John Young
Special to the Daily

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May 9, 2013
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Young: Unelected, untouchable, uncontested: Meet America’s monied shadow government

From reports, the entrance was what one imagines of a drug lord who isn’t used to waiting for a table in Guadalajara. Only this was in Washington.

Stepping out of the elevator, a wedge of body guards shoved people out of the way, one pinning a cameraman against the wall.

“You don’t have jurisdiction here,” the cameraman protested.

But of course, the National Rifle Association sets his own rules. Mr. Big had come to lecture Congress last January. Wherever he — and you — may be, you will get out of Wayne LaPierre’s way.

Doesn’t matter if a vast majority of Americans don’t buy what he shills. He will meet his quota on Capitol Hill.

Of course, what he does is hardly unusual. The NRA is one of any number of entities that comport themselves as their own branches of government, and whose officials govern their own protectorates. It’s all about money.

Speaking of acronyms: More and more Americans are coming to know GEO, as in GEO Group Inc., the Florida company that runs more than 111 for-profit prisons and penal facilities.

Recently a GEO executive, Thomas Wierdsma, was found civilly liable for “outrageous behavior,” including attempts to pressure U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials to deport his immigrant daughter-in-law when her marriage to his son soured.

You know: “Half of our prisoners are federal. I’ll get ICE on the phone.”

Don’t expect these developments to hurt GEO’s business. With $1.48 billion in revenues last year, it has reached Halliburton-esque critical mass, profit- and power-wise.

So much liquidity has the company that it offered to plunk down $6 million for naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s new football stadium.

That idea was nixed after a public backlash. Rest assured, GEO will find good ways to spend that money, possibly convincing state and federal lawmakers that prison cells are good for the economy.

Nobody elected GEO, but know that it has power beyond the founders’ imagining, even that of Thomas Jefferson, who warned about the “aristocracy of our monied corporations.” Power? GEO has power over thousands of prisoners’ every breath.

Maybe it makes sense to privatize trash hauling, or streetlight repair. It doesn’t make sense to privatize life-or-death matters (See Hurricane Katrina). But when bigness is next to godliness, too many policy-makers simply bow to the GEOs of the world and proclaim, “At your service.”

Big oil, the pharmaceutical industry, big insurance, all have managed to engorge themselves while blunting the public interest when it comes to policy. For one, Americans would be paying less for over-the-counter drugs if pharmaceutical makers hadn’t prevented the government from negotiating prices under Medicare reforms.

Each of these players serves much like Russia or China in the U.N. Security Council. Whatever a body might wish to achieve, they carry a one-vote veto.

Unelected. Unaccountable. Grover Norquist has the pledges of most Republican members of Congress, along with governors and state lawmakers, to do what he says, which is to never raise revenue for any purpose.

How did Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform gain its power? Silly question. As a lobbying arm funded by corporate interests like big tobacco and big oil, it spends millions to elect candidates who kiss Norquist’s ring and to smite anyone who backs away from the no-new-revenue pledge. The group spent $16 million on the last election.

“Conservatism, my foot,” said Bill Moyers about Norquist’s hold on politicians’ souls. “It’s all about the money.”

And so we return to the unelected sheiks of the gun cartel, their flowing gowns, their gusher-style fiscal resources. As in the sand-blown Third World, politically they control whole provinces. They are the law, because they have the guns, and the money. And who will stand in their way?

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated May 9, 2013 02:00AM Published Jun 3, 2013 01:03PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.