Do you know any of the dozen Congress critters who are on the super-powerful deficit-reduction supercommittee? I don't mean do you know their names, but do you really know them — know them well enough that they'll take your call?
This is one congressional committee that's likely to affect your life, for it's going to decide such things as whether to whack your Social Security benefits or cut back on Big Oil's $4-billion-a-year taxpayer subsidy. You might have an opinion about which choice the supercommittee members should make — but can you reach any of the members personally and get a chance to bend their ear? No? Too bad, because Big Oil can. And it is.
So are insurance giants, Wall Street bankers, and other corporate powers — not only because of their big dollar campaign donations, but also because they have some very special lobbyists who are on a first-name basis with the members. You see, these lobbyists used to work for the 12 lawmakers on the supercommittee. About 100 former congressional staffers have now been hired by various corporate interests to lobby their old bosses.
General Electric, for example, has eight lobbyists on board who previously were on the staffs of supercommittee members. They include the head of GE's Washington lobbying brigade, who had been the chief of staff for Sen. Max Baucus. Indeed, Baucus' Senate office seems to have been a training ground for influence-peddlers — a couple dozen of his former aides are now lobbying him and the other 11 deficit-whackers to protect the subsidies that oil, insurance and other corporations receive from us taxpayers. As one Congressional watchdog dryly notes, "It's not like [the 12 members] are in an idealized, platonic debating society."
Indeed not. Once again, the game is rigged for those with the money and connections to play inside. And they wonder why Congress and corporate lobbyists rank below E. coli bacteria in public approval ratings.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.