Cynic's Guide to Modern Politics
bagman -- Intermediary
for political payoffs, so-called because bagmen used to carry cash payoffs
in brown paper bags.
as such, has pretty much gone the way of the TV repairman. Not that money
has disappeared from politics, not hardly. But the bagman himself has been
reshaped, reworked, revamped. Gone are his frumpy clothes, replaced by
expensive three-piece suits and gold accessories. And the bagman doesn't
skulk in the shadows anymore, waiting for an unobserved chance to hand
over some cash. Instead he openly calls on the most powerful congressmen
and attends all the best parties. And no more brown paper bag, thank you.
Instead he's got a fine leather briefcase. And no more cash bribes, instead
he hands out checks and calls them campaign contributions. And don't call
him a bagman, he'll be insulted. Instead call him a lobbyist.
The player has
changed. But the game remains the same. Only now it's all 'legal'.
As the globalizing economy erodes the great American achievement of making
this a middle-class society, and works to turn it into two countries, one
rich and one poor, separate and unequal, there are some Republican politicians
who are doing as much as ever they can to speed this baleful and potentially
destabilizing process along. These people I call the Banana Republicans.
history would have taught them better. But that presupposes that any of
these bright people ever cracked a history book or stayed awake in class.
unauthorized use of public office for private gain. Try as we might to
stamp it out, corruption is like mud between your toes: stop it from squeezing
out one place, more will squeeze out another.
A new favorite
form is the "book deal", wherein a powerful public official gets a huge
advance for a book from an outside party interested in beneficial government
regulation/legislation over which the officeholder has much say and control.
The public official
pockets his dirty coin, a ghostwriter pens the boring book, and it goes
on to sell a big thirteen copies nationwide.
Who cares? The
briber gets his regulation/legislation, worth maybe billions. The bribee
gets his take, perhaps millions. And you get screwed. But hey, that's what
corruption's all about in the first place.
In the Banana Republican view, this is where all virtuous white people
As a member,
at club dinners, between the lobster bisque and the porterhouse steak,
and after some talk of summer homes and exotic cars and stocks and bonds,
you will be required to complain loudly about how taxes are simply KILLING
you. Against all reason, expect a highly sympathetic audience response.
FOR SALE!!! Big garage sale-style signs that in the interest of intellectual
honesty should be placed in front of both the Capitol Building and the
The U.S. Congress, and so-called because of the three branches of government
it is considered closest to the people, and so the most representative
That's the theory.
But today, standing between you and your congressman, is an appointments
secretary, myriad other staffers, lobbyists and other fixers, agents for
foreign governments, wealthy contributors, the sheer complexity of governing,
and 620,690 other citizens for each representative, 2,700,000 for each
Divide it all
up and your congressman has a nanosecond a year for you. Providing you
call early for an appointment.
G-men What a
gangster in the 1930s called out to FBI agents who had him surrounded and
dead to rights. The exact words (this may be apocryphal) were, "Don't kill
me, G-men." And the term G-men stuck as a nickname for FBI agents then
would you expect?) they made a pincushion out of the guy. And have been
coyboying it ever since.
Not to worry.
For the G-men to turn you into hamburger laced with bone chips you've got
to be involved in criminal activity. Or at least they've got to think you
Harry and Louise
Made-for-TV couple that almost single-handedly torpedoed President Clintongate's
national health care plan before it ever even got a hearing in Congress,
much less came to a vote.
Harry and Louise
labored, of course, for those wonderful people who work eternally to fool
enough of the people enough of the time to make Abe Lincoln look like a
Job's over now
for Harry and Louise. And they've been pink-slipped and are on unemployment.
Naturally they lost their health insurance into the bargain.
So they spend
their days looking for work. And their nights praying to God that neither
of them gets really sick before they can find employment that offers health
lobby On one
side you've got the politicians, desperate for long green either to run
their next expensive election campaign or retire debt from their last one.
On the other
side you've got the fat cat$, ready and willing to spend thousands and
millions for government favors worth millions and billions.
In the middle
is the lobby, a collection of people able to bring the two sides together
for a cut of the action.
these people are called lobbyists. In a more honest, if ruder setting,
they'd be called pimps.
Natural places of great interest and beauty set aside by the government
for use of and by the people.
At least that's
the definition until the Banana Republicans get their way and sell the
parks off to the giant entertainment conglomerates. Then they'll become
wilderness theme parks with names like Disneyland-Yellowstone and the Grand
Canyon--presented by Time Warner. And you'll pay through the nose for a
looksee at Old Faithful, the roiling Colorado River, or even the shining
your bank and credit card companies, which know almost everything about
you except your date of death, won't give that information out except for
a substantial fee.
Famous former national landmark, under developers/managers Bill and Hillary
Clintongate now the world's most expensive and exclusive small hotel. (Please
see our advertisement below--B&H.)
A Cynic's Guide to Modern Politics
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the Author: Tom Robins is a teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon.
He has an abiding interest in American history and politics.