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The Neo-Cons Are Not Gone, Nor Forgotten

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You would think that neo-conservatives and communists would have very little in common. The scorched earth policy of the Bush Administration, in its waning days in power, though, is a classic play right out of the Russian handbook: Leave not a crumb of bread behind for your enemies.

Russia has never been defeated in a ground war because the Russians used the vastness of their country. Falling back from their borders towards Moscow, they would scorch and burn every farm, every field, to starve their enemies out and give them no shelter to support their push into Russian terrority.

The neo-cons have employed a similar political playbook.

Their handiwork is out there, lurking in the background of major news stories. From the regulatory rewiring of every branch of government, to the White House scheme to flood the new administration with executive orders, the "conservatorship" of Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, to pushing the auto makers towards bankruptcy, the neo-cons are not working in the public interest, but in the interest of regaining power in four years.

Economic hardship? Middle class collapse? All would seem to be means to one end: Power.

Second Legislative Branch

The Bush Administration has used the executive branch as its own legislative system, enacting more than 250 wide-reaching executive orders that include the constitutionally questionable issues of permissible torture and a few EOs that are still classified.

Rosa Brooks in the Sunday Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times summed up the Bush EO nightmare best:

Pick your issue. The environment? A Bush administration rule transmitted on Nov. 4 hands over responsibility for assessing the environmental impact of federal ocean management decisions to advisory councils made up primarily of people tied to the commercial fishing industry -- who often have a financial stake in the outcome. Workers' rights? A new rule (effective Jan. 18) would limit workers' ability to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Worker and road safety? A rule announced Nov. 16 will allow trucking companies to require drivers to spend 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel. Gun control? On election day, the administration put forward a rule to end the 25-year-old ban on carrying loaded weapons in national parks. Other last-minute rules the White House is trying to ram through would allow federal and state law enforcement agencies to monitor and share information on the activities of individuals deemed merely to be "suspicious," ease rules on dumping coal mining waste into rivers and streams, and further limit women's access to contraceptives and abortions from federally funded medical providers.

As the guy on QVC says though: "Wait! That's not all!"

Locking in Neo-Con Policy Across Government

When W. entered the White House, every branch of government received a severe makeover. Those who had lobbied for organizations that polluted, or wanted to use land set aside as wildlife preserves, or who didn't get the edge that they were looking for out of a regulatory process all suddenly had their advocates lobbying the government now running the government.

Over the last three months in particular, these appointees have been stepping up the institutionalization of rules that will take months or years to reverse, if they can be reversed at all. They have until Friday to get these rules into place.

Time reports:

"A rule eliminating the mandatory, independent advice of government scientists in decisions about whether dams, highways and other projects are likely to harm species looked likely to meet the deadline, leaving the only chance for a quick reversal to Congress...

"The rules eliminate the input of federal wildlife scientists in some endangered species cases, allowing the federal agency in charge of building, authorizing or funding a project to determine for itself whether the project is likely to harm endangered wildlife and plants.

"Current regulations require independent wildlife biologists to sign off on these decisions before a project can go forward, at times modifying the design to better protect species."

Worried about global warming, or the effect it can have regionally on specific species that are endangered? Don't speak of science to neo-cons raised in some religious certitude that the planet is here for our use. The Time report continues:

"The regulations also bar federal agencies from assessing emissions of the gases blamed for global warming on species and habitats, a tactic environmentalists have tried to use to block new coal-fired power plants. But the Bush administration feels that endangered species laws should not be used to regulate greenhouse gases."

This is happening across every agency of government. Some of these rules changes will be hard to unwind as well because the Justice Department, tasked with prosecuting enforcement of many of these rules, has active cases that are being pursued under neo-con policy. It could be years.

Some of these Obama can reverse by his own Executive orders. Others, though will fall back to an obscure Gingrich-era law enacted to knock down Bill Clinton's potential executive orders called the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA).

The blog at Obsidian Wing in "The Best Law You've Never Heard of" observes:

For any new rule (major or not), Congress has a limited 60-day window to repeal it via joint resolution (which must be signed by the president). Here too, if Congress adjourns within 60 days of receiving the rule submission, the whole thing starts again on Day 15 of the next congressional session.

These are the more visible, easy-to-see manifestations of neo-con power exercised. More subtle though, is my continued growing suspicion that much of the economic crisis is also being engineered by our sweet neo-cons to create an untenable situation for the Dems coming into power.

I am not going all Mel Gibson Conspiracy Theory here, but I do have to wonder about certain actions that both the Bush Administration and the Republicans on Capitol Hill are taking relative to the economy.

Political Land Mines

The biggest political land mines that the Bush Administration leaves for Obama and the Dems is Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac.

Both are GSEs, private companies backed by the government. Established to help the banking industry make more home loans, they have always been a thorn in the side of neo-con think tanks, because the idea of government support of capitalist enterprise to allow more people than "should" to their way of thinking, own homes, was totally unacceptable to their strict capitalist dogma.

Granted, Fannie and Freddie both had institutional problems, although OFHEO had been forcing them to work through them when the rest of the financial services industry went into melt-down. Granted, hedge funds and others kept shorting the stock of the two GSEs with the full knowledge that they could do this until time ended because the Feds were obligated to come to their rescue.

Putting the two giant mortgage companies into "conservatorship" stopped the shorting of the stock, but it also achieved two larger purposes far more to the neo-cons liking.

First, it made Fannie and Freddie into political whipping boys that the GOP could use to blame for the financial crisis, handy for McCain in a year where twenty-eight years of Republican excess was finally coming home to roost.

Second, though, and more important, it set up the pathway for House and Senate Republicans to press for the dismantling of the housing giants.

It also turned the companies into a giant political mess that a likely Obama administration would have to sort out. Think about it: If the Bush Administration was sure that McCain was going to win, why dump Fannie and Freddie into the Congress of a McCain Administration that, by McCain's own admission, was weak on economics?

The biggest political land-mine, though, is the bridge loan to the Big Three. Republicans are trumpeting neo-con dogma: Let the market take its course.

Why? It breaks union power, and destroys what neo-cons have always believed was an excessive corporate welfare system in the generous pension plans of the United Auto Workers. To end these practices, you have to make them fail, and fail big. The UAW and the Big Three had a transition plan for the old pension system scheduled to go on-line in 2010. The undermining of the auto industry by the collapse of the banking industry has proven a unique opportunity for the neo-cons to deliver a crushing blow to union power and establish the Right to Work state model in every state in the Union.

If you believe the Chrysler Corporation's video circulating around the web, 4.5 million American jobs depend on the auto industry. The threat that even a fraction of them could be affected could tilt the country into a second Great Depression. The auto makers are 2% of the United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With piling up inventories of over 180 days in many cases sitting in places like the Port of Los Angeles, even foreign auto makers are looking at staggering losses.

As General Wesley K. Clark pointed out, the fall-out of not bailing out the Big-Three could even have severe military implications:

"More challenges lie ahead for our military, and to meet them we need a strong industrial base... Automakers are developing innovative electric motors, many with permanent magnet technology, that will have immediate military use. And only the auto industry, with its vast purchasing power, is able to establish a domestic advanced battery industry. Likewise, domestic fuel cell production -- which will undoubtedly have many critical military applications -- depends on a vibrant car industry... This is, fundamentally, about national security."

So why would the GOP push the economic puritan agenda of the neo-con think-tanks?

Power, and its recovery.

Neo-cons care about the bigger picture of their world order. That millions of Americans will suffer needlessly, and that the will of the people was clearly expressed in opposition to so many of their policies, from stem-cell research to the environment, is of little consequence.

Neo-con thinking is long-term. Democrats have been playing the short-term ground game to take power. Now that they have it, they are going to have to spend every moment unwinding the copious evils that the neo-cons have engineered into every fiber of the government.

It is the same dark, cynical thinking that brought us the Iraq war to gain a footprint in the Middle East. it is the same dark, cynical thinking from the Reagan Administration to Bush II that dismantled the Depression Era rules protecting our banking system.

This is scorch and burn, baby. Leave nothing for the enemy to establish itself again in the halls of power.