Thursday, January 20, 2005

"Bush Dances While Mothers Mourn"

Today, George W. Bush is revelling in the most expensive inauguration in the history of the United States, with "a price tag of up to $50 million" (Paul Harri, "Bush 'the King' Blows $50m on Coronation," The Observer, January 9, 2005).

Who is footing the bill? Naturally, who's who of Corporate America, according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee's "Major Donor Information" -- especially the companies that "have big issues on the boil in Washington, ranging from whether a portion of Social Security retirement contributions are privatized to renewed efforts to pass an energy bill that may open new areas to oil exploration":
Many givers also saw their executives and employees contributing to the Bush re-election campaign, and say this spending is as normal as voting in a democracy. While laws govern what individuals can give to a campaign, there are no limits on inaugural gifts from individuals or corporations, other than those imposed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee itself.

"Political participation by companies and associations in the U.S. is a normal course of business," said Lauren Kerr, media advisor at Exxon Mobil Corp., when asked why the company had given $250,000 -- the top amount the committee accepts.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"It does give us an opportunity to interact with those that are in the government, those that are in the administration, those that are in the Congress, and those that are in the judiciary, and policymakers that are involved with the process in Washington," said Mike Moran, a spokesman for Ford Motor Co., another $250,000 donor.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Energy companies such as ExxonMobil are watching the energy bill that stalled in the previous Congress; Republicans say they will make it a priority again in the new session. Other energy companies who gave $250,000 to the inauguration include ChevronTexaco and Occidental Petroleum.

The financial services industry, a likely beneficiary of private social security accounts, is also represented. Goldman Sachs Group, J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley all gave $100,000.

Automakers like Ford are affected by a vast array of regulatory and policy issues in Washington, not least of all rising pension costs. The Bush administration last week proposed that companies with traditional pensions fund them better and pay higher premiums to insure them.

Ford employees also gave the Bush 2004 campaign $72,440, says the Centre for Responsive Politics, which tracks donations. The automaker will throw its own party on Thursday at the Philips Collection art gallery. Members of Congress, cabinet level members and some members of the judiciary have been invited. (Susan Cornwell/Reuters, "U.S. Firms Pay Bush Bash Bill," January 19, 2005)
When it comes to paying for security, though, Bush is passing the buck to D.C.:
D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.

Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.

But that grant money is earmarked for other security needs, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said in a Dec. 27 letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Williams's office released the letter yesterday.

Williams estimated that the city's costs for the inauguration will total $17.3 million, most of it related to security. City officials said they can use an unspent $5.4 million from an annual federal fund that reimburses the District for costs incurred because of its status as the capital. But that leaves $11.9 million not covered, they said. (Spencer S. Hsu, "U.S. Tells D.C. to Pay Inaugural Expenses: Other Security Projects Would Lose $11.9 Million," Washington Post, January 11, 2005, A1)
What's wrong with the picture? Amy Edelen's sign sums it all up:

Amy Edelen sits on the steps of a monument in front of one of the many signs of protest during a daylong vigil denouncing President Bush and the war in Iraq Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005, in Louisville, Ky. (Ed Reinke/AP)

Anti-War Network (DAWN) demonstrators carry mock coffins draped with the US flag as they arrive in downtown Washington, DC for the inauguration of US President George W. Bush. (Oscar Mataquin/AFP)

Juan Carlo Reyes of Lake Tahoe, Calif. carries protest signs labeling President Bush and Vice President Cheney as "warmongers" during Inauguration Day protests in downtown Washington, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005. (Len Spoden/AP)

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