High-handed Congressman gets set straight

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The Cynical Times is loving on historian Douglas Brinkley today for his courageous stand during a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., after an icon for pay-to-play politics mispronounced his name, denigrated his testimony as “garbage” and repeatedly interrupted him.

The Nov. 18 incident occurred after Brinkley was invited by machine politicians to appear at a hearing of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, whose members pretend to regulate the U.S. energy industry while pocketing millions of dollars in legalized pay-to-play bribes from it. The topic was opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and drilling.

What was Brinkley’s crime?

Suggesting the refuge be designated a national monument so that it could be further insulated from the political hookers that have sold the rest of us out while allying themselves with industry organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute.

The fireworks began when U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, arrived late and proceeded to ridicule the testimony of the Rice University professor, who has written extensively about the Alaskan wilderness. Things grew heated when Young, who is known as “Mr. Pork” for championing Alaskan energy and transportation projects, confused the professor’s name with that of his employer and Brinkley had the guts to call him on it.

“I call it garbage Dr. Rice,” Young said to Brinkley. “It comes from the mouth.”

“Dr. Brinkley,” corrected Brinkley, who holds a doctorate. “Rice is a university.”

“Well OK,” Young replied, looking lost.

“I know you went to Yuba College and you brinkleycouldn’t graduate,” Brinkley continued, before a desperate Young interrupted him yet again.

“I’ll call you anything I want to call you,” Young said, his voice rising. “You set in that chair.”

“Pardon?” Brinkley said in disbelief.

“You set in that chair,” Young said. “You just be quiet. You be quiet.”

“You don’t own me,” Brinkley responded.

“I don’t own you, but I can tell you right now,” Young sputtered.

“I pay your salary,” Brinkley interjected.

It was beautiful.

In essence an honorable man who is not for sale just told a dishonorable man, who sold out long ago and has been embroiled in ethical questions for years, to watch his damn mouth.

We loved it.

Just click this link for a video of the exchange. You can also click the photo of Brinkley for a link to C-Span’s video of the entire hearing. As always, see for yourself. Make your own decisions.

But know that Young is an icon for everything that’s wrong with the U.S. Congress. The 69-year-old has held his present office in the House of Representatives for 28 years and is still only the sixth-longest serving member there. So much for term limits.

Young took in $15.6 million in political donations from 1989 to 2010, according to this link on the OpenSecrets website.

Guess who Young’s largest donor was during that time span?

It was the oil and gas industry industry, which directed $1.02 million at him. What a surprise.

Young also received $774,435 from general contractors, like those who get rich working on big oil and gas infrastructure projects in Alaska; $756,752 from the sea transport industry, which includes owners of oil tankers and oil rig supply ships; $754,782 from the lawyers that get rich handling the paperwork for the energy and transportation projects he champions; and $741,314 from the big transportation unions and their leaders, who help keep labor in check up there.

Basically, this political hooker will work for anyone who can afford his fees. He doesn’t care if you’re traditionally a supporter of the Republican political machine or the Democratic political machine. So long as you’re part of the pay-to-play game that has undermined representative democracy in this nation the past 30 years.

oxYoung has been working as a professional politician since 1960. That means it’s been about 51 years since’s this member of the ruling 1 Precent has really worked for a living like the 99 Percent does every day, when we can find a job.

Young is a strong proponent for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Center to oil drilling. He voted in favor of the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act in 1999, which is blamed by some economists for helping to create the 2007 financial crisis we’re still dealing with today.

This is the guy who championed the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” which would have replaced the ferry service now serving the 50 residents of Alaska’s Gravina Island with a $398 million structure. The proposed bridge would have been nearly as long as San Fancisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Young and his fellow oil industry lackeys are currently advancing the fiction that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would create lower oil and gas prices in the U.S. Of course, they never mention that the oil would be sold by private companies on the global market, where it could be purchased by consumers in countries like China and India, too.

protest“This nation is starving itself because we’re buying foreign oil,” Young pontificated during his appearance on the committee, implying that the oil withdrawn from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will somehow be reserved for U.S. domestic consumption.

It won’t be. The biggest beneficiaries of refuge drilling will be oil CEOs trying to fulfill their fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder profits. They don’t accomplish that by leaving money on the table. So don’t look to them for cheaper oil.

Opening the refuge to drilling also will benefit federal lawmakers, who will be able to dole out tax revenue from refuge oil and gas leases to their supporters via sweetheart projects like the Bridge to Nowhere.

That’s how pay-to-play politics works. And that’s why machine lawmakers don’t want to cut the deficit.

Sadly for Brinkley, Rice University is located in Houston and is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry that owns Young. The professor is likely to pay a high price there for his principled stand.

The painful truth is that when it comes to boosting profits, academic freedom doesn’t count for diddly in pay-to-politics. Neither does the environment, endangered species or representative democracy.

Half the 659 U.S. Senators and Representatives were millionaires in 2010, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. They had a median net wealth of $989,000.

That’s hardly representative of the voters they’re supposed to represent. Ninety-nine percent of the 315 million Americans are not millionaires and the nation’s median household income was $50,046 in 2009-2010.

Young, a former tugboat captain, has gotten rich in politics. OpenSecrets estimated his net wealth at between $480,007 and $1.2 million in 2010.