My youngest son came home today/His friends marched with him all the way

More on the potentially-to-be-vetoed Homeland Security Bill, passed by Congress. Like the Friends of Scooter Libby, Bush seems suddenly to have decided things are unfair. Forget not that the post-Gingrich revolution GOP is, if nothing else, unbelievably immune to charges of hypocrisy (and, now that they’re in the minority, we’ll see evermore bare-faced examples of such).

Bush’s radio address claimed the Homeland Security Bill was unacceptable because it was too expensive. As though the American people had prosperity of any worth or an economy of any strength, these days (all things being relative).

No, Bush’s objections are far more easily recognised for the Standard Fare they are of his presidency. As the Speaker of the House herself explained,

“The bill funds the hiring of 3,000 new border patrol agents, rejects the cuts President Bush sought in the training and equipping of first responders, and improves aviation and port security. It also includes strong accountability measures to make certain that taxpayer dollars are being well-spent, including requiring that contracts be competitively bid.

It doesn’t take a Michael Moore fan to know that this administration has given far more attention to the appearance of enacting security than actually securing things (like ports).

Requiring that contracts be bid for, competitively? Outrageous (we just learned, for example, that the head of the mailroom in Walter Reed – the one that had hadn’t delivered 4,500 letter and parcels – was a contract employee. This administration, if nothing else, has seemingly dedicated itself to the demonstration of what a clusterfuck Government By Private Contracts is). The use of no-bid contracts by this administration makes exemplification of cost-plus pricing one of the easiest parts of my curriculum.

At the same time, the bill calls for more money to be given, via grants, to states. Giving states money and responsibility for anything is not something in for which this Executive has ever gone.

Funding for this moronic fence idea has been withheld unless and until community-level consultation is undertaken. Again, this White House does not consult. It doesn’t consult Congress, why would it consults farmers losing crops to foolish, macho plu-patriotic border policies?

The other aspect of this that is probably driving into apoplexy people in the Executive who understand the concept (that does not, in all likelihood, include Bush) is the re-instatement, if you like, of prevailing wage rules for employees of the Department of Homeland Security.

A ‘prevailing wage‘ condition is usually tied to contracting. So when a US firm actually makes everything overseas, the US government can require that they pay prevailing wages – i.e. no less than average wages for the region in which they manufacture cheap crap for the American market. Naomi Klein’s No Logo contains probably the best explanations of special trade zones, specifically the manner in which they are tailor-made to get around such things.

Closer to home, it actually sits in the Davis-Bacon Act (1931), and says that when the government undertakes public works, it must pay its workers the prevailing wage for that region. The White House thought it had pulled off quite a back-washing coup when it suspended this provision for reconstruction in/of New Orleans. It eventually had to climb down from this thoroughly reprehensibly immoral position (although the about-face was not retroactive, so they got a good two months out of it).

Republican legislators and Andy Card insisted that Davis-Bacon was a component of normality, congratulating themselves for returning to it (bear in mind Bush also announced how proud he was that the US had gone ahead with the 2006 election, despite the war – as though to do otherwise had occurred to anyone else besides him and his Vice-Presidents’ horrid little gang of thugs). The Washington Post had a different perspective:

The decision was a rare victory for organized labor during George W. Bush’s presidency. It was a defeat for traditional Bush allies, including the construction industry and conservatives in Congress. Yesterday, both groups said the president’s reversal would inflate the cost of reconstruction.

And now the Democratic Congress has had the temerity to demand that prevailing wage rules apply to all Department of Homeland Security hiring (except during an emergency – which makes one wonder what in hell else the White House had been planning on suspending David-Bacon for?).

I suspect this is going to become more and more the norm. Now that the GOP can’t just get lawyers to write their legislation for them to push out at 1am in the morning, can’t just use the Senate back-rooms to change legislation entirely once it’s been written and voted-on, or will ultimately be removed by a signing statement (check out this editorial at the Baltimore Chronicle, though), a lot more crying of ‘foul’ is no doubt ahead of us.


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