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The Sleaziest Show On Earth

by The Cranky Media Guy

If you're planning on a late Summer visit to Washington, D.C., you'd be best advised to approach Capitol Hill from upwind.  The manure they're spreading right now is particularly fragrant.

Here's the scenario.  Firestone makes tires.  Ford puts them on its SUV's.  The tread on some of them acted like Bill and Hillary about six months from now and separated.  This is not a good thing.  It's killed 88 people in this country and a bunch more in other countries.  Congress says, "Great googly moogly!" (or words to that effect) and calls hearings to "get to the bottom" of what happened.

The question is, why?  This is, after all, a "business friendly" majority Republican Congress that claims to believe that government should stay out of the way of industry.  If they really believe the stuff they've said, it would be incredibly hypocritical of them to chastise Firestone or tell them how to run their company.  That would be a violation of their principles. 

I wanted to quote the exact wording of the part of the Republican platform that deals with how government should stay out of the way of business, but when I went to the official web site,, the links marked "2000 platform" and "Our Issues" didn't work, even after repeated tries.  The link that lets you make a contribution to the party worked just fine, though.  It's good to see they have their priorities straight.

Anyway, the Republicans (and a lot of people in the Democratic party, which looks more and more like Republican Lite with each passing day) believe that, when it comes to business, the less regulation the better.  During the 1980's, the administration of Ronald Reagan (the patron saint of laissez faire) drastically cut funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and reduced its authority.  NHTSA is the outfit that would have been the watchdog over Firestone in the old, fully-funded, days.  Since the current crop of Republicans grovel at the feet of the Enfeebled One in the belief that he could do no wrong, what's with this dog and pony show that's disguised as Congressional hearings? 

Saint Ronald believed that business should be allowed to do whatever it wants, so he got his blow boys on the Hill to cut funding to the regulatory agencies.  Firestone is a business.  When one of its factories was hit with a strike by trained union personnel, it continued to produce tires using ill-prepared scabs overseen by equally unqualified management.  Is anyone surprised that some of the tires turned out to be defective?  Gee, it's not as if you could have seen that coming or anything.

"Hands off business" means just that.  You can't take that position and call for hearings later when the de-regulated toxic shit starts hitting the Indonesian factory-produced fan.  If the Republican leaders in Congress were anything other than a pack of jackals desperately trying to hang onto to their high-paying gigs, they'd say one of two things to the public:

1: "Despite the apparent problem with some Firestone tires, we continue to believe that the best policy is for government to keep its hands off business.  We believe that market forces should decide what will happen to Firestone.  Therefore, there is no reason for Congress to take action in this matter."

2: "In the past, we Republicans espoused a policy of letting business do what it wants, with minimal government regulation.  This current incident demonstrates that that philosophy inevitably leads to shoddy products being sold to the public. The deaths of 88 Americans are directly attributable to the amoral philosophy we promoted in the recent past.  Their blood is on our hands.  We offer our sincere apology for our misdeeds and we will make every effort to correct them in the future."

Unless your hobby is paying sadistic construction workers to hit you repeatedly over the head with shovels, I trust you realize they will issue neither statement (or anything like them).  They'll continue to hold out their little hoops and make the executives from Firestone and Ford jump through them to make it look to Mr. and Mrs. Lazy Voter at home like Congress is doing something.  Everybody likes a good show, right?

That's all these hearings are, a show.  Trouble is it's not a very good one.  The jerkoffs who call themselves our "representatives" wouldn't dare to actually do anything to Firestone.  They raise millions of dollars for their re-election campaigns from big businesses by promising that they'll regulate them as little as possible.  If they tried, at this late date, to graft a spine back onto NHTSA (or any other regulatory agency), they'd run the risk of pissing off the people who send in those nice checks every election cycle.  Can't have that, God knows, so all you're going to see is a bunch of Senators and Congressmen acting all apoplectic, knowing full well that there's no second act to this show. 

In my high school years, I would literally have gotten more enjoyment out of reading the warning label on a can of Drano than one of Shakespeare's plays.  Remind me, didn't the old fart have something to say about "storm and fury, signifying nothing"?  That's what these bullshit "hearings" into the Firestone matter up on the Hill are: a big bunch of noise that'll result in nothin'. 


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