of that state, has brought suit against every bank, insurance company, and other financial institution he can think of -- all of it, apparently, in the interest of furthering his own political career. Following hurricane Katrina, the attorney general of Mississippi pressured insurance companies to pay for flood damages not covered in the policies. Now we have foreclosures on whose paperwork there may have been technical errors, and the attorneys general are swarming like rapacious mosquitoes. 

When it comes to Democratic pay-to-play politics, Rod Blagojevich was a small-time player, but he did have a certain way with words, capturing the essence of liberal thinking. When the opportunity to sell the Illinois Senate appointment to the highest bidder presented itself, Blagojevich reportedly stated that the appointment was too valuable to "give away for nothing." Once again, it would seem that the Democrat in question was acting as the pimp, pandering an illicit service in exchange for the highest price. Yet Blagojevich protests that he did nothing wrong.

Why not simply sell the Lincoln bedroom to the highest bidder and argue that everyone does it? Maybe that sort of refreshing roguishness explains the enduring popularity of Bill Clinton. He may have lied about having sex with this or that woman, but when it comes to improper campaign contributions, he was never really very interested in covering them up. Perhaps he didn't see them as wrong to begin with.

Unfortunately, Obama and his crowd make Clinton look like a choir boy. Maybe it's just that the Chicago Way has for the first time gone national, and the nation is not ready for it. It may seem quaint, but for many of us, it still seems wrong for government lawyers to put the squeeze on every successful  business entity in the hopes of grabbing a share of its profits. It seems wrong for Justice Department lawyers to assist foreigners in bringing lawsuits against American companies, a practice that Nathan Vardi has referred to as a form of extortion. In an extraordinary piece called "The Bribery Law Racket," Vardi shows how lawyers "with past ties to the Justice Department" have raked in millions by bringing suit against and then participating in the defense of American companies under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

In the case of the Obama administration, it is not just FCPA that has suddenly been the object of vigorous enforcement. Every line of every regulatory statute has now been lovingly revisited by politicians and government lawyers eager to rake in contributions, settlements, and legal fees for themselves and for colleagues who have recently passed through the revolving door between government and private practice. As lobbyists, corporate counsels, and consultants, these ex-government employees exploit their ties to the Obama administration. This relationship seems to explain the motives of agencies like the EPA, FTC, FCC, and the newly established Financial Consumer Protection Agency in writing new regulations and enforcing those on the books, even when these regulations harm American businesses.

Of course, these enthusiastic regulators are not going to act without claiming to do so on the behalf of the American people. Maybe this is why Elizabeth Warren felt compelled to contribute an op-ed piece this week to the Wall Street Journal arguing the merits of the new consumer finance committee she heads: "for the first time we will have a single federal  agency charged with writing the rules for all mortgages and all credit cards." 

For liberals, it is always necessary to appear virtuous, even when one is raiding the public's piggy bank. Instead of simply upholding the rights of property as guaranteed in our Constitution, the Dodd-Frank bill has created another government czar with the power to rewrite the rules, a power that Ms. Warren seems impatient to deploy.  How many government lawyers will it take to write the massive new regulations about which Ms. Warren is so effusively proud? How many more will profit from their enforcement, right down to the last technicality, once they have stepped through the revolving door and into new jobs as trial lawyers and corporate counsels?

Everywhere you look, it's nothing but pimps and parasites. The ruinous federal deficits of the past two years, totaling $2.7 trillion, have done nothing for the American people, but they have greatly enriched the political class. The hordes of lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants that swept into Washington with Obama are nothing but parasites, feeding on the body politic, and pimps, selling every favor they control for whatever it will bring. The loser in all of this is the taxpayer, who is paying for it now and who will be paying a great deal more starting in 2011.

Never before has America seen corruption on such a vast scale that it has literally mortgaged our future. The blame for this lies with the political class, those pimps and parasites who reside in our nation's capital, the state capitals, and the other centers of government throughout the land. Their behavior has been infamous and shameful. They deserve to be voted out of office and made to return every penny of the ill-gotten gain which they have stolen from the public. Then maybe they can return to the streets, where they can continue with their customary pursuits, but on a less damaging scale.

Jeffrey Folks is author of many books and articles on American culture and politics.
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