Stuck on Stupid

Is it a lack of home training, or just a dearth of common sense in the upper echelons these days? The more I read the paper, the more I realize how many people in our so-called “privileged class” is, to quote DH, “stuck on stupid.”

Usually, the “stuck on stupid” label gets hurled toward dumb criminals in the news, or the clueless who drive for miles with turn signals on, or any manner of local idiocy. But lately, more and more folks on the national stage seem to be mired there. A few notable cases:

  • John Thain, ex-CEO of Merrill Lynch. He engineered the sale of Merrill to Bank of America, gave the Merrill folks millions in bonuses even though their company’s worth had tanked so badly it needed to be sold in order to be saved, came on board at Bank of America, then spent over a million bucks redecorating his office (including antique furniture and an $87,000 custom-loomed rug) with bailout funds courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.
  • The U.S. banking and car industries. The bank people can’t tell us where our money’s gone (they are banks, in the business of safeguarding money, right?), and the car people fly private jets costing $11,000 an hour of flight time to Washington to beg for money to keep their industry afloat. The bank people need to fork over the ledgers to a couple of really pissy small-town accountants, and the car people need to do a cross-country goodwill tour, driving the smallest, most fuel-efficient car in their respective fleets. The banks might learn something about keeping track of their pennies, and the car folks might learn how to design something that’s worth driving that happens to save gas.
  • Tom Daschle, former nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Withdrew his name for the Cabinet post because A) he’d received a buttload of money from health care lobbyists and B) the tiny matter of forgetting to pay about $400 grand in taxes. How the hell do you forget to pay $400,000 in taxes?
  • For that matter, the IRS. They’ll swoop down like avenging angels (devils?) if some normal person like me comes up short paying my taxes, to the tune of years of years of agony, court dates, and penalties, but they somehow miss the fact that a former Senator owes them nearly half a million bucks? What’s up with that?
  • Nancy Killefer, hoping to be named the first Chief Performance Officer in charge of making sure government money is spent wisely, withdraws her name from consideration because she hasn’t paid employment taxes on domestic help. Two words for you: Zoe Baird. Or Bernard Kerik; take your pick. Baird lost out on being Clinton’s Attorney General, and Kerik wasn’t named W’s Homeland Security Secretary because they didn’t pay social security taxes on their domestic workers (Baird’s was an illegal immigrant!). Does the air in Washington strip common sense out of your brain?? Wait. Don’t answer that.
  • Rod Blagojovitch. Former Illinois governor tries to sell Obama’s Senate seat, then goes on a talk-show tour proclaiming his innocence. They have you on tape doing it, moron!!
  • Ray Sansom. Newly-elected speaker of the Florida House engineers payments to some tiny community college in the Panhandle, including an airplane hangar suspiciously like the one requested by a big campaign contributor, then accepts–on the day he’s named House Speaker, now–a job from the same community college paying him $110,000 per year to swing by and lecture a couple of times a semester. Or a year. Or something. (This would be one of the same community colleges that are switching to nearly all-adjunct faculty so they won’t have to pay anyone health benefits.) And he sees no ethical problems with that. Normally, that kind of thing would slide by unnoticed (you do read Carl Hiaasen, don’t you?), but the cries finally got so loud he stepped down “temporarily” until he could clear his name. His fellow representatives, who have better public-opinion windsocks, voted his ass out of the office permanently. There is a ray of sunshine in the Sunshine State.

I’m not going to start on the parade of prominent figures who screw up their professional lives because they conduct affairs and somehow believe they’re not going to get caught, or that it’ll cost them their careers when public opinion savages them like a Rottweiler with PMS (Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Kwame Fitzpatrick, yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout you). We’d be here until next week. You idjits just can’t keep it in your pants, knowing that photographers and reporters are following you EVERYWHERE??

I’m beginning to think that anyone who runs for public office needs to undergo a battery of competence, common sense, and ethical tests before being allowed to file paperwork to run for anything. I’m tired of cleaning up after these jerkwads. I’m even more tired of paying for their shenanigans. As DH so eloquently put it, “They’re cutting money from education and teachers are losing jobs, and this guy is redecorating his office with my f**king money??”

Okay, I have to quit. I’m a young woman, and I don’t need any more blood pressure problems. President Obama, I have a suggestion for you. Go coast to coast and get some normal people who haven’t been poisoned by politics of any sort–some rank and file teachers, small businesspeople, retail clerks, restaurant servers, cops, nurses, firemen, family farmers, accountants, contractors, etc.–and ask them what needs to be cleaned up in their particular industry. Just the folks who go to work, pay the bills, try to hold onto their houses, and raise decent kids. Ask them. Listen to them, untainted by lobbyist groups or PACs or people who need votes to keep their Washington jobs. Then, maybe, we can move off stupid and head toward actual progress.

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