Saturday, November 28, 2009

Troubled Standards

The Nation magazine ran an editorial 11/2/09 which pointed out the hypocrisy of congress taking action to forbid federal funding of ACORN, a community organization working to register voters and assist low income communities. The usual hysterical right wing pundits joined by their more "moderate" colleagues, had been attacking embarrassed ACORN for the stupidity or corruption of several of their employees caught in a “sting” operation. The worker’s actions were obviously reprehensible (and corrupt if they were paid by the lavishly-funded Right who conducted the ‘investigation’, to betray ACORN – given the outrageous nature of the sting this seems likely). The employees were fired and the hapless organization began the distracting, maybe impossible, task of repairing the damage.

The Nation’s point is that an embarrassing, outrageous but ultimately minor event produces a frenzied congressional punitive action, yet convicted felons continue to receive federal funds with no right wing pundit attacks, no sting operations and no congressional action to forbid future federal contracts with criminals.

Examples from the Nation article:

• Three war contractors: Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman were caught in 108 instances of misconduct since 1995 and paid fines or settlements totaling nearly $3 billion. In 2007 they made $77 billion in federal contracts.

• Phizer, a pharmaceutical company, paid $2.3 billion to fend off criminal and civil cases, including Medicare fraud. Yet they made $40 billion in 2008 profits and $73 million in federal contracts in 2007.

Apparently the double message is, if you try to organize low income people watch out! Make a mistake and your reputation is shot, funding evaporates and you’re banned from future federal contracts! If you make WMD, be sure to pad the budget to cover legal fees, fines and any other expenses that arise if you’re caught cheating. If you’re not caught, hey, it’s all gravy.

A post-script: the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a wire story November 25, reporting the results of an inquiry in Ireland where a Catholic Bishop and underlings had covered up child abuse, sexual and otherwise, by priests for years. This is hardly the first church scandal of this sort but since it doesn’t discredit progressives it isn’t likely to be amplified across the right wing pundit spectrum (It doesn’t need any exaggerating). The Right gleefully discredits an entire organization based on the misconduct of a few employees. It would follow then, to be consistent, that a large part of the church hierarchy participating in criminal conduct targeting children should discredit the entire Catholic church. We need to be skeptical and wary of all authority, hold all groups feeding from the public trough accountable but we also need to apply the same consistent standard.

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